By Natalie Miranda
When Robin Rose and Paul McKernan moved into their Buckingham Road home in 1988, the couple took it upon themselves to keep their neighborhood clean. They started out by carrying plastic kitchen bags during their morning walks through the canyon to pick up and dispose of stray pieces of trash they would find along their path.
Their example led others to join the effort, as neighbors took to the street to keep Buckingham clean.
“We noticed there was trash everywhere” and started to gather it, Rose said. “Then people started to join in, and pretty soon every time the neighbors took their walks you would see them with a bag to pick up trash, too.”
The residents also found that the activity provided them with camaraderie. Eventually, through word of mouth, the group expanded beyond the neighborhood into surrounding areas. In 2003, the group became known as Pride of Buckingham when one of its most active members registered the domain name.
“I love doing this with my neighbors,” said John Balcer, who joined the neighbor group in 2001. “I always feel refreshed and I walk away feeling like I’ve done something for my community.”
Pride of Buckingham was born of Rose and McKernan’s community spirit, and 33 years later, the group is still thriving on the same sense of pride its members share with their neighbors in keeping Glendale clean. They even got three trash cans and multiple Pride of Buckingham signs approved by the city in hopes of discouraging littering and promoting cleanliness.
Jack Daly said picking up after litterers is the only way to combat their lack of common courtesy. He joined Pride of Buckingham a few years after it registered its name in 2003.
“You have to want to do this,” Daly said. “I think the impetus is really what people think about the waste and the trash. If you live in the area, you wouldn’t want people littering. It would be like someone putting out a cigarette on your carpet, inside of your home.”
Some of the miscellaneous trash found along the canyon includes cigarette butts, soda cans, fast food wrappers, drug paraphernalia, cardboard and even electrical items with wires and plugs. Nowadays, disposable masks have been added to the mix.
“It’s disgraceful that people throw things out of their car windows, but we have a lot of support,” Rose said. “A lot of people thank us — passing bicyclists even thank us — so it feels good to do some community service when we can.”
The group gathers every three months, usually on Saturday mornings; however, members will get together prior to their planned meet-up if they notice the canyon has accumulated litter.
But even though the litter seems to keep showing up, their effort is not in vain.
Tim Krubsack joined Pride of Buckingham in 2020. He said its dedication makes a visible difference.
“Seeing the improvement in the canyon is rewarding,” Krubsack said. “Even though a lot of the time we’re only picking up little pieces of trash, we can see the cumulative effect as we walk back down the canyon after cleaning.”
Pride of Buckingham continues to expand and share information about its clean-up events through letters that members drop in neighborhood mailboxes, as well as through emails and postings on social media.
Marilyn Heidecker, a new member, brought her children to their first clean-up after seeing a Facebook group posting about most recent meet-up, at Chevy Chase Drive and Linda Vista Road.
“I thought that cleaning up the neighborhood was a good thing to do on a Saturday morning with the kids,” Heidecker said. “We wanted to do something nice for the community and it teaches them basic decency.”
Although she joked that her children lost interest five minutes into cleaning, she said the activity was one she hopes rubs off on them.
Leticia Gonzalez, who registered the group’s domain, said encouraging youths to get involved in the community clean-up is a part of the solution to a cleaner city. She said she hopes the next generation will continue to keep the environment clean.
“Every so often we get a group of kids come out, and seeing them help out gives me hope for the second generation of pride — our name has the word ‘pride’ in it, because we need to teach them to have pride in their community,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the most important thing, handing over the baton to the second generation. We’re not going to be here forever.
“I enjoy seeing our community clean,” added Gonzalez, who, along with Daly and Krubsack, is a member of the Chevy Chase Estates Association Board of Directors. “This is a hidden jewel we have and if we don’t protect it as residents, it’s going to disappear.”