PaperFree in the Community
PaperFree believes in community and giving back. Twice a year our employees volunteer their time at a local charity, foundation, or organization of their choosing. By doing this, we assist these organizations in furthering their causes, help those who are disadvantaged, and make our community a better place to be.
Below are reflections from our employees on their volunteering experiences.
During the summer break, we wanted to do something for the kids of the church and community to keep them away from the usual routine of tv, video games, computers, etc. What we decided to do was offer free music lessons for those who wanted to join. The idea was not to focus on creating musical stars (as most of these kids where ages 5-10), but rather to keep them entertained, focused, and busy during their summer break. Rather than having them spent hours watching tv, playing video games, etc. we had them come in three times a week to practice singing or playing a musical instrument of their choice. Over these two months we saw them strive to learn as much as they could. Because of that, we feel that continuing this effort will be beneficial for them.
Last weekend, I helped to assemble survival bags to be passed out to members of the homeless community. These bags contain food items like nuts and apple sauce as well as toiletries like toothpaste and wet wipes. I started off on the assembly line putting toothbrushes into the bags, and then moved over to help seal and organize the completed bags. By the end, there were over 200 bags ready to be handed out to anyone who needs them.
Last year I took a part in two volunteering events that help families in need. The first event was with Feeding San Diego. Feeding San Diego is an organization that focuses on fighting hunger in the city of San Diego. They do this by accepting food donations and distributing them to families in need. For the event, local grocery stores donated a huge amount of fruits and vegetables. Our task was to separate the rotten fruits and vegetables so the good ones could be donated to local families in need. The second event was with Harvest CROPS. Fruit tree owners work with Harvest CROPS to donate extra fruits to low income families. I went to one of the fruit tree owner's home to help pick oranges from the dozens of trees to donate. These tasks were fun, challenging, and well worth it knowing that it helped people in need.
This month I had the opportunity to oversee and help the teens of my church congregation organize an annual Valentines dinner for the "empty nesters" in the congregation and their friends. We use the term "empty nester" to describe anyone who's raised a family and whose kids have left the nest and moved on, so to speak. The close-knit group runs the gamut from middle aged couples to our stellar nonagenarian Muriel, who loves dishing out life advice and a current headcount of her various degrees of grandchildren.
The idea for this dinner came three years ago after several members of the congregation passed away and left widows behind. We knew that Valentines Day could prove difficult for the widows, so we wanted to provide a fun, upbeat activity with friends so they could still recognize the holiday but without emphasizing the pangs of loss. We decided that a dinner would be an excellent fit for this purpose as it gave us leaders an opportunity to teach the youth a variety of planning and food prep skills, and who doesn't love it when someone cooks for you?
Preparation for the event started back in January with me teaching the youth how to make lasagna from scratch and decorate display cakes, and helping them create decorations. Other leaders who are talented in such things helped organize a musical number for the dinner as well as assisted with the overall organization of the event. I also prepared games for the event - this year was Valentine's-themed bingo and our youth were good to me and ran it while I was busy overseeing cleanup :) (I also made stained glass heart suncatchers as bingo prizes). We also prepared a way for our guests to leave some experiences and insight for the teens with cards that ask them to answer one of several fun questions, such as "What was the best date you've been on?" and "What did you think of your spouse at first?" The teens love this.
In all, it's a fun event that our Empty Nesters look forward to every year and that we are happy to provide for them.
My son Hunter and I were lucky enough to participate in the Wreaths Across America event held at Fort Rosecrans national cemetery December 16, 2017. It’s a special event that has people help put wreaths on the graves of service men and women. It was a great turnout, and there was a beautiful service beforehand that went through the history of the event. They detail how the event is held throughout the U.S. on various site on the same date each year. Each branch of the military was represented and spoke to the importance of the event. All in all a very powerful event, that showed you first hand the impact it had.
It was also a great opportunity for my son to get exposed to the sacrifices the service men and women made to allow us to live the life we live today. It also showed him the kind of impact he can have by reaching out to help when there is need. A great event that we were very happy to be a part of.
