Neighbors: Eight-year-old Greenfield boy setting an example

Good morning, neighbor!

I am always amazed at how inspiring you are, but I am especially impressed when one of our younger neighbors sets the bar high, setting an example to which we should all aspire.

I spoke with Faith Reipold this past week about her 8-year-old son Kaleb. After our conversation, I got to speak with the very sweet, articulate and thoughtful young boy.

It was brought to my attention that Kaleb likes to travel some of the streets of Greenfield, picking up trash as he goes, but I learned even more than I expected. Kaleb, a third-grader at Federal Street School who will be 9 in October, has always loved cleaning, picking up trash and recycling.

“He’s been obsessed with cleaning since he was 11 months old,” his mother told me. “I actually clean obsessively, so he probably gets some of that from me.”

Kaleb will beg his mother to let him vacuum, and he’s been doing that since he could walk. But what he’s doing outside of his home impresses me most.

“He’ll ask me or his dad if he can go for a walk,” she said. “We know where we’re going — Hope Street, Main Street, Federal Street, Mill Street — and it’s not going to just be a family stroll.”

Kaleb has loved everything garbage for as long as his parents can remember. He has dressed as a garbage man, a garbage can, and his mother has dressed as a garbage bag on Halloween. He hasn’t dressed as Oscar the Grouch yet, but when asked, she replied, “That’s a good idea.”

He and his parents walk along sidewalks as he pulls a wagon his grandparents gave him. He wears special gloves and a yellow reflective vest his father bought him so that traffic can see him when he walks close to the curb. He also carries a “trash grabber” to pick up trash without having to handle it much. In the wagon he places two milk crates, one for trash and one for recyclables. When he gets home, Kaleb goes through the crates to make sure all trash and recyclables are separated.

“Let’s just say we’re spending a lot more money on trash stickers than we used to,” Faith told me.

“I like doing it,” Kaleb said during a phone conversation. “It helps the Earth. It makes me feel good, like I’m doing something.”

Kaleb doesn’t like that people leave their trash for others to deal with, and he certainly doesn’t like that animals can be injured by it or even die from choking or strangulation, especially if it makes it to a waterway or the ocean.

In his free time, he also likes gardening, exploring the woods behind his home and building with LEGOs. He hopes someday to craft inventions that help dispose of trash in a better way — he builds prototypes with his LEGOs.

“I find trash in the woods, too,” he said. “It’s bad. It’s in streams, there’s piles of glass. I wish people would stop.”

Kaleb has no intention of slowing down his trash collection, though — it’s his passion. His mother said people drive by and give him a thumb’s up or a wave, and yell “Great job!” and “Thank you!”

“There’s such an incredible smile on his face when that happens,” she said. “People have even stopped and given him a couple bucks. He’s buying some of his own toys with the money.”

It’s not hard to guess what types of toys Kaleb likes. Yup! Garbage and recycling trucks. He’s got an entire fleet.

Kaleb is setting an example we should all follow. What an amazing youngster. I can’t wait to hear what’s ahead for him. Until then, “Thank you, Kaleb.” We appreciate all you’re doing. Keep up the good work. Some of our streets are looking better because of you. Hope to see you out there one of these days.

Senior Reporter Anita Fritz grew up in Franklin County after moving from Spokane, Wash., when she was just a few weeks old. She covers Greenfield and does regional and COVID-19 reporting for the Greenfield Recorder.

Author: Going Green

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