It's a nasty job, but these unsung volunteer 'Road Goats' love to do it

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BERRYVILLE -- Richard and Wilma Keller of Berryville and sister Thelma Fisher picked-up 45 bags of trash off county roads within a month. They are the unsung stars of the county's volunteer "Road Goat" program, set up to ensure the cleanliness of Carroll County roads.

The program is set up by a affiliate of "Keep Arkansas Beautiful," named "Keep Carroll County Beautiful." Debbie Blanchard, the environmental educator for Carroll County, came up with the idea of the "Road Goat" program to get the attention of the public. She noticed that the Arkansas Highways were taken care of with the "Adopt-a-Highway" program, but the 1,200 miles of county road were being neglected.

It did catch the attention of one Green Forest resident. It all started one morning when Thelma, 59, called her older sister Wilma, 67, about an advertisement she found in the paper. The "Road Goat" program advertisement read "if you live on a county road and already pick up litter on periodic basis, please contact us." Thelma and Wilma knew this job was for them. As a little girl, Wilma says her mother used to tell her "Wilma, you're so clean, you're filthy clean." All their adult life Thelma and Wilma have struggled against the masses to keep the street side clean.

When asked what was her incentive for picking up trash (since she doesn't get paid for the service), Wilma replied, "It was fun,"-- "The only thing frustrating," Thelma adds, "is the next day I went out and people had already thrown a lot of trash back out on the street."

Last September Wilma and Thelma picked up 28 bags of trash in about eight hours on Springfield Street south of Green Forest "We were pooped," said Thelma, "and had to quit." The ladies wore mens' work shoes and took many pairs of gloves with them. "When one pair got dirty, we would throw them in the truck, and just put another pair on. I don't know how many pairs of gloves we must have gone through that day," said Thelma. Meanwhile, Richard Keller,77, took a stroll down Cisco Rd. and brought back two huge bags of trash, said Wilma.

Picking up trash on the side of the road is just second nature to them. "On nice days, we just put our gloves on," said Wilma. For instance, the other day Richard went to the mailbox and was gone for two hours. "He came back with three bags of trash," Wilma said, "we just do it on a whim." In fact, the Kellers keep a roll of trash bags in their mailbox in case one of these whims comes along. "You can get five bags of trash within 500 feet of my mailbox," said Wilma. They live on County Road 601 (Cisco Rd.) between Berryville and Green Forest.

These Road Goats do not stop at picking up their neighborhood; they will pick up any place that needs it. "I went to get my car serviced and they told me it would be an hour wait, so I picked up four bags of trash while I was waiting for my car," said Wilma. "Store owners should not have to pay for [the removal of] what we throw down," Wilma said, "and I get my exercise." She has no problem with picking up trash for her community. "I like beauty, I like cleanliness, I like pride, I like pride in my neighborhood, and I think it shows a pride in yourself," said Wilma. "Yeah, Richard adds, "but the baby diapers are the worst."

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