If you ask Nancy Kirkpatrick she’ll tell you it’s no big deal, it’s just what she does.
She doesn’t do it to be noticed, she doesn’t do it for recognition and she doesn’t do it because she feels obligated, but every morning on her walks through her Lake Tapps neighborhood, Kirkpatrick picks up the litter she sees on the side of the road.
“I don’t like looking at it,” she says with a dismissive wave and a slight laugh, as if everyone collects trash during their morning exercise. “I had no idea anybody noticed.”
But at least one person noticed. Every day on her commute, Bonney Lake Court Clerk Terri Terry sees Kirkpatrick walking through the neighborhood, picking up litter as she went.
“I don’t know Nancy. I’ve never met her before in my life,” Terry said recently. “I just thought that was pretty cool.
“She makes me smile every morning when I see her,” she said.
When during a recent staff meeting with Mayor Neil Johnson, talk turned to community involvement and Terry remembered the mysterious woman she saw picking up trash and she told the mayor.
Johnson was struck by the story and decided that the woman should be recognized for her contribution to the city and decided to award her the first ever Bonney Lake Civic Pride recognition.
“I think we should recognize citizens who go above and beyond the call of duty,” Johnson said. “If citizens once every month picked up a little trash as they walked around their neighborhood, it would keep Bonney Lake really clean.”
Terry was dispatched to find out who the woman was and why she was out every morning picking up trash.
Soon after, a car pulled up behind her one morning.
“I was just walking along and this lady stopped,” Kirkpatrick said, laughing.
Terry got her information and passed it on to the mayor, who awarded Kirkpatrick the Civic Pride recognition during the April 24 meeting of the city council, which she accepted to a standing ovation from the council, staff and entire audience in attendance.
“It’s just something I do,” she told the council with a shrug. “I’m walking anyway…”
Kirkpatrick has lived in Bonney Lake since 1982. A little more than 10 years ago, she began taking her dog out for walks when she began to notice the litter along the roadside.
“I would be walking along and see trash and the next day I’d see the same thing,” she said.
It was then she decided that if no one else was going to pick up the litter, she would.
“I keep walking the same route and I don’t want to keep looking at it,” she said.
So she began picking up the trash and the tradition has continued to this day. Her dog is no longer with her, but Kirkpatrick is still out there walking and still picking up litter, usually in bags she finds along the route.
She see others some days who are also picking up trash, but knows it’s an uphill battle.
“There’s a lot of people who keep littering,” she said. “My husband and I always say ‘I don’t get the mentality. Why do people do that?’”
The fact that Kirkpatrick does not do it for any reason other than to make her neighborhood look a little better impressed Terry even more.
“She’s not doing it for the recognition. She’s doing it because that’s who she is,” she said. “I just caught her doing something awesome and told on her.”
Johnson said he too was inspired by Kirkpatrick and hopes the Civic Pride award will inspire others to also do the little things to make Bonney Lake a better place to live and he hopes to start a formal process to award future Civic Pride awards, though for now, his office is accepting nominations through email.
“If everyone does the little things, the city will keep building a strong community,” he said. “The fun part of being mayor is when you can recognize people for what they are doing for the city.”
Kirkpatrick agrees and though she again reiterates she was not looking for any kind of recognition, she encourages others who have similar interests to do the little things that make the city a nice place to live.
“It’s not that hard,” she said. “And it doesn’t have to be litter.”