Florida Omegas, Litter-ly making a difference in the community
The next time you see trash thrown from a car, consider that Louis Addison may be the one to pick it up.
“It would be easier to stay at home and drink coffee,” Addison said, as he picked up items as small as cigarette butts along his fraternity’s adopted road Saturday.
Addison used a 30-inch hand-operated grabber to reach the items from his wheelchair as he worked along a stretch of County Road 484 just west of I-75.
Addison, 53, a retired pharmacist, has used a motorized wheelchair since 1994, following a car accident when he was stricken with MRSA, a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to antibiotics, and was diagnosed with possible polio.
Addison said his fraternity, the Psi Chi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, has made a “commitment to the community” and that the work “needs to be done.”
He and fellow fraternity members met Saturday morning for their Adopt-A-Road clean up session. After an 8 a.m. meeting at a McDonald’s near the work site, participants split into groups to cover both sides of 1-mile of roadway to pick up mainly what others carelessly discarded or allowed to blow off vehicles.
They also gathered an assortment of bolts, nails and 2 1/2-inch screws near a driveway, which could have meant flat tires for unsuspecting motorists.
During the group’s first year cleaning this location – 2009 – they collected enough beer bottles, diapers and other refuse to fill more than 40 30-gallon trash cans.
Nineteen-year fraternity member and volunteer Sam Samuel, 39, was joined Saturday by his son Curtis, 16, in what Sam called “a public service.”
“We bring them to see what this is all about,” Samuel said of his son and students Stepfan Butler, 15, and Onja Berry, 14, who joined the clean-up crew.
Fraternity member Judge Cochran handed out lime green safety vests provided by the Marion County Solid Waste Department.
According to department information online, groups sign a two year agreement that requires four clean-up sessions a year. The county can provide traffic control signs, gloves and bags, and markers indicating the stretch of road is maintained by the organization.
Groups may glean recyclables with value, such as aluminum cans, and retain them for their organization.
Cochran, a public information officer with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said it is a “testimony” that retired fraternity members with family and medical concerns still make time to volunteer in what he terms a community uplift and opportunity to serve as mentors.
“It gives a good feeling as you look back at the clean road, and shows (the students) that community service doesn’t necessarily take money,” Cochran said.
Omega Psi Phi was founded in 1911. The name, according to www.oppf.org/about.asp, came from the initials of the Greek phrase meaning “friendship is essential to the soul. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift were adopted as cardinal principles.”
Retired Vanguard High School band director Alsonzo Braddon, 64, walked the walk with his fellow fraternity members Saturday. “There is a lot of camaraderie,” he said, as he put trash in a collection bag.
Braddon, who retired from Vanguard in 2001 after 31 years of service, currently serves as a judge in area high school band competitions.
Fraternity members Ronald Jones and Clyde Neasman, both of Ocala, rounded out Saturday’s volunteer group.
Later in the morning, Sam Samuel pulled up in a pickup with several large sacks filled with trash as the work groups converged. The collected trash was placed at a pre-set location for county removal.
Fifty-year fraternity member Ed Fordham Fordham, 83, is retired principal of Sparr Elementary and Dr. N.H. Jones schools, and a veteran both World War II and the Korean War.
As he met the returning workers with refreshments and encouragement, he remarked, “This is a golden opportunity for service to the community.”