Dirty diapers halt Turners street cleanup, but Sandra Facto still has lots to do
TURNERS FALLS — If you’ve seen a woman in a wheelchair on Avenue A cleaning up litter with a rake and trash bags, it was probably Sandra Facto and it probably wasn’t recently.
Facto said she leaned over in her chair with considerable difficulty last month to pick up some papers abandoned on the pavement and came up with a handful of filthy diapers.
That was the end of her daily cleaning trips up and down the central avenue, from her apartment in the Crocker Building at the corner of Avenue A and Second Street to the Food City parking lot, a responsibility she had assumed for herself.
Facto said she began cleaning because she can’t stand filth and loves the village she has lived in for 12 years, after leaving Westfield. “When I came down that hill and saw my little town, I knew I was in love,” Facto said of Turners.
Facto believes one person is responsible for the mess, because she has found several abandoned diapers of the same variety. Therefore, she is designing a wanted poster for the unknown litterer.
Cleaning the avenue every day for two years has kept her active. She said she has met a lot of terrific people doing it, and she said she wouldn’t have thought she could have stopped.
Facto can’t walk and is on disability, but hasn’t let her circumstances stop her from being active in town, notably as a consistent advocate for handicapped accessibility and as a painter responsible for murals and smaller acrylic paintings.
“Personally, I find it very inspiring to see Sandy cleaning the streets. I think it shows a lot of initiative and a lot of heart,” said resident and business owner Erin MacLean.
Now Facto has her heart set on an industrial sidewalk sweeper, the Madvac PS300, a machine resembling a small Zamboni steered by an operator walking behind the sweeper or riding on a fold-out seat.
Sweeping from her wheelchair has kept her active enough that she has lost extra weight and could transfer herself from her wheelchair to the foldout seat, she said. Facto said she can stand with the support of her wheelchair back, but cannot walk without falling due to dizziness and the effects of an old fall that injured her leg, hip and spine.
Unfortunately, the machine is marketed to municipalities and, with a $40,000 to $50,000 price tag, is out of Facto’s reach.
While she holds out for Providence to intervene, she plans to begin her own advertising business, towing a billboard behind her chair, and has also begun awarding donated Beanie Baby stuffed animals by way of kudos to community members.
Standards for the impromptu award range from a child whose cartwheels made her smile to the delivery of a board by the Department of Public Works. Facto is painting a new sign for the Great Falls Farmers Market, to debut in the spring, and called the DPW to remove the rotting old sign. The DPW not only took the old board but left a new one she said, in consideration of which she left a stuffed animal at the closed department office, to be explained later.
You can reach Chris Curtis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 257