Meet the ‘Garbage Lady’ and others cleaning up Pittsburgh’s North Side

July 24, 2018
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Lynn Glorieux, 72, of Deutschtown picks up litter in Allegheny Commons Park East off of Cedar Avenue, Thursday, July 19, 2018.

Lynn Glorieux is known as the North Side Garbage Lady.

For more than 20 years, Glorieux, 72, of Pittsburgh’s East Allegheny neighborhood has collected garbage strewn around Allegheny Commons Park and on streets and riverbanks around the city.

She’s one in a growing army of North Side volunteers who pick up litter daily in their neighborhoods.

“I started when I moved here 26 years ago,” Glorieux said. “I just feel like a friend of Mother Nature. I believe in people doing what they can to try and help things on Earth and do what gives them satisfaction. There’s nothing better for me than to pick up an area and then look back and see that it looks much better.”

Lukas Bagshaw, 30, feels the same way.

He began picking up litter in kitchen garbage bags about a year ago on daily walks around his Central North Side neighborhood. He planned on doing that for only one week when he started, but it gave him so much satisfaction that he never stopped.

Last week, he and a group of volunteers kept streets clean during the Deutschtown Music Festival, a two-day event featuring more than 300 bands and thousands of visitors.

“It was amazing to me,” said Ben Soltesz, one of the event founders. “They were just on it all day. The streets were clean both days because of that effort.”

Bagshaw said people seeing him on his rounds were interested in joining him. The program he dubbed Bags N’ Blocks has 27 volunteers cleaning up city blocks in Manchester, California-Kirkbride, East Allegheny, Spring Garden, Perry South and Allegheny West. He said he hopes to expand the program to every North Side neighborhood.

“Litter was just kind of a vehicle to get out and meet the neighbors,” he said. “It was kind of like community building.”

Bagshaw found a long handle “gripper” lying around his house that allows him to pick up something as small as a wad of chewing gum without bending over and bought a “grabber” that attaches to the lip of a garbage bag and makes it easier to carry. He said you can buy the two implements for less than $20.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, who represents the North Side, said the volunteers are underappreciated.

“When you get volunteers doing that, it’s wonderful,” she said. “These people are doing that on their own time, and they’re paying for their own bags. We should, as a city, appreciate what they’re doing.”

Glorieux said she mainly focuses on Allegheny Commons, where she also tends a flower bed along Cedar Avenue, but also collects litter in plastic shopping bags while riding her bike around the city and kayaking on the rivers.

She’s found everything from used condoms to hypodermic needles, empty heroin packages and money. She said she usually discovers change, but once found $80 while picking up litter in the South Side. She finds a lot of pocket knives. Her husband loves them, she said.

Glorieux said people would be surprised at the number of balls, including footballs and basketballs, she finds along riverbanks while kayaking.

“I pick them up, and I clean them up, and I pump them up if they’re a little flat, and I take them to our playground,” she said.

She said she averages three to five bags full of garbage per day while patrolling the park with a broom and long-handled dust pan.

“In the evening, from about 6 (p.m.) until 9, I’m out there picking up litter,” she said. “The kids call me the garbage lady, or the flower lady, or the boat lady.”

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