By Nicholas Vercilla
Tim Maloney was driving through Brighton Heights one day and saw someone open their car window and throw a plastic cup onto the road.
Kate Kelley was picking up litter when someone walked by and casually threw a bottle into her hedges.
Those commonplace experiences with litter in the Brighton Heights area in the North Side of Pittsburgh led Maloney to create a volunteer litter clean-up group in the area.
“I would drive around the neighborhood and see so much trash,” he said. “I decided something needed to be done.”
Maloney started the crew around four years ago, which now includes 30 members, to pick up trash in the area and create a more positive outlook on the community.
Maloney assigns a volunteer to an area that needs to be cleaned up once a month. The group also has a big spring and fall clean-up in which nearly everyone in the community goes out and picks up dozens of pounds of trash in every neighborhood in Brighton Heights. The event is called a “neighborhood blitz on trash.”
After the cup was thrown on the ground in front of him, Maloney asked the man why he just littered. The man profanely threatened him before asking a rhetorical question:
“Why does it matter?”
He took the man’s license plate number and reported the incident to the police.
Despite occasional heckling, Maloney says that the majority of people in the community are thankful for the help and will often give them support in any way they can.
Kelley also questioned the person who threw the bottle and got similar responses.
“It’s crazy. Every morning I have to pick up a bag of McDonald’s in front of my car,” said Kelley, who lives on Brighton Road.
Sembrat of Fleming Ave said for years he has been picking up litter in his neighborhood and joined the group after getting into contact with Maloney through the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation Facebook page.
Kelley has been picking up litter in the neighborhood for the last thirteen years. Karyn Pappert of Wittmer Street has been writing monthly reports called Trash Talk about the litter in Brighton Heights.
All four of them have found their fair share of weird and outrageous items. Kelley has found drug equipment while Maloney has found everything from old television sets and car parts to hair weaves.
The group is non-profit and is supported by the nearby Brighton Heights Citizens Federation.
“Without volunteers picking up trash, our neighborhoods would not look as neat or clean as it does,” said Maloney.