I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at a mental health forum organized by Community Alliance for Healthy Minds. The forum consists of dozens of local outreach programs focused on helping people who are struggling with mental health issues, or have loved ones who are. There are booths set up to give attendees a chance to speak to some members of these various groups. Throughout the event, there are two keynote speakers and two chances to engage in a breakout session, which sets up multiple small groups focused on certain issues being faced. I had different tasks throughout the day including helping the exhibitors bring their supplies up to the main hall, directing attendees to the breakout sessions, cleaning up, and interacting with the different exhibitors to learn about the many services provided in San Diego County.
My wife and I went up to the local animal shelter near us and spent the day helping. We helped to feed some of the animals, took a few out in their yard to play, and spent some time just giving some love to a few who were in much need it seemed like. This was something new for me, as I haven’t volunteered at a shelter before, but it was awesome to see the dogs especially light up to get to play with someone new. This is probably not the last time we will volunteer here was we both found it very rewarding and fun.
I volunteered a few weeks ago for a church up in my area to take donated computers and wipe their hard drives and reinstall windows. What got me really interested in this was that the donations are set to go to schools to help get computer programs focusing on hardware and programming into schools in the Riverside and LA areas. I thought this was a great idea, as that’s how I got into computers was through classes in high school. The experience was as you would expect lots of tending to installs and junk for a hundred or so machines, but I’m hoping to hear more about the end result once these machines find a home and see exactly how they help some kids find a new hobby.
This past spring I was incredibly fortunate to coach a local T-Ball team in Mira Mesa. The Little Rascals were made up of boys and girls ranging from 3 to 5 years old. Having the privilege of showing the kids the basic fundamentals of T-Ball/Baseball through practice and games made for some great experiences. Seeing the growth of the kids just standing around on a baseball field playing with the dirt, to fielding ground balls and throwing them to first base was just one of the many examples of how fun and rewarding T-ball is for these kids. Looking forward to getting back on the field again this coming spring.
Over the weekend, my family and I volunteered for an organization called Harvest CROPS. Residential owners of fruit trees register their trees with Harvest CROPS and allow volunteers to come at a scheduled time and date to pick the fruit. The owners donate the fruit, volunteers help harvest the fruit, and Harvest CROPS makes the fruit available to low income families and seniors who otherwise have limited access to fresh fruits.
We spent the morning alongside about 30 other volunteers picking oranges from over 20 trees. This was a great experience. Not only did we have fun, but it was also a great opportunity for me to teach my kids the importance of giving back to the community. It was also good to see some of my PaperFree coworkers out there volunteering for the same purpose.
Little league baseball is an organization that is designed to build good citizens, good leaders, and to prepare today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders. Although it may seem like it is kids simply running around, having fun, baseball is much more than that. It teaches them how to be good listeners, teammates, and friends.
With that, these levels of baseball (t-ball) rely heavily on a devoted legion of adult volunteers to help ensure that the organization remains structured and runs smoothly. When I first signed up my son to play T-ball I never though I would be volunteering myself. I didn’t know much about baseball, had not played it myself so it really was “not my sport.” But as I started to see how much these kids enjoyed it, how they seemed to not care whether they were good, whether they could hit hard; all they cared about was going out there and giving it their all. When I saw that, I decided to volunteer. Going out there, seeing these happy kids, spending some extra time with my son, being able to teach these kids how to win and lose, has been a great experience. It is tough trying to keep 3 and 4-year-olds entertained for an hour, to have them stay still at times, but it has been worth it.
I will end this with the Little League Pledge that is said by everyone before each game:
I trust in God
I love my country
And will respect its laws
I will play fair
And strive to win
But win or lose
I will always do my best
My son started Kindergarten this year, and a couple of Fridays each month I volunteer to help his teacher with various tasks. The teachers and the school rely heavily on parent volunteers. The school even has a dedicated Parent Helper room with work stations, copy machines, paper trimmers and other supplies. Some examples of what I have been tasked with as a parent volunteer are putting together folders for the students’ reading logs and labeling their Word Journals. On another occasion, I sat with students individually and helped them finish their projects.
Coming from a background in teaching, I understand the importance of needing volunteers to help with prep tasks as well as working with students one on one. Teachers have so much more to their job than just their time in the classroom during the school day. I am glad to have the opportunity to help at least one teacher this year so that she can spend more time and focus on her students.
