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Meet graffiti removal volunteer Alex

This article is a sneak peak from the October edition of City Limits Magazine.

If Mahatma Gandhi’s assertion that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” graffiti removal volunteer Alex Mericka is winning at life.

After a workplace accident in 1993 left him with a broken back, his life suddenly lacked purpose. He was unable to work, and doctors told him he would likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Not to be defeated, the Sheidow Park resident took rehab into his own hands, walking around the neighbourhood for hours on end to improve his strength. “I would walk locally to a reserve near my street, and I’d see graffiti all over the fence,” Mr Mericka said. “I contacted Marion Council and they said, ‘we can give you a can of paint to remove it, if you want?’.” He accepted and each time he walked, he’d take his paint and brush to remove the unsightly tags.

Gradually, he started to get control of the scrawl and Council formed an army of graffiti removal volunteers around him. The community took notice. “We used to have people leaving drug paraphernalia like syringes, there was vandalism in parks, stolen cars dumped... that doesn’t happen anymore,” the 64-year-old said. “I talk to the kids as I go and engage. They not only see that I take pride and care for the community, they see that the Council cares.” Mr Mericka, who is rarely seen without his uniquely-coloured Fox Terrier, Baxstar, by his side, says the transformation around Hugh Johnson Reserve is one of his volunteering highlights. “Near the duck pond there, it used to be full of graffiti. People now have picnics and their wedding photos there,” he said.

Mr Mericka says volunteering has given him so much more than quid pro quo. “It gives me self-worth and value,” he said. “I had it all ripped away from me when I had my accident. “Some people just survive [after an accident] but I can do more than that as a volunteer.”

The City of Marion is grateful to have such a dedicated swag of helpers.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, please check out our volunteering page.

This article was first published in #70 edition of City Limits in October 2021. City Limits is our bi-monthly community magazine, which is available to view online.