Once every three weeks, Roman Mangrich and his mother, Angela Mangrich, take a special walk around their Lodi High School neighborhood armed with striped work gloves, a pair of garbage bags and a sharp eye. Not that they need to look far. There’s plenty of litter in the gutter on Pacific Avenue, and along the fence line marking the border of Zion Reformed Church on Ham Lane.
Mangrich, 5, has made it his personal mission to keep that stretch of sidewalk as clean as possible by picking up garbage every few weeks. His mom comes along too, to pick up any broken glass or particularly gross trash.
On Saturday, they filled a bag with chip bags, crackers, paper cups, a discarded poster, McDonald’s bags, Gatorade wrappers and discarded straws. Mangrich hunted for litter a few steps ahead of his mom, who held their bag.
The project began two years ago. Angela Mangrich was in the habit of strapping her son into the stroller for a walk around the block. The little boy soon noticed paper bags, food wrappers and other garbage lying on the ground, and asked his mom if they could clean it up. It quickly became a habit for the pair.
Why was it so important for the then-three year old Mangrich to pick up garbage on Saturday mornings?
“Because the Earth was dirty, and I wanted to clean it up,” he said.
As they tidied up the path on Saturday, Angela Mangrich recalled a conversation about the littering habits of teenagers.
It was just a few weeks into the project when Mangrich noticed a trashcan near the parking lot.
“Mommy, there’s a garbage can right there. Why don’t people throw it away there?” Mangrich asked at the time. His mother didn’t have an answer for him.
This summer, Angela Mangrich realized what a good thing her son had begun. She brought it to the attention of the city and Reese Elementary School, where Mangrich is in kindergarten.
Gary Odell, principal, awarded Mangrich a certificate for his efforts.
And at a recent Lodi City Council meeting, Mangrich was recognized by the city.
“I wrote a letter to the city because I was so proud that my son took the lead and decided he did not like having trash on the street where he lives,” said Angela Mangrich at the meeting.
Mayor JoAnne Mounce thanked Mangrich for his work.
“We think it's pretty remarkable that someone your age took on this task. We would like to acknowledge your hard work. Your actions are an example to others of having a positive impact in the community,” she said.
But at five years old, Mangrich isn’t too worried about certificates. He just wants the street to look clean when he walks to school each morning.
He is not sure why the older kids don’t pick up their own garbage.
“Maybe because they aren’t good,” he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.