Each year, my church hosts a week of Vacation Bible School, which provides kids with the opportunity to learn, have fun, and meet new friends. I spent an afternoon helping fellow members decorate the church and prepare materials. I mostly helped to set up the “Science Center” where the kids would build things and participate in experiments. It was fun looking at all the exciting activities the kids were going to do. I ended up with an unexpected task when the condensation unit sprung a leak. Once the leak was patched I used a Wet Vac to clean up the water and dump it outside. All around, it was a fun time, and I was happy to hear that the children all had a wonderful time.
For my second volunteer activity this year I helped organize and run a week long summer camp for the 12-18 year old girls at my church. These annual camps (called Girls' Camp across the US) have been held for as long as anyone can remember, and are a highlight for the girls who participate in our teen program. This is my third year being involved as a leader, and I of course attended these camps as a teenager myself, though I do have to point out that the girls today have it pretty easy with their cabins, electricity, and a/c compared to our tents, bugs, and pit toilets ;) The camp was held in Ramona at our church-owned camp, Camp Wildwood Ranch. We are so lucky to have such a great facility to hold our camps at - it fits our needs perfectly and there is so much to do!
This camp is actually the culmination of roughly six months of planning between ten local congregations that are also doing work individually - I've been working with my congregation's teens for months to get their release paperwork in order, organizing a fundraiser, managing payments, running activities for the teens to check off outdoor skill certification requirements, making archery targets, helping plan a camp skit, etc. (It's been very busy). I also lent my graphic design skills and helped with the camp's graphic design needs; schedules, reference cards, logos. and diecutting vinyl name decals to identify everyone's water bottles. With 130 campers our hands were certainly full, but all the leaders take their part and help to make the experience a good one for the girls.
The theme of our camp was Survivor: Let Your Light Shine, which was done in the style of the reality TV show with challenges and immunities (though we weren't allowed to vote anyone off the camp) and plenty of spiritual and playtime activities that catered to the theme. I was assigned two major responsibilities - planning and running a camp craft (punched tin can lanterns) and organizing a orienteering activity where we taught the girls to navigate via compass and then had them compete against each other to navigate to a prize hidden in the camp's auditorium. But, the camp organizers don't let anyone sit around too long so I also had responsibilities assisting with team building activities and camp free time (helping campers off the zipline, yelling at rowdy kids in the pool, assorted errands, etc.) plus I was assigned to be a "cabin mom" over one of the eight troops of campers and I helped them with tasks that needed an adult (clogged toilets, scheduling, general info, etc.). I was also directly responsible for one of my congregation's newest campers who is a Type 1 diabetic; making sure her blood sugar was in check, getting her to make adjustments as needed, and checking on her through the night and coordinating with her mom to make sure all was well. My gratitude goes to the brilliant people who invented her Dexcom continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump as they made my job SO much easier. It resulted in little sleep, but it was worth it so that she could safety participate in our camp. I was also the designated "critter removal expert" in the leader cabin and discovered that grown adult women will shreik at cute little frogs when they thwart my attempts to catch and remove them from cabins.
In all, we were busy the whole week but as someone who doesn't mind dirt and bugs this camp is always right up my alley, and I of course thoroughly enjoy helping to make our camp a fun experience for the girls :)
Every year, I try to raise awareness for CF and that is typically accomplished by raising money followed by a walk or a bike ride. Last year it was pretty easy, we walked 3 miles in Mission Beach, CA. The year before I biked 90 miles through North County San Diego. Either way, no matter what, my goal is to help raise awareness as well as money to find a cure and to help other families with CF.
This year we will participate in two walks. One in Mission Beach, CA and the other this weekend, will be held at Liberty Station, CA. For each walk we will raise $7,000 but with a personal goal of $10,000.
I have been trying to raise awareness for CF for almost 20 years now. To find a cure and to help with the CF community is something that is very close my entire family.
