Southside cleanup

Retired couple turns morning walk into a litter pick up project

Kim Smith (left) and his friend of 30 years, Catherine Jean make a litter drop off in a dumpster outside of the Southside CVS pharmacy.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Kim Smith (left) and Catherine Jean have been picking up litter in the Southside for five years.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

They are not a part of any community organization – the kind that would get together every now and then to clean up the neighborhood streets.

Catherine Jean and her friend Kim Smith just gets out every day to clean up litter in their Southside neighborhood. Their route covers about two miles from south of Jim Lee Road, their turnaround point.

They’ve become fixtures with the business owners or managers along their route. Individuals who have noticed their good deed have rewarded them with gifts and cash.

Kevin Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Auto Repair Shop near the intersection of South Adams Street and Jim Lee Road, lets them use his dumpster for the trash they pick up. The dumpster at a nearby CVS pharmacy is another drop off point.

In the more than 60 years that the business has been at the same location, Johnson said he’s never seen such commitment to keeping the area clean.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think they are doing a great service to the community.”

The mission to clean up the roadside started after Jean retired about five years ago, the couple said. Smith had retired several years earlier and had been walking south from their homes to Capital Circle.

When Jean decided to join her friend of 30 years for a daily walk to start the day, they made a project of it. He uses a five-gallon bucket and she uses plastic shopping bags for their pickups as each takes on different sides of the street. 

“It makes you feel like you’re part of your community,” Jean said. “It really does.”

Beer cans, discarded masks and plastic bags are some of the items they find. Sometimes they get some food containers with leftovers that Jean jokingly referred to as “fine dining.”

Large cardboard boxes are sometimes spotted along the route but those are left alone because homeless individuals have found them useful.

They start their days with breakfast before heading out. The starting point is from their home near Lee Trailer Sales on Crawfordville Road, about ¾ of a mile south of Gaile Ave. Their path takes them about a half mile north of a Circle K near Gaile Avenue. They continue on Adams Street, then turn east on Paul Russell Road before turning back south on Monroe Street. 

The worst they’ve seen littered is on weekends of home football games for FAMU or FSU, Smith said. 

“Usually it’s people reveling and throwing stuff all out the window,” he said.

Another annoyance is the sight of Styrofoam flying from moving trucks, he said. They also see more trash than usual when they return from one of the many trips they may take throughout the year.

Sometimes it doesn’t take that long.

“It is kind of disgusting that when you pick it up in the morning you can come by an hour or two later and you can see trash there,” Smith said.

Along the way, they’ve met some “pretty cool people,” said Jean. They include Johnson, the managers of Capital City Bank and the manager at CVS pharmacy. Both are adjacent businesses near the Jim Lee Road-South Monroe Street intersection.

Apart from gifts cards and packages that they’ve received from businesses along the route, they’ve also been rewarded by a few folks who stop to offer them as much as $100. They’ve also had finds of $50 and $20 bills.

Not all finds are kept. They’ve tracked down the owner of a wallet that contained more than $100, Smith said.

The pace they set is brisk as they move along their route with a sense of purpose.

“We are looking more for the exercise,” Jean said. “I’m doing this because I want the Southside to look better.”