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Soroptimists clean our roadsides

You may know Soroptimist International of Ashland for its scholarships and awards to girls and women to further their education or training as a means of empowering them to be their best.

Or perhaps you know us for our booth at OSF’s Elizabethan Theater where we rent out pillows and blankets to fund those scholarships and awards. Maybe you know of our Strong Girls, Strong Women programs at Helman Elementary School, which includes our beloved Lunch Buddy program.

While those are probably our best known projects, it is not all we do. For more than two decades, Soroptimists have performed road cleanup on a stretch of Ashland highway that we have adopted. Each spring and fall, about a dozen of us, clad in orange vests and armed with tools, have dedicated a Saturday morning to trash removal along East Main Street from Walker to Highway 66. While not a glamorous job, it is a much-needed task and we have found ways to make it fun.

We divide the roadway up into sections to be handled by groups of two or three Soroptimist members. We operate according to the rules and regulations of the Jackson County Roads Department, from whom we obtain the bright yellow trash bags. The local office of the Oregon Department of Transportation is kind enough to loan us “grabbers” for picking up the various types of garbage strewn along the highway. We bag up what we pick up and leave the filled yellow bags, secured at the top, for the county to retrieve the next business day. If we come across dangerous or hazardous objects such as needles or batteries, we flag them for special pickup so they can be properly disposed of by professionals.

We do, however, find some interesting items that we can handle ourselves. In the past we have found tires, animal skeletons, even a dead snake, as well as the usual assortment of bottles, fast-food containers and plain old rubbish — and there seems to be a constant supply of clothing, including shoes and hats. This year we discovered a new item of attire — face masks. Perhaps the detritus that brings the most raised eyebrows and questioning looks are the various items of underwear — male and female — that we always come across. Makes one wonder how they found their way onto the roadside.

In past years we have had competitions among Soroptimist members for the most interesting item of garbage collected or for the craziest footwear. This year, we all had to be careful to stay six feet apart and wear masks, and the county had us delay our spring cleanup due to COVID-19. Despite these new hurdles, SIA was happy to perform its usual task of cleaning up our stretch of East Main.

What makes the job so fulfilling, in addition to knowing we are helping the community, is the response we receive from passersby. We really do appreciate those honks, waves and thank-yous. Helping one another along the way makes life worth living, and Soroptimist International of Ashland is happy and proud to be a good community member. Let’s keep our lovely town safe and clean.

Soroptimist Report appears quarterly in the Tidings. For more, go to www.soroptimistrv.org/siashland.html, or email siashland@soroptimist.net.

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