For my first volunteer activity this year I chose to volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, held in downtown San Diego on May 20th. The aim of the organization is to “[raise] awareness, fund scientific research, and provide resources and aid to those affected by suicide”. I became acquainted with the foundation after losing my older brother to suicide in 2014. The walk is a fundraising effort and operates by inviting teams to raise funds to support the organization as they walk the 17 mile course through the various areas of downtown San Diego during the middle of the night (the walk starts at 7:30pm and the last team made it in around 4am). As I am a better worker bee than fundraiser or cheerleader, I opted to volunteer as “crew” and assisted with the moving parts of the event. My assignment was to the team minding the route marking - a system of directional arrows and signage zip tied to light and signal poles to help the participants find their way. During the event we were to continuously circulate through the course in a van and check the signage per a schematic provided by the organizers; reinstalling or adjusting signage as needed and also adding additional signage where we felt it was warranted. We were also to call any problems in, which we fortunately didn't encounter many of. Our sister van, however, had to reroute part of the course due to a very unfriendly transient. Fortunately, he was the only blip in the event - we heard from the participants that the transients actually were enthusiastically cheering them all on once they heard the purpose of the event.
The route signage was installed early that morning by another crew, however our first task was to run through the back half of the course to verify that the signage was still in place. We found that a fair portion had been pulled down for whatever reason, so myself being the young one in the van ended up being the designated sign installer. Given this was downtown San Diego on a Saturday night this quickly got interesting as there's nowhere to simply pull over. However, we got good at anticipating what was next, readying the sign in the van, having two people run out to install and clip the ends of the zip ties, then dive back into the van (India Street in Little Italy was where this scene was particularly ridiculous). At times we had to grab an armful of supplies and take to the course on foot when it couldn't be driven, then meet up with the van later. On many occasions we were sent to specific areas to fix missing signage or add more, or even go hunting for lost walkers and get them back on track (there was a right turn in Little Italy that despite two signs proved problematic - a bike volunteer was eventually stationed there to direct the walkers). Fortunately one of the members on our team, Sydney, lives in downtown and was an incredible resource for knowing how best to get places or what streets went which way and how to hit them in the correct direction.
Our task got easier through the night as bars and restaurants closed up and the streets quieted down, and we even got to take little breaks at the rest stops here and there. Early in the morning it came time to start pulling signage down, so we retraced many of our steps and removed signs and zip ties, making sure to leave no messes. Eventually we caught up to the last of the walkers and played leapfrog with our sister van behind them as we slowly pulled down signage. Later we were called to come back in, so we returned our van and were able to be on hand at Ruocco Park in Seaport Village to see the last team in.
In signing up for this event I was concerned about the "up all night" aspect as I can't pull all-nighters as well as I did in college, but it ended up being just fine as we were busy and active the whole time. I did take some serious naps the next day, but it was worth it to support such an important cause. In all, there were 200 volunteers staffing various event needs and 900 walkers - all participated in fundraising and this event brought $1.1 million into suicide prevention research and programs for schools and universities.
This walk was the first one held in San Diego, and by all accounts went well so I am hopeful that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention comes back next year. In my route during the night I saw plenty of other crew assignments that looked interesting so I hope to be able to volunteer again.
On February 12, 2017, I had the opportunity to help out with a multi-church effort to provide meals to some of the members of the homeless community in Downtown San Diego. I assisted with preparation before the event began. We sang songs, prayed, and then began serving. My job was to collect trays as people were leaving. This allowed me the privilege of seeing their happy faces as they finished up their meals and thanked us. Seeing the appreciation that they showed was a very memorable and rewarding experience. Afterwards, I helped with clean up, and we all enjoyed a bit of the food ourselves, including a new experience for me of Pizza Soup. It was an incredible pleasure to be a part of an event that brought much needed food and, more importantly, love to those who need both so much.
My wife and I volunteered to cleanup a park/watershed area up in Temecula, while out our group also had collected a few blankets and bought some coffee to pass out to some of the homeless community that lives in the area we were cleaning up. The creek/river area goes under the freeway and really gets trashed by people who are careless or just don’t care about the animals and as I found out people who call it home. While not something that really hits home it seemed like an opportunity for me to help cleanup from the careless people who commute right alongside me every day. Overall it was an interesting experience, really makes you thankful for what you have and more than that think about how else to help those close to home.
