Athens woman’s litter removal efforts prompt cleanup day in her honor

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ATHENS, Ala. – An Athens woman has been picking up trash across the city since the COVID-19 pandemic began. She was recognized Saturday with a cleanup day in her honor.

Oasis: Christ’s Church at Athens and Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful co-hosted “Mrs. Laverne’s Clean My Block Party” a day of food, music, and of course trash cleanup.

“Ya’ll put your hands together for Miss Laverne. We got a hometown hero,” said Jerome Malone, pastor of Oasis Christ’s Church at Athens.

“You’re going to have me up here crying. Very touching. Very touching,” said Laverne Gilbert.

Gilbert has been crisscrossing her Athens neighborhood, and the rest of the city since July, filling over 120 trash bags by December.

“I retired in 2019, and COVID-19 came up, and I was like what am I going to do, so I’m sitting on my front porch one day, just meditating,” said Gilbert.

That’s when she says she noticed an unkempt strip of land across the street that was littered with trash.

“I went and got my broom, started cleaning up, trash, bottles, just everywhere,” said Gilbert. “I went to the mayor’s office and told them what had happened, and I told him I need some grabbers, some bags, and a vest, I need to go to work.”

Gilbert has been cleaning up the city ever since, now with the help of some new friends.

“You don’t see that very often, the fact that she looked around, saw a need that needed to be taken care of, had the time to do it, and then started a movement,” said Leigh Patterson, executive director of Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful.

“You get out here, you meditate, and you get to working, I’m enjoying it,” said Laverne Gilbert.

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