DARLING LAKE, NS - Probably the most unusual thing 84-year-old Doris Symonds picked up during her past four years of cleaning Darling Lake/ Wellington roadsides was a discarded whole cooked ham.
She stuck it in her freezer and has been cutting little pieces off to feed the birds.
Fast-food containers, plastic, vegetable peelings and broken glass are the items she typically encounters while out on her walks with Chrissy, her 10-year-old dog that is a little on the “hefty” side.
“Chrissy likes to go because she likes the fast food, especially if there’s a donut or something left in the bag,” said Symonds.
The pair patrol the roadside twice a day, heading one way in the morning and the opposite way in the evening.
Picking up other people’s garbage wasn’t something she ever intended on doing.
“Nothing made me think that I was doing something at the time, it just happened. It seemed the more there was, the more I picked.”
She says if she didn’t clean it up for three days, the amount of litter would be back to the state it was before. If no one picked it up for a month, you’d need a truck, she adds.
“It makes me wonder why, if they’re in a car, they don’t just put a bag in there and throw the garbage in. You don’t have to throw it out the window.”
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, however.
One day she noticed a car pulled over ahead and parked in a driveway awaiting her. The driver came over and commented that it was a nice day.
“She said, ‘I just have a card for you, I see you every day out here picking up the garbage,’” said Symonds.
There have been other, similar encounters. Some people have given her gift cards for her volunteerism.
Symonds, in turn, gives the cans and pop bottles she collects to her friend, Louise Hamilton-Delaney, who directs the refund towards the animal shelter or Trap, Neuter, Release programs.
Born in Salmon River, Symonds has resided in Darling Lake since the late 1960s. She once worked for MacCraes Store in Port Maitland.
This diminutive octogenarian turns 85 in July and confesses some mornings she has to coax herself a bit to get walking.
“But Chrissy wants to go, so we go.
“This year I’m starting to feel it in the knees. My legs and my feet are tired at night now. They never used to bother me before.
“When we get back I’m no worse. It probably feels a little bit better, because I’m limbered up.”
She hopes others will follow her lead in their communities.
“I would encourage anyone when they’re out and walking about to pick up garbage.”