JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — Whitney Lewis spends a lot of time walking along the shores of Kentucky’s rivers and lakes. She appreciates each ripple and rock, the flowers, and even the fungus.
“These places are so beautiful. I swear they make my lips quiver sometimes with excitement, and they just don’t deserve to be trashed,” she said.
She looks out for these places by looking down and picking up cans, bottles, and pieces of paper.
Whitney has become known as “the trash lady,” a title she doesn’t mind at all.
“I love it. It literally makes me feel better, as crazy as that might sound.”
She’s an insurance agent but doesn’t have to work from an office. That gives her plenty of time to get out and pick up trash.
“Every day. I mean, if I miss a day, I feel like something’s wrong,” she said. “I go through quite a few grabby sticks.”
Last spring, this nature lover started taking a grocery bag with her each time she went on a hike, wanting to leave each site better than she found it. She started counting bags of trash in April on Earth Day, which is also her birthday. She had a goal of picking up 500 bags of trash. Then she thought, “Why not a thousand or two thousand?” Now, six months into it, she’s nearly at 5,000.
She started a Facebook page called “Sun KYst Sticks and Stones” to document her cleanup efforts and encourage others to join her. She has thousands of followers.
“I didn’t realize there were so many like-minded people out there,” she said.
She admits it’s sometimes discouraging to go to a place she’s cleaned up and see new litter, but if it takes her longer to fill a bag, that means things are getting better.
“I think that’s why I hit places a little bit at a time because it’s so overwhelming at first, you know, but a little bit at a time makes a big difference,” she said.
This is not work for Whitney. She said it’s her calling.
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“And once I get the trash cleaned up, I soak it all in. That’s the biggest blessing about it,” she said.
Whitney said some people think it’s too big of a job to clean up trash in some places, but change happens one bag at a time.
“I think service and love is the answer.”
Whitney has received a lot of donations through a GoFundMe account called “Help Me Clean Up Kentucky.” She said she couldn’t go as many places as she does without the help of sponsors.