Walkabout: If only others could pick up on sacrifices of litter collectors
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Every neighborhood has its regular litter collectors.
The most famous is Shadyside's Boris Weinstein, an organizational genius who has spurred anti-litter armies region-wide. Joe Divack of Squirrel Hill, the crew leader of DumpBusters, is similarly tireless and regional in his fight against illegal dump sites.
But many people anonymously cover the smaller realms of their lives, a few blocks from home every day, every other day or every Saturday, and for this they are called "the litter lady" or "that litter guy."
A little unflattering considering what they're doing is de-littering.
"I'm glad you're doing something on people who pick up litter because most people think we're crazy," said Lynn Glorieux, who provides this service to Deutschtown, which she prefers to call by its pre-rebranding name, East Allegheny.
The fact that cigarette butts, candy wrappers and other trash litter the ground doesn't compel everyone to stuff his jacket with bags and carry a broom and dustpan around the neighborhood. The main reason is pride, but Ms. Glorieux said it helps to be a little compulsive.
Four or five days a week for one or two hours, less when it's cold, Ms. Glorieux is around Cedar and Stockton avenues, Allegheny Commons Park, the Ninth Street underpass and East Ohio Street sweeping litter into the dustpan, even the minutest of scraps. She uses her sneaker to pry loose an oval of gum in front of a bus shelter. She's as regular as the corner loiterers and the guys on the park benches, but she's always moving.
"Nick does this on weekends," she said of neighbor Nick Kyriazi, motioning at grassy strips and other places he patrols.
Mr. Kyriazi said he started litter-picking in the area of the park between the railroad, Anderson, Sandusky and Stockton streets when the city landscaped it in 1981.
"I was so happy to see the area improved that I couldn't bear to see it covered with litter," he said. "I continue to clean it because it bothers me more to look at the litter than it bothers me to pick it up.
"I wish I could say that the volume has lessened over the years, but I have noticed no change: two bags of garbage and two bags of recyclables every week," he said. "The only thing that will result in less litter is if people suffer consequences."
I caught up with Ms. Glorieux late one recent afternoon. She had just returned home from collecting litter on the river using her kayak, and she was heading out into the street near her home with her de-littering tools.
Most times when I am on that side of the park, whether on my bike, in a bus or driving, I see her sweeping in deft little motions, and each time I marvel that she does this like a job. What a public service.
Linda LeFever, another neighborhood dynamo who ran the Northside Community Development Fund before her death in 2006, used to say, "Oh, Lynn does that to relax herself." Ms. Glorieux recalled that and laughed. "When I get overwhelmed about things that I can't control, I go out and pick up litter and feel so much better."
She moved to the neighborhood in 1992 from Wexford. Before she retired as a visiting nurse, she had visited patients on the North Side and had a friend who lived on Lockhart Street, the street on which she lives now.
"She had me for lunch and I thought, 'What a neat street!' "
When she moved in, she began devoting more time to keeping it even neater.
A longtime board member of the East Allegheny Community Council, she also volunteers in the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's garden on Stockton.
"I go by the thing my mother said when she was a Scout leader, to leave the campsite better than we found it. I feel people behave better when a place isn't trashed. Plus I'm one of those 65-year-olds who has a pitchfork to my rear to stay active."
This is a thankless job that sometimes people do thank her for, but it has its attractions.
"You get to see people, and it's not like being in a room and having to make conversation," she said. "And I love to be outside."
First Published December 27, 2011 12:00 am