Don Robitaille was riding his bike around Lake Auburn on Sept. 11, 2001. A man stopped him and asked if he had herd about the terrorist attacks that rocked the United States.
On the ride back home, the Navy veteran asked himself "what can I do."
By that evening, Robitaille had figured it out. "I can pick up that trash," he said about the coffee cups, cigarette packs and liquor bottles he would see along the side of the road during his neighborhood walks.
Robitaille has picked up trash along his two-mile walking route every day since.
Each morning, Robitaille rolls out of bed from his Lewiston porch, (he sleeps outside - "I'm an outdoors guy.") slips two plastic bags in his pocket and grabs a pair of barbecue tongs. He hits the pavement around 6 or 7 a.m.
"I'm bow legged and I walk funny, but I don't care," says the man who has lived in the same house on Old Greene Road in Lewiston since he was 2-years-old. "I went to bed the other day and I was 80. I woke up and was 81."
"I walk for my health. The trash is a bonus," said Robitaille, who also bikes 15-20 miles a day.
"A lot of people stop to thank me or toot their horn. People stop me at Walmart and say, 'You're the man who picks up the trash,' " he said. "It's part of my life I guess."
Robitaille does not give himself a break — even while on vacation. He will pull into camping areas and start picking up trash. He tells stories of picking up dirty diapers in an area outside Quebec City. "Every place I go, I pick up all the trash. It's part of my nature."
There is only one thing that Robitaille will not stop for. "I don't pick up cigarette butts. I would be here all week if I did."
Robitaille makes his daily walk in about an hour. He throws the trash he collects into a trash bin before stopping to rest on the bench in front of the Hannaford supermarket on Sabattus Street.
"Every single day. Rain snow or sun, he is out there every morning," said Janet Barrett, who watches Robitaille pass her home each morning while getting her son, Matthew, ready for school. "He has made quite the impression on my son," said Barrett.
"This is my contribution to my community," said Robitaille.