HALETHORPE, Md. — "I guess I’m known as the trash lady around here," Linda Reger said with a laugh.
It's a badge of honor she wears with great pride. Reger has made it her life's mission to keep her neighborhood and local communities clean and trash-free. She says it stems from her childhood, growing up in a family of five kids and a father in the military.
"My chore [on Saturdays] was to go around the neighborhood and clean the gutters of neighbors," she said. "And my father, being military, would go behind me and make sure I did it exactly what he said."
These days, Reger enlists help to get the job done. She organizes a yearly trash clean-up in her neighborhood in Halethorpe, next to the campus of UMBC.
"I wanted to get the kids and the students and the neighbors involved in this area because its such a beautiful area," she said.
Reger said their clean-up back in May had about 70 people of all ages come out to pick up trash. Local sponsors provided food and ice cream for participants.
"I feel like I’m not doing this all by myself. I like to see the neighbors create a bigger community that can get together more often," she said. "But it makes you feel like you’re not the only one who cares about the environment."
Reger's husband, Ed Reger, said it doesn't matter where she is, if Linda sees trash, she will pick it up.
"When we go to work in the morning, if she sees a piece of trash laying in the road, we'll actually stop," he said. "We keep trash bags in the car and she will pick it up on our way to work."
And the size of the trash doesn't matter either.
Pat Miller, a member of the American Legion Dewey Lowman Post 109, posted a plea for help on a neighborhood app when she found a sofa bed dumped outside their building.
"There was this huge, nasty, dilapidated sofa bed and I was like oh my gosh who did that?" Miller said.
Reger responded to Miller's help to remove the sofa and they agreed to meet up one morning to haul it away.
"When I was on my way here to the Legion, I see this little pick up pull out from our driveway," said Miller. "And this one lady is all by herself and the sofa bed is in the back of the pickup. I’m like no way!"
"I went down during the week and loaded up [the] sofa bed by myself," said Reger. "Getting it up by myself was pretty difficult but I got it!"
Miller said she is very grateful for Reger's quick assistance in getting rid of the sofa and values the work Reger does in keeping the neighborhoods clean.
"She takes time to get these events out there and get people involved in cleaning up the neighborhood. We just need more Lindas," she said.
And that's really what Reger wants, to have clean neighborhoods while building a sense of community. Its evident she's accomplishing this as neighbors have asked her if she will organize more clean-ups.
"I hope that other areas and other counties, they see this interview and they can work with their neighborhoods and work with your neighbors and make it something that you all do together and you care about your communities," she said.