SUMTER, S.C. — The Sumter community is taking notice as a man tries to clean up Dillon Park in his free time.
"It’s just unbelievable," Akridge Stone thought when he saw the trash lying on the ground at the park.
"This is too nice a place for people to bring their kids, you see all these ballparks for the kids to come out and have to see all this trash," he shared. "They got to realize that other people’s kids come here and they see this stuff and they pick it up. And if there's germs everywhere then they’re gonna get 'em."
To keep busy and get in some exercise during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Akridge - who goes by Stoney - started to pick up.
"I’m up there in age and I don't want to quit moving myself 'cuz if I do I feel like I might not start moving again," Stoney shared. "Trying to build my legs up so if I had to run, I could run."
Now three years later, he goes to the park nearly seven days a week with a picker in hand.
"It’s anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half just according to how much trash it is," he explained.
Residents like Karen James tell me they’re grateful for Stoney and all he does.
"It sort of makes your day," James told me. "You know, it gives you a new outlook on people. It really does."
"There are a lot of good hearted people but they’re hard to find nowadays," Zoie Blanding added. "You know its a lot that’s going on nowadays, a lot of bad things. A lot of good things too but you know it’s like the bad is over weighing the good, so it makes me happy to know somebody’s out here that’s still helping the community."
While Stoney gets upset by all the trash, he says encouragement from the community is helpful.
"I get so many compliments from people I see walking out here tell me how much they appreciate it," he explained. "And that makes me feel a little bit better."
"Through the grace of God you want somebody to take care of the environment so it will be healthier for everyone," park goer Terrence Hart said.
But in the end, Stoney wishes people would stop littering.
"We live in a wonderful place. This is a nice little town. And I wish people that throw the trash out could appreciate what a wonderful place we live, how blessed we are to live in a place like this," James explained. "And please don’t litter! Just don’t litter."
In an effort to cut down litter in Sumter, the city and county organize periodic community clean up days and outreach efforts. Residents can also report litter hotspots to the city.
"I think they’re just ignorant, or they just don’t give a rat. It’s one or the other," Stoney said. "There really is no excuse for it. Look at all the trash cans we got! Trash cans around every ball field."