Keeping downtown Wilkes-Barre clean, safe and welcoming

I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in New Jersey, and even moved back to Puerto Rico for a while. But Wilkes-Barre is where my family and I are proud to call home.

Things can happen wherever you go, but luckily negative events here are few and far between. My wife, Geizamar (her name is “G”), and I came here because the schools are good for our daughters, it’s a safe place to raise them, and the people are good here. That’s been our experience, and we think we have a pretty good vantage point because I work as an ambassador for the Diamond City Partnership’s Clean and Safe team and a second job as a housekeeper at Mackin Elementary School, while G is a crossing guard and also a teacher’s aide at Kistler Elementary. We see a lot of people every day in the city, adults and children.

The job of the Clean and Safe team is to ensure that the public plaza and surrounding blocks and sidewalks are free of litter and graffiti, to assist those in need of directions or other assistance , to keep an eye out and to contact the city’s police department if we encounter any situation requiring their intervention. It’s a great job with benefits, and my wife and family are grateful for the opportunity.

You might not think picking up litter, scraping gum stains, and cleaning up graffiti is a good job, but you’d be wrong. It’s not only good work, but it’s also important work.

Nobody wants to work, go to school or visit a place that is not clean and safe. The work of the Clean and Safe team is at the heart of the downtown rebound and all that Wilkes-Barre does to recover from the damaging effects of the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, many downtown workers have stopped going to their offices, which has affected our restaurants and other businesses. I’m glad downtown workers are starting to come back and people are starting to eat out to dinner or go to the movies again.

I hope they notice the work done by the Clean and Safe team. My colleagues and I now wear nice uniforms so people can identify us and see the work we do. We keep our eyes peeled throughout our day for litter or other ugliness, and we deal with it.

Our intention is to be as helpful as possible, and after being prompted several times, I took a picture on my cell phone of a map of downtown Wilkes-Barre. I use it now to better help people find their way around the city. They appreciate the visual guidance and the city is better served as they get to where they are going and enjoy their time downtown.

I like to see every day as an opportunity to learn and I like to interact with the public. The more I talk to people, the more it helps me improve my relationships at work and at home. I try to learn a little more about downtown every day, so I’ll be ready when I need this information to help someone.

My wife and I enjoy bringing the family downtown, most recently so our daughters can enjoy Easter egg hunts in the public square. It inspires me even more to keep our downtown clean and safe, and it was great to see so many kids and their families hanging out and having fun.

My mother, who we lost last year, was everything to me and taught me the value of hard work, always learning, taking pride in what you do and enjoying every day. I learned from her that you have to love what you do and I love working with the Diamond City Partnership. I like being outside, working with my hands and fixing our equipment. I’m not afraid to try something new, and I know it’s okay to make a mistake or two as long as I learn from them. I take my job seriously and spend my time representing the Clean and Safe team with a smile while I work.

I hope I make my mom above, my wife, my kids and Wilkes-Barre proud.

Alexis “Lex” Santana is an Ambassador for the Diamond City Partnership’s Clean and Safe team.

David H. Henry