Lewiston man challenges neighborhood to clean up

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

"I cultivate trash from my yard when I get home from work, not tomatoes," said the Rev. Doug Taylor of Bates Street in Lewiston. "The problem is out of control." 

LEWISTON — The Rev. Douglas Taylor is calling on his neighbors to clean up their act.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The Rev. Doug Taylor spends $250 twice per year to pay for help and supplies for trash pickup from his yard. "I find everything from condoms to needles down here," Taylor said. 

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Trash hangs from a tree in the Rev. Doug Taylor's back yard. "It's just constantly a mess," Taylor said about the garbage that surrounds his home on Bates Street. 

At a brisk pace, Taylor approached a torn trash bag slumped over the curb near the corner of Bates and Birch streets, apparently not in front of any residence.

"This is going to be all over the neighborhood," Taylor said before bending down to pick up a stray piece of paper blowing across the sidewalk. Since the garbage collection wasn't coming until Thursday, he had little hope of the bag making it into the back of the garbage truck.

Although Taylor said the street appeared unusually clean Monday afternoon, it was still awash with candy wrappers and bits of paper. As he spoke, an Utz potato chip bag blew past his foot.

Back at his home and headquarters of The Jesus Party, Taylor opened the gate to his six-foot chain-link fence to deposit the garbage in a large trash can he just bought. Taylor had purchased the fence for $1,600 in an attempt to keep blowing trash out of his diminutive yard.

Affixed to the fence were new signs, calling out to the Bates Street neighborhood to pick up their trash and follow in his footsteps.

The signs, with slogans like, "We May Live in the Ghetto but We Don’t Have to Live in the Garbage" and "Being Low-Income Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Being Low-Class," dominate the black chain-link fence.

Taylor said he usually steers clear of terms like "ghetto" when referring to the downtown area but the rising tide of filth has demanded stronger language.

He pointed to a lot beside his house. According to Taylor, the decorative shrubbery planted by a local non-profit provides a lovely facade for what lies beyond.

Beyond the sidewalk, a worn walkway flanked by overgrown burdocks winds down a hill and out to Knox Street. Among the weeds, there is a variety of debris, including a broken sled, a wooden crate, empty milk jugs and other garbage, most of which appeared to have been dumped from windows above.

Pointing to the debris, Taylor said he spends about $250 in the spring and fall to gather local youth and scour the lot. 

He said the winter provides a brief reprieve by freezing the garbage and covering it with occasional snowfall. The spring garbage thaw, however, leaves much to be desired in the Taylor household.

He said the city will eventually help with cleaning the lot if he screams enough, but that the task has usually fallen upon him and his local youth.

Taylor's backyard is a narrow porch high above a wooded area, where shredded plastic and garbage hangs from trees. Below is a familiar scene of clothing, bicycle parts, trash, a teddy bear and a pillow.

Not even Taylor's porch is spared the barrage from neighboring buildings. A broken cell phone, a child's sandal and toy parts litter the deck boards.

He said he has to be careful when he takes kids out there to clean as it is not uncommon to find used needles and condoms among the mess. One time, Taylor said he found a DVD of child pornography.

Taylor said it's disheartening to see it all. By his accounts, two or three times a month, he leaf-blows the trash up and down the street, as much as his 100-foot extension cord will allow, into disposable piles.

As he spoke, three local children came. The youngest one shouted, "Can we clean right now?"

These kids are Taylor's hope.

In a kind of trash-for-treats exchange program, Taylor offers children candy and pretzels (without wrappers to toss on the ground) for picking up litter and dumping it in his trash can.

It's a lesson he hopes will stick with the kids. Taylor said he wants them to take pride in themselves and their neighborhood.

He had just recently purchased a new trash can, bags and gloves for the kids to help with clean-up duty.

Taylor said the signs were just a dramatic way of drawing attention to the problem and in no way disparages those with low incomes.

Taylor himself identifies as low income, working as a laborer by day.

"I am poor," Taylor said. "I get no government assistance and live in a $27,000 house. I don't think you can even build a two-car heated garage for that."

Despite this, Taylor said he manages to keep his home clean inside and out and present a clean personal appearance. It's part of the message he brings to the area children, who are always at his gate shouting for "Brother Doug!" and asking for high-fives.


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Next Step.

I am getting very good response from the public concerning the story on the front page of the newspaper "Lewiston Man Challenges Neighborhood To Clean Up." I am batting around an idea to have a clean up day on October 5 TH for the area children. I think if we walked up & down the street and kept the effort kind of small and limited this first clean up to just this street, it would work well. It would not take much and we could bless the children who help to (CHEESE PIZZA) Little Caesars Pizza only cost $5.00 each. We can get a bunch. I think the next time we hold a clean up it will catch on because of the word of mouth. We can take down the banners that are now outside on the fence and put up a new one that say's "FREE PIZZA TO ALL THOSE WHO HELP WITH THE CLEAN UP". I am going to call Public Works about cleaning the pit next to the ministry. It could be dangerous for the kid's down there. We do not need any special permission to walk up & down the street and put trash in bags. Let me know what you think about this? If this is something we do I will submit a press release to the Sun/Journal & Twin City Times as soon a possible. I also have an interview with Channel 6 News tomorrow at 11:00 AM. Trying my best.

Bob White's picture

I agree at least take pride

I agree at least take pride in what you have. Some people you give them a nice place and then they wreck it and then they go to Sun Journal and complain they have to live like that.

Sandra Coulombe's picture

For once I actually agree

For once I actually agree with Doug Taylor. My parents were poor. Daddy worked hard but didn't make much but he had his pride. My daddy was quick to remind us kids that just because you are poor doesn't mean you have to be trash.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Excellent Rev. Taylor.

Excellent Rev. Taylor. However, I do believe the same behaviors that have lead and keep some of these people in poverty are reflected in how they care for their neighborhood.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Poverty and squalor need not

"Poverty and squalor need not be joined at the hip", said the unkempt, underemployed parrot.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yea, but Parrot forgets

Yea, but Parrot forgets benefits that Paul provides, such as food, shelter, water.

That said, what does the Parrot do? "Crap" in the neighborhood.

Hmm? tell me again what is the difference between the parrot and those who Rev. Taylor are referencing?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

1) He considers these

1) He considers these entitlements.
2) Actually, he is pretty private about that. In fact, he calls it the 'privy'.
3) The parrot can't sing.


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