Hagerstown Man 'Rights His Wrongs' by Cleaning Streets

HAGERSTOWN, MD - Pass through the Jonathan Street neighborhood and you'll see him on any given day. The shoes are a clue to what's happening, but the old sneakers are just the most recent pair he's worn out on these streets.

The walker with a purpose travels light, but by the end of the trip, Rudy Russ will have a lot more baggage.

"I do this every day, seven days a week," says Russ. "I even do it if it's not raining hard and in the snow, in the winter."

The Army vet started his three-a-day routine after he retired.

"When I first started, to be truthful, I wasn't so much worrying about the trash as I was the cans," says Russ. "But then it got to me, well, if you can pick up cans in your travel, why not the trash?"

That wake-up call came after Russ hit rock bottom. It used to be all about money for the man who admits he had a problem.

"I usually get anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds," says Russ. "That's a $140 that I just made walking."

The money came indirectly from some of his old drinking buddies. The first beer can popped open in the morning and the drinking sometimes went all day.

"I remember a time when I was one of the biggest drunks," says Russ.

People in the neighborhood knew a few things about Russ. He was a good person who struggled with drinking and drugs.

"When they made the bust on him, that's been about 20 something years ago," says Leonard Cooper, a barber in the neighborhood. "I think that was his wake-up call."

Now a much older Russ is clean and sober, and his eyes are on the pinnacles in the neighborhood.

"Every Sunday I see them going to church, that's why I pick up trash," says Russ. "I don't want people seeing bottles on the ground."

There's been a side benefit to cleaning up the streets as well. Russ has lost 65 pounds and his diabetes is now under control.

"I sleep good at night," says Russ. "I eat three times a day, sometimes four when I'm greedy."

Russ says only one thing will stop him from picking up after people.

"Until they put me in a pine box or whatever it is. I love what I'm doing."

When he wears down his last pair of sneakers, he hopes to leave a lasting impression; cleaner streets around his neighborhood.

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