Arlene Griffith is a woman with a cause – she is cleaning up Ripon.
Griffith walks around her community in search of “messy” conditions that she then cleans up by weeding and sweeping.
Arlene caught my eye a couple weeks ago in the 500 block of Second Street in central Ripon where she was sweeping up leaves and trash in a gutter with her worn out broom. It had but only three inches left of its bristles. Several times later she would be spotted working in other parts of the community with her broom in hand and sweeping clutter into a box of trash.
On Saturday I spotted her turning over the dirt in a landscaping strip along the side of the Ripon Library, a length of some 75 to 80 feet. She was turning the earth with the broom stick and leaning into the job with all the might she could muster. Curious about her outstanding work ethic and obvious community service, I turned my car around to have a chat with the small woman – a dreaded interview from her perspective.
Arlene didn’t want to talk to me and she definitely didn’t want to be seen or mentioned in a newspaper. Taking a slow approach I left after about 20 minutes telling her how impressive it was to see someone working with back breaking zeal for the good of the community to make the town look even better than Ripon already appeared to those driving down the Main Street and not wanting anything for her trouble.
About an hour later I returned to her work location and she was gone – probably to get a bite of lunch I thought. So I went into the library and talked with a couple of the librarians – one of whom had walked out to talk with her earlier finding that she was too busy to engage in chit chat.
A few minutes later I drove back into the adjacent parking lot and found her pulling preventive green rodent screening and more roots out of the parkway landscaping that she was finishing up. Asking again if I could take her picture and put something in the paper of what she was doing for free. Maybe this will inspire others to do the same, I told her. She relented and said she was actually fine with the idea.
Arlene is now in her 60s, remembering back to her teen years in the Bay Area when she was about 16, she plowed fields and raised corn for her family.
She doesn’t have a computer in her home and she lives with her sister in town since her husband passed away. He was a mail man and worked out of San Francisco delivering mail up and down Highway 101, she said, adding that he worked way too hard for 26 years. Asked how her back was fairing with the hard work, she said her lower back often hurts because she doesn’t have the proper landscaping equipment and uses the broom handle to turn over the ground.
“I never go onto people’s property,” she said. “I only work from the street and clean out the gutters in front of homes using my broom and dust pan to gather clutter.”
“Every time I get exhausted, I just go home sit down and read a book – that’s the good life,” she chuckled.
“When I first came into Ripon, I wanted to do this,” she stressed. “The roots get into the sewer lines, so this is a good cause,” she added.
Bud Schemper at ACE Hardware said he could provide her with a small shovel and rake and a new broom for her future projects. “Anyone performing community service like that, we will take care of them,” Bud said Saturday.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.