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DOWNEY – Early each morning Sharon Phillips walks from her home just south of Firestone Boulevard up Rives Avenue to the parking lot by the old Vons at Florence and Paramount, picking up trash, bottles, and aluminum cans. In a small but enormously significant way, Sharon is an environmental hero.
It did not start out that way. Some twenty years ago, following recovery complications from a broken ankle, she began to walk to relieve the numbness. Four or five years into her daily walks, she started picking up bottles and cans, just to provide some variety and interest. In time Sharon also added trash collection–and a stick to fend off dogs–to her daily regimen.
In many ways Sharon Phillips is just like you or me. Born and raised in Missouri, she moved to Downey as a twenty-year-old newlywed in the mid ’60’s and raised her one son, David, in the same house she still lives in today. In fact she still talks on a daily basis to one of her sisters in Missouri, who has also walked the daily pickup route when visiting Sharon in Downey–and gives the walk an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Sharon is now retired, after a career that included some ten years as an office manager, and concluded with an interesting turn, cashiering classic car auctions throughout the Southwest as far east as Texas. Currently she spends two or three hours a day helping an aging neighbor and works out regularly at Curves.
It turns out that these daily Downey walks have reaped some unexpected rewards over time. Not only does Sharon find small amounts of cash on a regular basis, she has also come across several $100 bills through the years. And each month she brings home about $40 from recycling aluminum cans.
Now while Sharon does not think of herself in this way, if you multiply her small daily contribution to reducing trash and increasing recycling in the Downey community over the past twenty years, she’s accomplished the same amount of good work for the environment as a single one-time cleanup by over 7,000 people!
And in my book, that’s heroic.
Lars Clutterham is a Downey resident and charter member of the city of Downey’s Green Task Force and Downey Chamber of Commerce’s Green Committee.
Published: September 29, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 24