Last month I had the opportunity to participate in a food distribution at the Mid-City Church of the Nazarene. The event involved handing out food (which was donated from local food banks and businesses) to financially-burdened residents of City Heights. Many volunteers showed up to the church on the morning of the distribution, all performing different tasks to help the process run smoothly. I assisted in breaking down empty food boxes and gathering them for recycling, as well as reorganizing any extra food that had not been taken. The distribution finished quickly and seemingly effortlessly – I was impressed with how smoothly everything went and felt proud to have been involved in the process. It felt extremely rewarding to have been a part of a group effort like this one, especially knowing that our efforts would have a positive impact on the community.
On November 5, 2016, my fellow Paperfree engineers and I were able to assist with the food distributions at Mid-City Nazarene Church in City Heights. The church holds food distributions every first Saturday which “gives away items from local food banks and businesses to people-in-need who live in and around City Heights”. I was able to help with breaking-down and throwing away empty boxes as well as organizing empty pallets. It always feels good to help out. Thanks to Ethan Wade for inviting us to volunteer.
I volunteered at a food distribution at the Church of Nazarene in Mid-City. As a volunteer, I was tasked with cleaning up the cardboard boxes and trays that contained the canned foods and collected those that were to be redistributed. There are many people in San Diego that are homeless, elderly and can no longer work, or part of a low-income family. It was great seeing so many good people come together to help those that are less well-off. This was my first time volunteering at the food drive but I will definitely volunteer more in the future to help out those in need.
For my community effort I decided to start with the following question: How can I use my knowledge and expertise to help the community? Throughout the years I have developed many skills, some of which have been outside of work. Although in this case it was a different set of skills that I do not necessarily exercise at PaperFree, it was still under the PaperFree core belief of giving back to the community.
Over the last couple of years I have gotten proficient in the area of videography. Whether it is post production editing, shooting in front of a green screen, or recording my church services, I have found enjoyment in doing that. Funnily enough I have found myself in a few situation at PaperFree where this set of skills has helped. In this case, I was presented with the opportunity to help in a video production for a church. This project would extend pass our local community. It would even expand pass a few different countries. This project was going to be realized in Guatemala.
The idea was to use my videography skills to help direct and implement something complete. To put in an effort that would show in the end result. I did everything from run cables, train the video crew, setup cameras, edit, etc. Traveling to a different country, spending my time, money, energy, and even my own equipment to help those that might not have the same skills and abilities as myself are the reasons I felt satisfied with my community work. We spent hours on end for about a week preparing for the event. Rehearsals and trainings with the team was necessary to make sure everything was in proper order. Embedded you will see some images of camera setups I planted. This was a unique idea because we used GoPro’s to capture a distinct view of the instruments used during the recording.
It was a privilege to have been considered to be part of this project. I am very happy that I was able to give back to the community in such a unique way. PaperFree does not limit as to where or what we do, as long as we make our community a better place to be.
Every first Saturday of the month a local church has a major food distribution for people in need. I volunteered as a translator/cleaner to help the food distribution run smoothly. It was an exciting experience that gave me the opportunity to connect with the elderly in my community and give them a helping hand.
Solutions for Change is an organization that is not just only a homeless shelter, but their goal is to permanently solve homelessness by providing families the opportunities and access to skills and resources needed to rebuild their future. Every Saturday morning, parents are responsible for cleaning their homes and need volunteers to help watch and care for their children during that time.
I spent most of my Saturday morning watching a group of 7 children while the women cleaned the shelter. The ages of the children ranged from 1 year to 9 years old. As I was caring for the children, I realized that no matter the living situation or circumstance, the thing that I do have in common with these women was that we are all mothers who want to provide the best for our children. It was my pleasure to have helped, even for just a day, as these families work to get back on their feet.
I was able to catch one of the few winter harvests from HarvestCROPS. What this organization does is gather a group of volunteers to harvest fruit from local residents and donate the fruit to low-income families. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult for low-income families to have because they can be quite expensive at grocery stores. What's great about this process is that it benefits all groups that are included. The local residents get a tax deduction, their yard cleaned, and a good feeling that their fruit is not going to waste. The low-income families get fresh fruit on their table at no cost. And the volunteers are left knowing that they've helped their community. The organization has donated over 200,000 lb. of fruit since starting in 2009.
