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Meet Teresa Rakes, cleaning up Lexington one street a time

This retired Lexingtonian is keeping LEX beautiful with the help of her “Cardinal Valley Trash Express.”

A woman standing behind a sign that says Cardinal Valley with a plastic bag + grippers.

Mayor Linda Gorton declared April 11, 2024 as Teresa Rakes Day in Lexington. | Photo courtesy of Teresa Rakes

When most people retire, it’s safe to assume they are ready for a new chapter filled with relaxation, travel, and free time. But that’s not the case for Lexingtonian Teresa Rakes, who immediately got to work volunteering in her community.

“I had always decided that when I retire, I wanted to do something to give back to the community, because before I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands,” Rakes said. “One of things I decided was that I’m going to pick up trash in my neighborhood. So, I started by walking around with a Home Depot bucket, walk until the bucket was full, then walk back home.”

The Cardinal Valley resident loves her neighborhood, but saw a need for a bit of a revival around the businesses as well. She ventured to nearby Oxford Circle, just off Versailles Road, and got to picking.

A plastic bin with a handle and wheels that says "Cardinal Valley Trash Express" on it

Teresa’s trusty partner in crime, the “Cardinal Valley Trash Express.” | Photo courtesy of Teresa Rakes

“I saw how bad it was down there — the trash was terrible, the buildings look abandoned, it just was really dreary,” she said. “I got to engage with all the businesses and told them who I was, because they would look at me and think, ‘What is she doing?’” Since her work began, the buildings started to look more alive with signage going up, fresh coats of paint, and a lot less trash.

Now, Rakes and her garden cart the “Cardinal Valley Trash Express,” play “pick a block” in areas that need clean up, and get to work. Fun fact: April 11, 2024 was actually declared “Teresa Rakes Day” by Mayor Linda Gorton, honoring the hours she has dedicated to cleaning.

Rakes said helping the environment can be as simple as picking up trash when you walk back and forth from your car. Pro tip: Have hand sanitizer + a grocery bag handy. You can also lend a hand by —

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