By Maureen McDonald
Wearing construction gloves, old jeans and a Motor City Blight Busters t-shirt, Justin Moore heads out with a caravan of teen workers to beautify his Old Redford neighborhood.
His efforts net at least a couple garbage bags of trash a day, a weight loss of 60 pounds and, for the first time in three years volunteering his services, a steady paycheck throughout the summer.
“I look down the street and I see what I did and it looks really nice for a while,” says Moore, 15, weighing a trim 140 pounds. Excess weight slid off with a combination of work and exercise. He walks, bends, lifts and carries a hundred times a day while circling the blocks near Grand River and Lahser.
Construction gloves helps keep him safe as he picks up spent heroin needles, empty bags of marijuana, remains of hamburgers and dozens of fast food bags, mostly from the McDonald’s around the corner.
“One day I saw a man toss out a half-eaten pizza on the ground and asked him to pick it up. He refused, saying the birds would take care of it. But I told him salted bread would hurt the bird’s stomach. He just walked away,” Moore says. “I picked it up and tossed it out.”
Moore started volunteering for Motor City Blight Busters when he watched a group of adults and youth tearing down the ugliest house on his block, where he lives with his parents and four siblings.
“I want to do THAT,” he says. He might miss some television shows or some video game playing, but he could make the surrounding blocks look pretty and welcoming.
“Justin is very motivated,” says his proud supervisor, Jamie Warfield, who campaigned to get him paid with a summer youth employment grant from the Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation. “He is part of a 20-member crew that picks trash, plants trees and spreads mulch. Each one is an ambassador for pride in the community.”
“He is a hard worker, a dedicated volunteer. He gets paid for five days and works a sixth as a volunteer now,” Warfield says.
The fitness benefits are wonderful. “I’m a lot more flexible now from all the walking and bending,” Moore says.
With all the compliments he gets from his work, the stuff that makes the hub of Old Redford look welcoming to guests and residents, his smile shines as a beacon.