NEWTON — Kenneth Green and Rob Miyoshi hit the streets of Newton four days a week donning blue vests with the words “Team Tidy” splashed across the back.
Their job is to pick up garbage in the town centre.
It may seem simple, and perhaps it is, but it means a lot to the two men.
Green has had cognitive challenges since birth and through his job tidying up trash, he’s overcoming his learning challenges.
And Miyoshi is a recovering addict, two years clean.
“It’s helped me get back on my feet,” Miyoshi said. “There’s a positive side to this for me as a person in recovery… I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and this side of the fence is a lot better.”
While he strolls through the streets of Newton, he said he comes across a lot of “down and out” people.
“I try to tell them there’s a better life. Like, look at me,” he said. “I’m able to walk the streets with my head held high rather than being in the gloomy doom of addiction. It’s a totally different story now. I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
And the gig is just as rewarding for Green.
“I like coming up here. I meet a lot of people. It’s a fun place to come, it’s a fun job.
“I’m out there, I’m cleaning, maybe one person isn’t going to change this whole entire world, like me, or even two of us, it’s going to take more than that. But the way I look at it, it’s a start.”
Janice Huber, employer and community liaison with Avia Employment Services in Newton, was the one who connected Green and the BIA.
“It’s a beautiful story, he’s so happy, he’s getting paid and his self esteem is through the roof,” she said about Green.
“For me, it feels like we do so much work that doesn’t have good success stories. As employment counsellors, because that’s really what we are, we just think, ‘wow.’ We really remember the success stories. And that’s what this is.”
Team Tidy was Newton BIA director Philip Aguirre’s idea.
“The future starts with things like Team Tidy,” said Aguirre. “They pick up garbage, they report back on graffiti, they report back on loitering and anything else they see… They’re my eyes on the street.”
The BIA recently received the Innovative Labour Solutions Award from Community Living BC for being an inclusive employer.
“It was a no-brainer,” Aguirre said of hiring the two men. “When you work together you can have a positive community.”
While the Team Tidy initiative helps out the two men, Aguirre said it goes a lot farther than that.
“We want to re-establish the community. And the strength of it is often in the people,” said Aguirre.
He sees it as the first step in revamping the perception of the area – and changing that perception can begin with something as simple as cleaning up the trash, he said.
“We’ll start there,” said Aguirre. “And we’re going to build from there. We’re going to build with people, we’re going to build with Kenneth, we’re going to build with Rob and we’re going to build with every asset we have in the community. Eventually, we’re going to create something amazing.”