More than 300 needles have been collected from Vernon’s Polson Park in just three months. All thanks to volunteers who call themselves the Polson Avengers who have put in more than 80 hours since mid-April towards creating a safer space for families and individuals.
“It’s very impressive actually, now that I see the numbers,” said founder Kai Eli. “But…I can’t do this any more.”
Eli has been struggling with harrassment and threats ,and is taking a break from the Avengers.
“I need a break. I can’t handle the negative response from park employees and I’m unable to pursue my happiness that was originally in this. I’m not walking away for good but I’ve stressed myself out beyond belief,” Eli told The Morning Star Friday.
He posted a video Tuesday announcing his decision, and frustrations, on the Polson Avengers Facebook page.
“It seems to be that every week we are getting more and more backlash. I didn’t start a volunteer service to help Vernon to constantly argue and fight,” Eli said in his video which has received a lot of attention and dissappointment to see him treated this way.
“April 11 is when I said I wanted to start a big brother type of program in Polson Park because that young boy couldn’t comfortably be there,” said Eli, referring to a letter published in The Morning Star.
While he needs to step back temporarily, the Avengers will continue to make Vernon parks a safer place.
Another volunteer, Al Kranenborg (aka Shockwave) has agreed to take over the reins.
“He (Eli) needs to recharge his batteries, which is fair enough,” said Kranenborg, happy to step up and continue with video posts of the cleanups.
In fact, he has even expanded efforts to other parks including Linear, Kin and an area in the north end of town. And in just two weeks, Kranenborg has collected 99 needles. And it’s not just needles that the volunteers are cleaning up. Garbage and other dangerous items are being removed at their time and expense.
A quick stroll through Linear Park Wednesday and Kranenborg found a needle out in the open on the grass.
“Wow! Seriously, it wasn’t even like three feet from the road,” he said.
While many appreciate the efforts, some aren’t so kind.
“Your services are like a police officer, unneeded,” one street-entrenched individual told Kranenborg. “I know how to take care of my needles.”
Yet Kranenborg reached down and picked up a needle right next to the individual in Linear Park.
Eli applauds the continued efforts of the volunteers, as well as those who show their support.
“I appreciated everyone who has donated to our cause,” he said, adding all monies donated go into supplies to keep the volunteers safe.
Plus Eli adds: “We’re rockin’ our new shirts too.”
Sponsors Redline Rebar and Harris Rebar donated 15 custom shirts for the Polson Avengers in high-vis yellow.