The harvest for the day was picking oranges from a resident in Lemon Grove. In a single harvest, we easily picked over 100lb of fruit. This was a unique volunteer experience for me because of how small the group was but I felt like our small group of just four people made an impact on many. Knowing that I was able to put a nice little sweet-treat on someone’s table made this a great experience for me. I will definitely be looking out for more opportunities with HarvestCROPS in the future.
I recently had the opportunity to use my sewing skills in a way that would benefit those in need. For the first part of my volunteer work I, plus many other women at my church, prepared and sewed about 100 pillowcase-sized fabric drawstring bags for a small charity project called Holiday Gift Bags. This family-run effort fills the bags with essentials such as toothpaste, wipes, packaged food, and more to hand out to local homeless on Christmas. The drawstring "gift" bag itself is a helpful item, as it also doubles as a clean, fresh place to store belongings, or even as a pillow once filled with soft items. We came in because the organization reports that they have little problem gathering the items to include in the bags as the effort has grown to include many students and staff at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, but run into trouble when it comes to procuring the bags themselves because purchasing something ready made of equal quality to a handmade bag is cost prohibitive. Fortunately, many of us can sew these relatively simple bags and were happy to do so.
For the second part of my volunteer work I hand-tied and finished three baby quilts, sewn by a group of women at church. My role was especially helpful as it is the most tedious and time-intensive part of the quilt making and the other women could instead focus on churning out more quilts this way. These quilts are made as an effort to provide, free of charge, warm and quality baby quilts to needy families who give birth at the naval medical center on Camp Pendleton. The recipient families are families who cannot otherwise afford the essentials that a baby requires, and the gift of a quilt not only keeps that baby warm and cozy (especially now that we're in the winter), but it also helps to free up funds so that the family can more easily afford needed items.
All told, the two projects spanned the course of several evenings and it's a nice feeling being able to produce durable goods that will help the daily lives of people in need.
I had the pleasure of helping with the 3rd annual Jack-O-Smash Race. I was able to assist setting up for event and checking in runners for the race. In addition to 15k, 10k, 5k, and a 1 mile race, the event also has a Family Fun Festival that takes place after the races. This Non-Profit event is put on to contribute to three programs that assist children and adults with special needs. The specific programs they contribute to are the PoVa Therapeutic Riding Center, Abraxas Transition Program, and PUSDSEF.
Personally I was excited to be able to help for such great cause. Not only did I grow up with a wonderful Aunt who has special needs, but my two brothers work daily with children and adults with special needs for their perspective vocations. This has helped me understand what an impact an event like this can have. Seeing that first hand was a great experience, and I hope to make my participation an annual event moving forward.
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday Mid-City Church in City Heights has a food distribution, which as their website states, has served as much as 60 tons of produce and other food items “to feed the folk who live in and around City Heights” most of whom live in difficult or dire financial situations. Over the last 5 years I have had the opportunity to assist at the food distributions a handful of times a year. Whether it be handing out food, organizing lines, breaking down old boxes or simply making conversation with people whose existence is often ignored it has been a great honor and experience working alongside others to work towards a shared goal of bring hope to a community that very often goes without.
Day 1: La Jolla Cove|Wind and Sea
Labor Day weekend seemed to be a good time to find a volunteer opportunity to Give Back to the Community since the new 4-day work week policy provided us with the two glorious 4-day weekends in 2 months. I figured I could spend a day volunteering and still enjoy a full 3-day weekend! I came up with this great idea a few days before the holiday and found that my search for volunteer opportunities available on short notice was coming up empty.
So I decided to sponsor my own clean up the community day. Those who are close to me know that I have a bit of an OCD condition when it comes to trash. Trash generally does not last a day in my house. I empty it obsessively. The idea of picking up the trash of strangers was terrifying but at the same time, a convenient opportunity because God knows there is trash everywhere!
