DRI Ambassadors Keep Downtown Roanoke Streets Clean and Welcoming

DRI Ambassadors stay busy picking up garbage, clearing biohazards, and lending helping hands to local business owners, visitors and tourists.

The following post is a paid sponsorship from Downtown Roanoke, Inc. If your business or organization is interested in sponsorships or advertisements in The Rambler, please learn more here.


Ricardo Espinet uses a pressure washer to clean the pavers in front of Center in the Square.

Decked out in bright blue jackets, Downtown Roanoke Ambassadors monitor the city’s streets seven days a week, providing more than 300 hours of weekly service. They stay busy picking up garbage, clearing biohazards, and lending helping hands to local business owners, visitors and tourists.

The program is administered by Block by Block, a company that provides ambassador service to more than 120 destinations across the country, and managed by Downtown Roanoke, Inc (DRI).

In fall 2022, the downtown ambassadors were first spotted in Roanoke as part of DRI’s two-year pilot program. That program was primarily funded by DRI, City of Roanoke, Roanoke Foundation for Downtown, Visit Virgina's Blue Ridge, and other stakeholders, according to DRI spokesperson Izzy Post.

As the program enters into its third year, DRI is seeking additional funding from private or public investment to continue operating the program into the future, Post said.

To date, the ambassador program has seen tremendous results.

As of last week, the ambassadors have completed over 25,000 tasks in the 17 months they have been on the job. Beautification efforts alone include:

  • 2,500 graffiti, handbills and stickers removed
  • 1,720 biohazards cleaned up
  • 2,000 weeding, landscaping, and leaf removal projects completed 
  • 2,900 bags of trash removed 
  • 3.570 sweep cleanups conducted

The ambassadors operate in an area stretching from 3rd Street Southeast to 5th Street Southwest and from Wells Avenue to Reserve Avenue, which includes the Innovation Corridor that runs from Elm Avenue south along Jefferson Street.

“By keeping it clean and welcoming and [removing] any hazards on the sidewalks, it just makes people want to stay here and visit here more and more,” Post said.

For operations manager Will Terry and his eight-person team, the job is intensely gratifying.

“I love it. It’s something different,” Terry said. “It’s helping the community. I wanted to look for something where I feel that I'm giving back and helping people. Block by Block has definitely given me that opportunity to do so. It's been a rewarding job, for sure.”

Camryan Wright has been on the job for just a couple of months. He says he most enjoys using a pressure washer to clean graffiti off buildings.

“It’s really kind of satisfying to see it come off of the wall,” Wright said, explaining that he uses a product called elephant snot to loosen the graffiti before attacking it with the pressure washer.

The pressure washer will get a lot more use this spring, according to Terry. Supervisor Ricardo Espinet recently used it to clean the brick pavers in front of Center in the Square. In the weeks to come, Espinet and his team will pressure wash sidewalks in front of many of the downtown businesses, Terry said.

“We’re going to have … consistency, that way we can make sure that when people do come downtown, they see that it’s clean,” Terry said. “It’s a great place you can bring your family.”

The ambassadors’ presence gives The Gift Niche co-owner Laura Duckworth an extra layer of security, she said.

“They walk with us to take our trash, or sometimes they even do it,” Duckworth said. “I can’t say enough about these guys. We have a lot of tourists. [The ambassadors] have made it cleaner for people coming in. … They’re really just a beneficial thing for downtown Roanoke.”


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