KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re visiting downtown Kalamazoo, you’ll notice a new team keeping things clean and ready to help you out.
The Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership launched its Downtown Ambassador program Monday.
The five ambassadors will do things like empty trash cans, sweep sidewalks and shovel snow. The full-time positions are part of a workforce development program that will provide opportunities for advancement. Their first project is a two-week push to clear leaves from streets and clean up graffiti. Moving forward, they’ll also do things like give visitors directions.
You’ll see them in blue and gray uniforms on foot, bicycles and in marked cars. They’ll be on duty as early as 7 a.m. all week and may be out until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Andrew Haan, the president of the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, says the ambassadors can help improve the experience of visiting the area.
“It’s brand new and fresh. We’re really excited about it and feel like the downtown community is really going to notice a big difference,” Haan said.
The work of an ambassador also goes beyond providing directions to local restaurants and other notable locations.
“These teams are trained to engage with people who might be having challenges and help them get back on their feet or at least get to those resources to help them get back on their feet,” Haan said.
The co-owner of Gazelle Sports, Chris Lampen-Crowell, says the ambassadors not only keep the sidewalks clean in front of his store but add to the welcoming spirit.
“I’m seeing them. They’re saying hi to me which is great. I’m feeling welcome to my own business home,” Lampen-Crowell said.
He says the new program will help the local economy and is launching at a great time.
“Having that kind of information is great for these not only residents but tourists that come into Kalamazoo as they start reengaging in this wonderful place called West Michigan,” Lampen-Crowell said.
The ambassadors are being funded by a number of institutions including the city and local charities.
Grand Rapids also has a Downtown Ambassador program, which launched in 2013. The same vendor, Block by Block, manages the programs in both cities, as well as many others around the country.