Kern Sol News’ new segment “Humans of Kern County” aims to share the stories of the people who make up our community. These stories tell readers a little bit about what makes these individuals who they are today. If you or someone you know has a story that would like to be featured in the “Humans of Kern County” segment, submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I got inspired because my twin sister in Sacramento joined a group called Sacramento Picks It Up and they go out to the community, the parks, the rivers, streams and they go clean. Intensive cleaning where they have help from the county by getting equipment and people come to pick up the heavy stuff because they pick up thousands of pounds of trash at one time.
They will do two, three, four hours of cleaning, and I thought, “Well, I could do that a little here in Lamont.” For example, the week before President’s day on Main Street, by the biggest shopping center, the weeds were so bad on the sidewalk and I said to not put the flags there because it looks horrible. So, I got myself and a few homeless people and we picked up the trash and I pay them out of my pocket.
Right now I don’t work. I am retired, but I’m a caregiver for my dad and I live with him; he’s almost 99. I get social security and it’s good enough where I can afford to pay the homeless that work with us. We just work for like an hour and I will give them $20 and feed them as well.
I also have friends like Joaquin and he comes out to help me for free. I am glad I met him because he inspired me. I was at the park picking up trash and he said, “Why are you doing that?” then “Are you getting paid?” and I said, “No, I’m very bitter with the litter.” That’s my slogan.
I’m trying to get businesses to do more cleaning and some of them come out and say “thank you” and give $10 for the homeless, but these businesses need to do a better job of cleaning their own areas. We can’t let it get out of control.
People will say “Who cares?” and “It’s not my problem,” but I say that it’s not someone else’s problem — it is your problem. It starts at home with parents teaching kids to care for their property.
You have to have pride in your property; if you don’t have pride in your own property you aren’t going to care about your neighbor. I started cleaning my street first and my dad told me “Why are you doing that? It isn’t your trash.” And I said, “No, but at least I can inspire others to clean.”
A lot of people will thank me and give me things like food because they can’t afford to pay me but they give me fresh fruit and I will give it to the homeless. It’s a thank you for cleaning up the sidewalks or curbs or thank you for pulling out weeds in lawns.
I have been cleaning my street for 8 years and I have been cleaning Lamont and other streets for around a year. Unfortunately, I am leaving at the end of May to live in Sacramento. I lived there for 30 years and my children and grandchildren are there. If I stayed here in Lamont to live, I would organize a group to have weekly clean-ups.
My name is Mirna Gonzalez and I am just a Mexican-American who is very proud of my roots. I grew up poor and saw the struggles of my family but they always encouraged me to do better. I went to Cal State Bakersfield and got a Liberal Studies degree and I taught 4th grade for two years, then I moved over there to Sacramento.
I grew up as a daughter of a farm laborer and I did the Huelga with Cesar Chavez; we boycotted a lot of stuff and we went out on strike to support Cesar Chavez. Many people don’t know the struggle of farmworkers and laborers and a lot of people aren’t aware that people had to struggle and fight for better wages in the past or working conditions.
I actually hoed cotton with an illegal hoe. It was called a California Short-Handled hoe where you had to bend down to hoe. Cesar Chavez was the one that brought to the attention of national news that this is not right for them to be bending over for 8 hours. He got rid of that.
There are so many things that Cesar Chavez did for the farmworker to build his respect. Not only wages but also working conditions and respect for farmworkers and I got to march with Cesar Chavez and the other Braceros.
We aren’t going to make a change unless we get involved with the community; get registered to vote, go out there and get a knowledge of the issues, and vote.