Lonnie Homan and Mark Birsen joined yesterday's citywide cleanup, picking up beer bottles, fast-food cartons, and other debris from the streets and alleys of their North Toledo neighborhood.
But for the two residents of the Vistula Historic District, trash collection is a year-round job that's never finished.
"We're out here almost every day," said Mr. Homan, holding an orange pole with black prongs as he rested at the corner of Erie and Chestnut streets. "We do our job. We do our duty."
Asked about his pole, Mr. Homan smiled wryly. "That's for the items we don't want to touch with our hands," he said.
Such untouchables included diapers, condoms, crack pipes, and plastic baggies used to store cocaine, he added.
With a half-dozen other volunteers, the two men filled 50 bags of trash yesterday morning from a seven-block stretch of Dove Lane between Cherry and Magnolia streets.
"They're in horrible shape," Mr. Birsen said of the alleys. "It's no wonder nobody picks them up."
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On Dove Lane, there was plenty of trash to be picked up yesterday. A city truck stopped in the alley between Chestnut and Mulberry streets, and residents began piling old wooden tables and sheets of vinyl siding into the back.
Felix Alcala, who lives in the 1200 block of Ontario Street, watched as four men carried a pair of pickup truck bedliners over to the trash hauler. He said he appreciated the cleanup but thinks the city needs to do something about the numerous vacant houses in the area.
He counted eight vacant houses within sight of where he stood in the alley and pointed to one of them, a dilapidated structure with boarded-up windows and peeling sheets of faux brick shingle.
"This one's been empty for, I don't know, seven, eight, nine years," Mr. Alcala said. "It's really nice they're doing something to improve the neighborhood, but they should go after the landlords."
Mr. Homan agreed that the city should do more to combat blight, prostitution, and drug sales in the area. But he said yesterday's cleanup was worthwhile.
"I feel good about it," Mr. Homan said. "We participate every year. We get frustrated because we're the ones who do this, and the ones who don't care, they sit on their front porches drinking their coffee and smoking their cigarettes."
About 650 people cared enough to help clean up streets and alleys yesterday in every Zip code of Toledo, said Mary Chris Skeldon, a spokesman for Mayor Jack Ford. The volunteers filled nine garbage trucks, which deposited 42 tons of refuse at the city's Hoffman Road landfill. An additional 35 tons were accepted at the landfill from individuals or groups that conduct their own cleanups, Ms. Skeldon said.
"It was just a great day," she said.
About 140 residents and volunteers assisted in the cleanup of the Vistula Historic District, which was organized by the NorthRiver Development Corp. At noontime, they gathered outside the Volunteers of America headquarters on Champlain Street for a lunch of grilled hamburgers and franks, carrot sticks, and potato chips.
"The city needed our help," said John Sancrant, a staff member with Volunteers of America, who led a crew of eight young men who spent three hours picking up trash.
"We're sick of looking at the city of Toledo the way it is," said Jaycee Papuchike, one of the volunteers. "We just hope this benefits the community."
Contact Steve Murphy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6078.