A clean park is a volunteer mission


Cliff Ediger of Hillsboro poses during one of his trips to Memorial Park to clean up trash. ?It gives me something to do, and it keeps the park looking better,? Ediger said of his volunteer effort.

At least once, and sometimes twice, during these warm summer days, Cliff Ediger rides across the street from his home in his electric-powered wheelchair to pick up trash in Hills?boro Memorial Park.

On the foot rest of his wheelchair is a five-gallon can in which to put the trash he gathers with a grab stick he purchased.

?It gives me something to do, and it keeps the park looking better,? Ediger said of his volunteer effort. ?There?s mostly the usual things?cups, napkins, lots of paper. The kids leave a lot of stuff, sometimes their shoes. I guess they just kick them off to run around.

?You?d think they?d notice they were gone when they hit the hot pavement,? he added.

Ediger said he tries to make his rounds in the mornings unless it?s raining.

?But, I?ll go back in the afternoons most of the time in the summer, sometimes two or three times if the park?s busy,? he added.

He dumps his can in the park trash bins, although sometimes he takes some trash home for disposal if the bins are full.

On many evenings after closing time, he?ll pick up trash in the parking lot of Greenhaw Pharmacy, which is next door to his home on Ash Street.

Ediger said the trash flow starts to slow this time of year with the children back in school.

His efforts haven?t gone without notice. Ediger said volunteer organizations have asked him, as a result of his clean-up runs, to join their groups. But he said he finds a peace in going at his own pace instead of being required to be part a group.

Ediger, 64, said he sometimes needs time for himself after a stroke in 2006 left him entirely numb on his left side. He can use the right leg, which has feeling, to stand up with a cane around the home. But outside the home, he needs the wheelchair.

Ediger had worked for many years as a field appraiser for Harvey County, which required him to drive a lot. But during and after his post-stroke therapy sessions at Newton Medical Center it became apparent that his driving days were over.

?I?m just glad the stroke didn?t happen while I was driving,? he said.

Ediger said the left peripheral vision on both eyes was gone, and he had to be taught to do such things as follow words on a page in order to read again.

?I could be following a brick wall on my left side, and never see it,? he said.

As he tried to read again, Ediger found that his vision would skip to the middle of a page, and confuse him as to where to go from there. To help teach him to read from right to left again, therapists drew a red line on the left side of the page.

?My therapists at Newton were just wonderful,? Ediger said. ?I couldn?t hardly sit up when I went in, and they got me to walking to a certain extent.?

Ediger moved to Hillsboro two years ago in part to be near the family of his son, T.J. Rivera.

He said he especially enjoys the companionship of his granddaughters, Tia, 10, and Skye, 8.

The two girls have volunteered to help him with the trash pick-up from time to time, but Ediger smiles when he says it?s sometimes too much work for little girls.

He said he enjoys other vicarious rewards that come with his work in the park, like meeting and visiting with people.

?Most all of the people who come to the park are very nice.?

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