Imagine walking down the Yellow Brick Road.
It's lined with beautiful poppies, right?
Now, imagine walking down the Yellow Brick Road and there's a bunch of trash everywhere you look. It's quite a different picture.
And that's what a big piece of Rancho Cordova looked like 15 years ago before Clayton Berriesford set out to take a walk.
This is a great story.
Clayton Berriesford was a big shot around here for many years. He served as Postmaster of Rancho Cordova from 1978 to 1992.
As Postmaster, Clayton found himself part of local history in helping select the location of our current post office, and the big fights over whether Gold River could use its own name or have its own zip code. He was the guy who helped draw the boundaries of 95670, as well as 95742, and drew the Mather Commerce Center into the Rancho Cordova postal zone at the close of Mather Air Force Base.
Even before that, Clayton can tell many stories about his early life as a baseball player who went on to play for the Sacramento Solons, in addition to other professional teams.
Yes; as Postmaster of Rancho Cordova in those formative years, Clayton had clout.
Of course, after 40 years with the Postal Service, Clayton retired. Around 1999, he needed a five-way coronary bypass and something to do. After tiring of exercising indoors, he strapped on his walking shoes, and his life as a litter warrior began.
Clayton said when he started, his body was not as strong, and Rancho Cordova was not as clean, as they are today. After a few days of walking through littered streets, he decided he would take a bag and pick up trash as he went.
Over time, he cleaned up the empty lot next to Kaiser, where dumping had been occurring for years. He moved on to another empty lot next to VSP, wheeling junk tires to dumpsters and filling one bag of garbage after another.
On one outing he was cleaning along Zinfandel near the 50 interchange when a Caltrans supervisor stopped to find out what he was up to. It was the cleanest part of his area, and now he knew why. He reached into the back of his pick-up and handed Clayton his first trash picker.
He reckons it took him 18 hours of hard labor to clean up the lot next to Zurich Insurance, but clean it he did.
Clayton said that once he cleaned up a lot, it was easier to maintain it than clean it again, so his route became established.
Along the way, he pressured the City of Rancho Cordova to finish off unfinished sidewalks, removed graffiti and illegal signs from utility poles, helped oust homeless encampments and more.
He formed a relationship with the City of Rancho Cordova Public Works Department, which knows him well. They upgraded his picker, awarded him an orange vest with a purchase order to buy new shoes, all to keep him on a job for which he is paid nothing.
John Samuelson at Public Works said this:
"Clayton's unselfish service to this community is a perfect example of civic engagement. The simple act of picking up trash while taking his daily walk will improve the image of Rancho Cordova, improve the environment, and set an example for others regarding the importance of taking pride in your community. I want to thank Clayton for his years of service to our community."
Public Works Director Cyrus Abhar chimed in with this:
"Clayton's upbeat and positive attitude is an inspiration to us all."
Clayton gets treated at to an occasional meal McDonald's, and the Courtyard by Marriott and can get a free drink at the Shell station whenever he wants it. That's because he cleans up around them all.
For his troubles, Clayton has been featured on television, which called him a "hero," and he gets quite a kick out of that.
He also thinks it's funny that when he was an important Postmaster he got little attention, but as a volunteer litter guy, he's a hero.
"I just can't fathom it," he said.
Now, at the age of 81, he still spends 4 to 5 hours a day, six days a week, on his mission, picking up 4 to 5 bags of trash in what has to be the cleanest part of Rancho Cordova.
He told us this:
"It's a good motivational thing when you get up in the morning and have a job to do. I do it for my own pleasure and for my community."
Aren't we the lucky ones?
Clayton, you are an amazing man, and a wonderful reminder that while you are never too young to make a difference, you are also never too old.
We are proud to acknowledge your hard work and recognize that "There's No Place Like Home" -- thanks to people like you.