Edward Mitchell received recognition from the city for cleaning the streets of the Northeast almost daily.
For the past 25 years, Edward Mitchell has been a common sight on the streets of Bustleton and Somerton.
Mitchell has made walks around the neighborhood on a near daily basis for a quarter of a century, sometimes regardless of rain or snow. He’s often donned in his bright green reflective vest so that cars will see him as he crosses the street. Even though he turned 62 this past weekend, he still plans to travel his regular route to clean litter from the streets.
“I’ll still be doing this for a long time,” he said.
Despite his age and arthritis in his back that makes it difficult to bend down, Mitchell is still eager to complete his daily cleaning routine. After people in state Rep. Martina White’s office noticed him frequently on the street around her Bustleton Avenue office, they decided to make his job a little easier.
“Willingness to clean up the community is certainly appreciated, and that’s in part the reason we wanted to make sure he was recognized,” White said.
White presented Mitchell with a citation for 25 years of community service, as well as a Phillies hat for his birthday. The city of Philadelphia presented him with another citation, as well as a fresh reflective vest, a bucket to store the trash and a trash grabber so he wouldn’t have to bend his back.
What spurred his 25-year dedication to cleaning the neighborhood?
“I was getting bored,” Mitchell said.
He lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, cleaning or rearranging everywhere he goes, like the doctor’s office or movie theater. He is looked after by his niece, Lana Smith.
Mitchell’s daily route consists of walking from Ferndale Street sometimes as far as the ShopRite on Roosevelt Boulevard, a walk that’s just under 2 miles one way. He goes there because he knows Smith likes to buy products there.
“And I’m back before everyone else is back,” Mitchell said.
Smith questions how he walks so quickly, saying he can be gone and back within an hour. Mitchell often wears boots because if he wears sneakers, they get worn out quickly.
“These are really the people in the community who are willing to step forward and whether they realize it or not, they make a difference,” White said.
“Someone’s gotta do it,” Mitchell said simply.
Mitchell’s cleaning often takes him to local businesses like Suburban Pharmacy, McDonald’s or Walgreens. He is close with the people who run Suburban Pharmacy, who Smith said have gotten him cake and thrown him parties for his birthday before.
Turning 62 was a big birthday for him. He had a birthday party right after receiving his gear at White’s office, and he had dreamed of being in the Times again after he was in the paper 12 years ago for the same thing.
Mitchell said his favorite part of the neighborhoods is that they are kept clean, and that he doesn’t like dirt.
Upon receiving his shiny new gear, Mitchell headed out to the parking lot outside White’s office and began collecting trash and cigarette butts.
He made sure to thank everyone for the gifts once more before handing them to Smith and rushing off to visit his friends at Suburban Pharmacy. ••