October 15, 2012
Piece by piece one Orange County man is making a difference with every piece of litter he picks up. In this week's Stephanie's Heroes Gene Ernst has adopted a highway and is vowing to keep it clean and preserve the area for future generations.
Every couple of weeks, retired teacher Gene Ernst picks up trash along the one mile stretch of road he adopted in Orange County.
With his garden tool and make shift bag in hand he works extra hard to keep Old Office road spotless.
“That is wonderful when you actually see the road. I've gone from my sign to my sign. It's a feeling of accomplishment,” said Gene Ernst, Retired Teacher.
Over the years he's come across some interesting items.
“Most of the time I get beer bottles and beer cans, but you find all kinds of stuff. I've actually found trailers and tires. You name it…wood. They dump everything,” said Ernst.
Near the bridge on Old Office road he recently found a baby gate, a table and most concerning a bucket of latex paint which he says could have gotten into the water supply.
Ernst says this is something people should think about before disposing household items and trash alongside the road.
“If we don't we're causing a lot of problems because we have the pollution part of it. We affect wildlife and we affect the ground.
Not only does Ernst bag all the garbage for VDOT to collect, he also separates items that can be recycled and hauls them to the nearest recycling center.
Many folks in his community say Gene Ernst goes above and beyond and it's the reason they're calling him a hero, but he doesn't agree.
“I don't think of myself as a hero it's just something that you're supposed to do,” said Ernst.
He says this project that is near and dear to his heart and something he'll continuing doing as long as he can.