Two cleaning up Patterson one trash bag at a time

May. 15, 2014 @ 08:11 AM

It was only 9:30 in the morning Wednesday and the temperature was already climbing into the seventies. Wearing bright orange vests and holding long-handled trash grabbers, Liza Plaster and her sister-in-law and neighbor, Susan Rowe, walked the hard gravel shoulder along N.C. 268. During the next two hours, they filled about 30 plastic grocery bags with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, fast food containers and any unsightly trash they saw.

Since November they have been at this four days a week, branching out from their houses about two miles down N.C. 268 to Indian Grave, Hollywood Ridge and Steeltown roads.

"I've always walked on Sunday mornings to pick up trash," Plaster, 69,  said. "I was in the habit. I talked Susan into doing it."

Rowe, 52, agreed, thinking the exercise would do them good.

Plaster sells freshly-cut flowers, and Rowe flips houses for a living. Their flexible schedules allows them time to hit the roads. In a pickup truck, they collect trash in short stretches of highway before hitting the next section. With traffic whizzing by, the task can also be hazardous.

"It's not a pleasant walk," Rowe said.

But passersby occasionally acknowledge their efforts.

"People will honk and wave," Plaster adds. "We met an older couple who stops and picks up the bags for us on their way to the dump."

Most of the trash is just trash, but at times there are unusual finds. On a stretch of Hollywood Ridge Road, about every 50 feet they came upon a new-looking tennis ball -- about two dozen in all. Another time, there was about 10 pounds of frozen meat.

The aluminum cans are set aside to be turned in for cash, which they spend on sandwiches at the nearby Cheeks Convenience and Grill on U.S. 321.

They estimate about 1,500 bags have been collected, but it's a neverending task.

"It's frustrating to see more trash after we just cleaned up an area," Plaster said. "But as long as people keep throwing out trash, we'll keep picking it up. Until something better comes along."