Grass roots effort plans Olympia needle cleanup

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OLYMPIA — A community cleanup of trash and dirty needles has been organized by a Facebook page that pokes fun at Olympia.

So far, Olympia Memes has recruited 14 sponsors and 16 teams of volunteers for "Oly Clean in 2014." The inaugural event will take place all day March 22 at sites throughout the city, and will culminate with a pizza party to thank participants.

Although best known for posting off-beat photos that joke about Olympia's stereotypes and shortcomings, Olympia Memes is serious about safer parks and streets. The manager behind Olympia Memes, who maintains anonymity, talked to The Olympian through Facebook chat about investing in the community.

"When I found myself making memes about needles downtown and feeling they were way more sad than funny, I knew it was time to do something, and that's how Oly Clean was born," the manager wrote. "The message in this event isn't for our city leaders as much as it is for the individual. My hope is that we can capture a sense of real community that hasn't been felt in our area in a long time."

Olympia Memes has demonstrated a knack for bringing people together. Last September, the page organized a fundraiser to cover funeral expenses for a homeless man named Derrick "Dudeman" McDougal. The page helped a local woman find her biological parents, and even rallied up a massive "Harlem Shake" dance at the State Capitol Building.

For the Oly Clean event, Olympia Memes will provide garbage bags, gloves, snacks and refreshments. Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program will supply each team with a container for bio-hazardous materials. In addition to downtown alleys and streets, the cleanup will focus on parks, including Marathon Park, Capitol Lake Park, Centennial Park and Sunrise Park.