One-woman litter crew on a quest to keep Chester County roads clean

Molly Daly
January 12, 2020 - 5:28 pm
Kelly McDowell is a one-woman cleanup crew picking up litter along Chester County roads.

Molly Daly/KYW Newsradio

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The official-looking orange road sign on Route 1 in Chester County says "Litter Crew Ahead." But the crew consists of one woman on a mission. 

Kelly McDowell and her husband were driving in Lancaster County several years ago when she spotted full white trash bags dotting the otherwise tidy-looking roads at regular intervals. Intrigued, she learned it was part of the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania, an annual spring event. But McDowell felt there was no need to wait for the next one.

"I live at Longwood," she recounted, "so I started cleaning Rt. 926, and then just kept building out from my house, and then I cleaned all the way to my work in Wilmington."

Twelve days into this new year, dressed in safety gear, and armed with a spike-tipped trash-picking tool, McDowell has already filled 92 bags for PennDOT to pick up. And the trash ranges from the mundane, like plastic bags and bottles, to the shocking.

"I've found a lot of pregancy tests," she revealed. "That blows my mind. And they've been negative, which always makes me happy, because as I say on my Facebook page, if you don't have enough sense not to throw your pregancy test on the side of the road, you don't have enough sense to raise kids."

So how do her kids feel about pitching in?

"I have to pay them," she shared. "Because every time we talk about roadside cleanup, they're like, 'Oh, God, can't we do a sport?' I'm like, 'This IS your sport.'"