I set out Friday morning armed with my heavy yellow utility gloves and a handful of plastic grocery bags. Started walking north in my Wind and Sea neighborhood guessing that La Jolla, being a relatively upscale neighborhood, would also be pretty clean. Boy was I mistaken. The first grocery bag was full in less than 10 minutes. And I mean FULL!
The optimistic and naïve Nikki thought that I would knock out my trash collection in one day. Little did I know that when you are picking up trash on the street that you bend over at least once every 3 to 5 steps. After 2.5 hours of walking and all of my bags filled, I could barely stand up straight. Lucky for me, I had 3 more days to fit in my 9 hours of volunteer work!
I found it interesting how folks react to someone picking up trash solo. Lots of curious stares. Seemed that some folks were trying to figure out if I was collecting bottles and cans or just perhaps a little crazy. On mile 4 or 5, a woman about my age who was walking with her husband in the opposite direction, said ‘Thanks. That’s really nice of you.’ I raised my soiled yellow glove in silence and kept picking up cigarette butts.
That first day also taught me the rules of engagement which I was not prepared for but were required in order for me to complete my task and avoid my continued desire to ‘throw in the yellow glove’ and call it quits. I had just three rules:
Rule 1: It’s OK to pass trash that may contain bodily fluids or solids. Now I’m not talking Kleenex! That first day, in my early zeal, I picked up a few items that I greatly regretted. On days 2, 3, and 4 I was far more observant and selective before picking up certain items.
Rule 2: Once you pick it up, you have to keep it, no matter how disgusting and even if you break Rule 1. That is the rule I had to create and follow in those cases where I did pick up an item that probably had been used for a very personal purpose. Once it was in my gloved hand, if I threw it back on the ground, I was the one littering!
Rule 3: Don’t risk your life for a random piece of trash. You’re doing something good but that does not give you super powers.
Rule 3 came into play on my first day once I got into the groove of trash collection and was feeling an initial ‘high’ of giving back. As I walked toward La Jolla cove, I spotted something on the rocks. First I started to pass it and then walked back and thought, I can go get that. It’s so ugly and ruining that beautiful rock. I crawled under the fence with the sign warning pedestrians to stay away from the edge of the dangerous rocks. That damn piece of trash was luring me to the edge. I finally came to my senses and let the dirty sock win.
I was feeling a little defeated at that point but just as I got past those rocks, I was given the gift of this kindred spirit who I swear turned and looked up at me as if to say…’don’t you worry. There’s lots more trash at arm’s length.’
I received great satisfaction when I threw away the last full trash bag along with my yellow glove to end Day 1.
Day 2: Embarcadero and Little Italy
Saturday morning I set out with another stash of bags and a fresh glove. Drove downtown for a different view of the trash world.
The holiday weekend and beautiful weather brought out lots of folks and plenty of trash. As I worked my way through the embarcadero area near the Star of India and the Midway, my constant stopping was starting to become a nuisance. Without a sign on my back warning folks of frequent stops, I was getting in the way of tourists and had a few close calls with pedicabs. So I headed north of the County Administration Building and found myself in Little Italy.
Such a friendly, clean community, I thought I had hit the jackpot and would be hard-pressed to fill my bags in my allotted 2.5 hours. Boy was I mistaken! I must have picked up 1,000 cigarette butts that day along with other assorted trash, mostly food related. Good grief! Does everyone who goes to Little Italy instantly become a smoker?
Fewer curious looks that day. I think most folks assumed that trash collection was my job. One woman came up to me and asked if I had found a license, which she misplaced the night before. A restaurant owner shot me a timid ‘Grazie’ as I scooped up dozens of cigarette butts from his front patio. And there was that one genuine ‘Thank you’ from a woman about my age who seemed to understand my mission. By far the best human interaction moment of the day came when I made eye contact with a smoker who walked a few extra steps to put out his cigarette in a little ash tray at the top of a trash can on the street.
One interesting note about different forms of trash and how different communities feel about it. For all of you pet owners who use those little plastic bags to pick up after your dogs, please note that Little Italy has message for you. Even in our current drought conditions, don’t let your dog water the trees!
The last trash bag and yellow glove found their resting place around lunchtime.
