By Nicole Dunkley
NORTH JAX –– Down the quiet road of Eastport on Friday, June 17, a small building is seen behind tall bushes and has its exterior covered with yellow balloons.
When inside the building it becomes much bigger than before. A table is set with all sorts of different foods and even a birthday cake. A man dressed in all black holds out his phone and shows off pictures of his grandchildren, excitedly talking about how much they’ve grown. He then looks up from his phone and a welcoming smile appears under his dark handle-bar mustache, “It’s Waste & Recycling Workers Week, it’s really the whole week, but today is the big day. Today we’re recognizing our garbage men and sanitation workers.” After all, they are people too.
John C. Arwood (Senior) and son, John D. Arwood (Junior), of the North Jax company, Arwood Waste, started what is known as Waste and Recycling Workers Week during the week of June 17th to help raise awareness of the hard workers in the sanitation industry. Waste & Recycling Workers Week has been around for about 8 years, but has recently become a nationwide celebration. The Arwood family has been actively celebrating for three years now.
The call center and offices of Arwood Waste are located on Eastport Rd, and for the special day, they have decorated the building with bright balloons while all the workers wear white shirts with the Waste & Recycling Workers Week logo printed on them, which are available for the community to purchase. The meeting room table is filled with hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the barbeque outside, and everyone warmly welcomes all the Garbage Men to come by and grab something to eat and a bottle of cold water on their special day.
Kristen Pageau and Amber Craig have been working in the call center for around a year now, they didn’t know of Waste & Recycling Workers Week before they started working with the Arwood Waste company, “It sheds a different light on the job, I didn’t think of the importance of these workers until I started working here. They should be appreciated more and that’s what it’s all about,” says Miss Pageau. “The parties are always fun and we always celebrate the holidays, but Waste & Recycling Workers Week is one of the best,” adds Miss Craig “We’re like a family here,” Miss Pageau says as she pushes up her glasses, “It’s just great we all get along. We all get together as a team.”
Outside in the shop all the garbage trucks sit quietly taking a break, and a cat called Shop Cat lazily laps water from a little bowl. “The cat stays in at night,” Says Mr. John C. Arwood, “Just sits and waits by the door for people to come back when they go out.” He looks around the shop, his handle-bar moustache motionless, while he gazes out to the trucks, “We put posters up in all the landfills, we have stickers that all the men put on their trucks, so that Waste & Recycling Workers Week can be recognized. I think it’s been getting around well –– there are videos all over the internet about the holiday and all sorts of comments from all over the country on the website –– www.Garbageman.org,” He looks down sternly, “It’s a thankless job and a high risk one.”
“Waste & Recycling Workers Week was Mr. John D. Arwood brain child,” says Miss. Anna Rogers, who has only worked for the company for a few months. This year is her first Waste & Recycling Workers Week to celebrate. “Sanitation workers have one of the most unappreciated jobs, Mr. John D. Arwood wanted to bring awareness to them.” It takes a lot to create an official holiday that can be recognized. Mr. John D. Arwood proposed a mandate to the state legislature to create the holiday. After the state approved, a website was created and opened it to all states and anyone in the industry to celebrate,” and that means anyone. Many states have now adopted the holiday.
Mr. John C. Arwood spoke of the dangers these workers go through, “Garbage Men get put down a lot –– demoralized. It’s a hard job, it’s not a one-time thing, and it’s also not the safest job.
Drivers who get stuck behind one of the trucks often get frustrated and pull around the truck to get by faster, and without looking, they can easily hit the sanitation worker who jumped down to pick up the trash,” Miss Rogers explains. “There are a lot of precautions that must be taken for sanitation purposes,” she then points out, “To drive a garbage truck you have to have a good driving record –– these trucks aren’t the best at turning around.”
Miss Rogers remembers hearing about Waste & Recycling Workers Week before she got her job. “But I still never thought about it until I started working here, where I learned the importance of sanitation workers.” She is thankful that, as an army veteran, they gave her a chance and a job. “After the first day I was here, when the garbage men came to my parent’s house, I met them outside and gave them bottle waters and some sodas. I understood what all they have to do,” She chuckles.
“Waste & Recycling Workers Week was my son’s idea, he started it in 1984. It was slow at first, but it’s getting bigger. People are now understanding the safety and quality of what the garbage man does,” says Mr. John C. Awrood. “Last year we held Garbage Man day at Sheffield Elementary School. The children loved it. Some of them got to sit inside the trucks. It was a lot of fun.” Miss Rogers adds in that it is also Mr. John D. Arwood’s birthday.
Many faces showed up to the party, including District 2 Councilman, Al Ferraro. This year was Mr. Ferraro’s first Garbage Man day. “I think it’s great to learn about what they all do, all the coverage for it in other areas. I didn’t realize just how much coverage the holiday got. It’s even in Hawaii.”
Not only do the garbage men do the jobs that many of us don’t want, and without a thank you, they also help to maintain the roads that we drive on every day. Miss Rogers’s red hair bounces with a nod, “We pay for road maintenance, there is a lot we do for the community that people might not know.”