Milton 'street sweeper' spreads cleanliness and joy
For the last 10 years, the bubbly 74-year-old has gone outside two or three times a week with her broom, dustpan and garbage bin on a two-wheeled cart.
She clears the streets of cigarette butts, paper and plastic wrappers, but more important is what she leaves in her wake—a sense of joy and pride in the community.
"She's out here and she's wonderful, and she waves at everyone," said Mary Jane Power, retired Milton librarian. "I haven't met anybody who doesn't enjoy her."
Haney finds happiness in her self-appointed duty keeping Milton clean. She says the work gives her something to get up for, makes her forget about the aches and pains of old age and helps her meet people.
On Saturday morning, she put on a white baseball cap and sunglasses, gathered her cart and broom and made her way onto Parkview Drive, returning to the house twice for keys and dustpan.
Once on the street, she chattered steadily while keeping an eagle eye out for trash. Every few yards she stopped, stooped over the gutter or sidewalk and swept a spare bit of garbage into her long-handled dustpan.
"When I first started, I'd use a dustpan like you'd use in the kitchen," she said. "Of course, I was 10 years younger then."
Haney moved to the Parkview Terrace Apartments 15 years ago, just days before her husband died. The garbage in the street bothered her for years before she decided to do something about it, she said.
"Milton is very special to me, and I want it to look as nice as possible," she said.
The owners of Piggly Wiggly and Bank of Milton pay her for keeping the areas around their businesses clean. Her only other payments are an occasional complimentary cappuccino from Arndt's Mini Mart or money she finds a few times a year on the sidewalk.
The best part of the job is the people she meets, she said. She stopped several times Saturday to talk and laugh with friends.
She spotted Power coming out of the bank and gave her a big hug.
"Everybody knows that you are the pillar of Milton," Power said to Haney.
That encouragement and the thought that she's improving her community are enough to keep Haney going, though she does have her limits. She won't go out in temperatures below 20 degrees, and she doesn't like strong winds or heat, she said.
Haney's favorite month of the year, October, is coming up, and that puts a fresh spring in her step.
"I'm just me," she said. "This is what I do."