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Cedar Rapids Man Cleans Up Street, One Walk at a Time

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A few years ago, Jim Kreutner noticed something during his walk along 33rd Avenue Southwest.

“I saw all this trash. And I thought, ‘this isn’t any good!’” Kreutner said along his regular walking path.

Armed with a 5-gallon bucket and an old-fashioned nail stick, he turned his daily exercise routine into something more. On every walk - a mile and a half out and back - he picks up as much litter as he can find.

“I figure if I’m going to be walking, I might as well have something in my hands and make something else positive out of it,” Kreutner told us. “I average at least a full bucket and a half every day I walk.”

Kreutner said he’s been retired for more than 4 years now. “When I retired, I was told, ‘you gotta keep busy,’ and that really hasn’t been a problem,” Kreutner said. He eventually started participating in the City Manager’s 1-Bag Challenge, an initiative set up by the city to encourage citizens to fill at least one trash bag per year with litter. Kreutner said he’s already filled about 40 of those bags this year.

But like the litter he picks up, Kreutner recently discovered problems can appear - seemingly - out of nowhere. For him, it was a heart attack interrupting his hobby.

“I was down on the side of the hill and I passed out,” Kreutner said, pointing to an area to the side of the path. “That was on a Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning, they were putting a pacemaker in.”

That was last June. Today, this 70-year old goes at such a brisk pace, you’d never know he was in the hospital. On top of all this, he’s taken to passing on his spirit of stewardship to 2nd graders at Prairie Ridge Elementary. If that sounds super-human, it makes sense: they gave Jim an award to prove it. He has a hand-colored paper ribbon with the title, “Super Hero of the Environment” hanging directly above his garbage and recycling bins in his garage.

“Every one of those kids I visited with, I can’t believe any of them will ever throw a piece of litter out,” Kreutner said, smiling. “I always say my goal is not to have to do this, that people won’t litter anymore, and that’s kind of the goal, but I do take it personal.”

As for how long he’ll keep this hobby up, he had this to say: “I’m going to do it as long as I can. As long as I have my health.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8863;

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