Channahon woman makes a difference by cleaning up others’ messes
By Kris Stadalsky For the Herald-News October 19, 2012 4:32PM
Dog Lady, Barbara Allen and Corky pick up trash thrown along sides of Ford Road. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Updated: November 23, 2012 6:09AM
Oct. 27 is Make a Difference Day, the largest “National Day of Community Service.” For 20 years people and organizations have joined together to help each other and their communities under the sponsorship of USA Weekend Magazine and Points of Light.
I have two stories to share about people in our community who have pitched in to help others on their own accord. This week I want to tell you about one Channahon resident who takes it upon herself to clean up other people’s messes, just because it’s the right thing to do.
Next week, I’ll share a story about 90 high school students and their coach who have made a big difference in our parks.
Many people have seen Barbara Allen and her dog Corky walking the along the sides at Ford Road in Channahon with a garbage bag in one hand and a “picker upper” stick in the other. For 10 years Allen has been picking up the trash that either blows onto the roadside or from people who throw it there.
You know that good-size bag, half full of tuna noodle casserole you didn’t want and tossed it out your window (I’m not kidding)? Allen picked that up for you.
You know the cigarette butts you think don’t make a difference when you flick them out? Allen bent over and got those, too.
It all started when she noticed the Channahon-Minooka Rotary Club group cleaning a section of Ford Road a couple times a year as part of Channahon’s adopt-a-spot program.
That’s a great idea, she thought, but that stretch of road really needed a daily cleaning.
“Then I thought, ‘if that’s how you feel you should be doing it,’” Allen said.
So 10 years later, now with the help of Corky, Allen takes daily walks and still comes home with a bag of garbage each time. The amount she collects has dwindled; at first it was two bags of garbage daily, now it’s usually just one.
Although she walks Corky twice a day, she typically picks up garbage just once daily. But anytime she spots something that really has to be picked up, she always finds a bag nearby to collect it.
“Somehow God always provides a bag for me if I go out without one,” she said.
Corky picks up things too, she said. Usually it’s just sticks, which he brings home to Allen’s burn pile. Last week he found a yummy cupcake wrapper, but he had to give it up so he didn’t get sick.
The tuna casserole was about the weirdest thing Allen ever picked up (that she was willing to share).
The scariest was several hypodermic needles a couple years ago. Two were the type diabetics use and luckily had caps on them. The third one was much larger and the needle was exposed. She found an empty plastic soda cup, picked up the syringe with her picker upper, put it in the cup and put the cover back on to dispose of it.
When she finds clean recyclables, she drops them in her own bin. She’s now saving her soda cans for Channahon teen Alex Caraynoff, who collects them for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“I am very much a green person,” Allen said. “I try to keep my carbon footprint as small as I can.”
These days Allen finds mostly smoking related items on the ground, like empty boxes, cellophane and butts. The second most common thing is gum wrappers. Imagine an entire bag of that stuff every single day. So if you think that one cigarette butt or wrapper doesn’t matter, think again.
Allen has lived in Channahon all her life. She still lives in the home where she grew up. When her mother got very ill and went to a nursing home, Allen’s daily walks and picking up other people’s trash was a sort of therapy for her.
But she also likes to drive through her community and see it clean, she said.
“I hope other people like it, too,” she said.
Reach Kris Stadalsky at email@example.com.