Day 3: La Jolla|Bird Rock
Sunday was the toughest day. My back was sore from bending, I was sunburnt from the two previous days, and mostly I was sick of picking up trash. So I kept close to home and headed south toward Bird Rock. I’ve driven up and down La Jolla Blvd a thousand times in past 2 years and never noticed the mounds of trash tucked in the corner of the curbs, on the sidewalks, in the grassy areas, and especially around bus stops.
I also found more empty alcohol bottles and cans in this area than any other. The homeless footprint in La Jolla is almost non-existent so I could only assume that these were remnants of under-aged kids partying after a football game. Surely somebody else’s kid, not mine!
Being tired and cranky on day 3, I was especially annoyed by my uncanny ability to ALWAYS pick the right hand glove out of the jumbo bag of 5 pairs of gloves that I purchased as Home Depot. So each day I found myself wearing a right handed glove backwards and pinched on my left hand.
Day 3 was also the day I regretted Rule #2 on multiple occasions. My path had many grassy and dried areas with trash that seemed harmless at first, but had scary stuff hidden on the underside. Also, there were very few trash cans available for me to dispose of my full bags. I found myself walking for at least half a mile with 3 full bags of trash and carrying a crumbled, wet cardboard box. Not a pretty sight.
And yet, just when I was feeling a little sorry for myself, a woman, about my age, waiting with her family to be seated for brunch, gave me a smile and said Thanks.
Day 4: Mission Beach
On Labor Day morning I woke with a much better attitude. This was my final trash collection day. I will be victorious! So I loaded up my bike with empty bags and a left-handed glove, and headed south about 6 miles to my old stomping grounds. I lived in the heart of Mission Beach for seven years. This was a gritty neighborhood and needed my new found skills.
I was struck first and foremost by the cleanliness of the boardwalk. I expected to fill my bags in record time but that was not the case. A straw wrapper here, a cigarette butt there, and random napkins, etc. Secondly, my 3-day string of a single thanks by a woman my age was broken. To my surprise, EVERYONE was providing support….young, old, black, white, male, female, walkers, bikers, surfers. My biggest cheering section was a group of 4 Rastafarians.
Since little progress was being made on the boardwalk, I headed over to Mission Blvd. That was a good move. The trash was plentiful. After making my way from the roller coaster up to the PB pier, I headed back south on the boardwalk. By that time, the trash was piling up as the beach crowd increased. By the time I reached my bike, which was parked close to the roller coaster, I was ready to retire my final grocery bag of trash and well fitting, but soiled yellow glove.
In 4 days, I walked close to 30 miles and collected 35 bags of trash along with assorted items that were too big for the bags. I would like to tell you that the experience cured me of my OCD tendency but that’s just not true. I’d also like to tell you that I now pick up trash all the time, but that would also be untrue. I can say that I do notice trash more now and am scoping out locations to put those remaining 6 yellow gloves to good use on selected weekend walks and afternoon walks near the office.
For several years now, PaperFree has had the distinct honor of donating to this great cause. The annual golf tournament raises funds each year for the PointtheWayFoundation (www.pointthewayfoundation.org). This foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting charitable endeavors for the families and children of military communities nationwide. The charity has donated to numerous military, community, and children organizations over the years. Several employees are involved in this event each year that includes a great day of golf, camaraderie, and charitable giving.
Visit the Diablo Golf Classic Charity Tournament
For years I have reached out to friends and family to help me reach my annual fund raising goal for this great cause. This cause is dedicated to the early detection of Breast Cancer with an emphasis on men and women under the age of 40. Inspired by athletes everywhere, local communities come together to fundraise and help in detecting potentially life threatening Breast Cancer occurrences. PaperFree is a big part of my family and we all support this cause each year in hopes of making a real difference for those in our community who might be at risk.
Visit Barbells for Boobs
A couple times a year, my family, friends and I help build awarerness, raise funds and donate our time for walkathons and bike races for Cystic Fibrosis in San Diego. For the most recent walkathon, we raised over $6000 to help find a cure for CF. We have now been participating in the CF events for almost 10 years. The great part about these events, they help bring the CF community together as well so many other people. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys, and intestine. Long-term issues include difficulty breathing and coughing up mucus as a result of frequent lung infections.
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