Patrick Milhouse is a witty 72-year-old who has a straightforward approach to keeping his community litter free.
He is not about self-aggrandizement and simply wants to keep his street and others free of beer cans, paper, boxes and other debris he often finds in his miles of travels in Orangeburg.
Picking up an elderly neighbor's trash container or newspaper doesn't bother him. It doesn’t worry him to make a call to check on their welfare.
Milhouse's self-motivation and resourcefulness have earned him recognition as the example of “initiative” as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
"It's good to be recognized," Milhouse said. But he also made it clear that attention is not something he wants.
He simply wants to be left alone to make his community a more beautiful place to live and work.
"I don't need publicity. I just go out and do it just because I want to. It gives me something to do and a chance to get away from the house," he said.
He has been picking up litter along Broughton Street, Perryclear Street, Tyler Road, Rivelon Road, Riverside Drive and other areas in and around his community.
He is especially glad that some of his friends have started picking up trash, too.
"I try to tell them it's for their own good to pick it up. It's not for anyone else. So they walk and pick up trash. I'm all over the place," he said.
While he doesn't look for rewards, it made him feel good when he received a token of appreciation from an elderly man who could not clean up around his own yard like he wanted.
"I had a fella who stays out on Rivelon Road who came out and gave me two pounds of pecans one day for Christmas -- and a hug. I pick trash out of his ditch. He's getting old and says he can't do it. He was real thankful that I pick it up for him," Milhouse said. "It makes you feel good."
When asked what “initiative” means to him, he said it was just about getting a job done. The retiree, who spent 35 years in the South Carolina National Guard, has made picking up litter a task of his own.
"I've got too much time in it to quit doing it. I want to stay kind of active at least for another 18 years. I don't exercise well. I can't go to a gym. But if I'm outside, you can hear the birds and different things and people wave at you," he said.
"It don't hurt me to go out and pick it up. It don't bother me a bit about what people think about me. I'm doing what I want to do. A lot of people say, 'Well, I ain't going to pick no trash up,' but you’re probably the one throwing it out," Milhouse said.
He said his sister in St. Matthews has also been picking up trash in her area.
Milhouse said his loving wife, Roxie, provides him with the support he needs.
"I’ve got a good wife. She understands I'm not going to stay in the house long. I get real nervous when I got to stay in," he said.
Milhouse wants Orangeburg to be the beautiful place he knows it can be.
"I grew up in Orangeburg, and I just hate to see it go down. Orangeburg was a real pretty city. Well, it's still nice, but it could be cleaner," Milhouse said.
Roxie said her husband's military service in some ways contributes to his ability to take the initiative to perform the tasks he sets his mind to.
She said, "I think being in the military fosters a commitment and a responsibility to do things as you're supposed to do them, or as they should be done. He takes the initiative to pick up the trash on his own, but he actually helps with a lot of things.
"There's a couple of elderly women that he calls to check on all the time. He goes out to get their trash can. He does more than just pick up trash."
Milhouse said, "You should do one good thing a day. At six o'clock in the morning, I go down and get my neighbor's paper so she won't have to go outside to get it. I'd hate for something to happen to her and she falls or something."
A Wal-Mart gift card, wallets, credit cards and a "couple of $5 and $1 bills" are among the items that Milhouse has run across while picking up trash. He makes sure to return what he can to its rightful owner, including a check for $914.
"It must have dropped out of a car somehow. So I took it back to the lady's house, but she wouldn't answer the door. I couldn't give it to her, so I just stuck it in the door for her," he said.
The father of two adult sons, Milhouse says he tried to instill a good work ethic in his children as they were growing up.
"Work ain't going to hurt anybody. When I came up, I used to work at Paradise Ice Cream Company when I was 12 years old and before they had labor laws and stuff like that. I had a paper route when I was about 10 years old," he said.
Milhouse said he appreciates the efforts of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative to promote good character.
"I think it catches on. I think the good is going to outweigh the bad in the long run," he said.
Retiree honored for initiative
March 31, 2017 Times and Democrat article (reprinted with permission)
Article by DIONNE GLEATON T&D Staff Writer
Photo by Larry Hardy, T&D