Pa. woman adopts highway, spends weekends cleaning litter in Chester County

AVONDALE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- For a decade, Kelly McDowell has been driven to clear litter from the roads in her neighborhood.

"I care about where we live," she said. "And so, I'm not going to wait for the government to do something or someone else. I'm going to do it myself."

That's why she founded 'People Who Use Trashcans' five years ago and became involved with PennDOT's Adopt-A-Highway program. Since then, she has patrolled 10 miles of highway on Route 1 passing through Avondale and West Grove, Pennsylvania.

Over the weeks, her team may fill up to 900 bags of trash which PennDOT picks up at no charge.

"Originally, it was just me and a couple people," McDowell said. "Now, I'm up to about 50 to 60 volunteers."

From March until May, the group participates in the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania - Chester County.

"This is kind of like a walk in the park, right?" said McDowell.

So, when McDowell is not working or taking care of her family throughout the week, she can be found roaming the shoulders of the highway.

"This stretch of highway had not been done in a decade since I did it," she said to Action News while picking up trash on Route 1. "I really want to make sure that I plant groups to keep it going."

Originally from Chester County, McDowell made the move to Lancaster County in December of 2020. Still, she returns to her former stomping grounds to clean up even the most unspeakable discarded objects.

"A lot of the things that I find are beer bottles," she said. "So, if you're drinking and driving, I think the least of your concerns are litter."

McDowell's love for her community and planet keep her cleaning no matter how grimy the journey becomes.

"I want to keep this maintained once a year," she said. "It'll look good for probably, like, four months. And then, you know, whatever, we'll start again."

To learn more about 'People Who Use Trash Cans' or the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania - Chester County, visit their Facebook pages.

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