Wilber Saunders (right) talks about his efforts picking up garbage during a presentation by Williams Lake City councillor Craig Smith at city hall Tuesday.

Williams Lake senior garners city recognition for his litter pick up efforts

A senior citizen has been honoured by Williams Lake city council for picking up more than 200 bags of litter in and around the city.

A senior citizen has been honoured by Williams Lake city council for single-handedly picking up more than 200 bags of litter in and around the city.

“Wilber Saunders has been picking up garbage on his own in our community all spring, summer and fall and even did it a few days after the snow storm last week,” Coun. Craig Smith said as he presented Saunders with a certificate of appreciation during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Saunders said he started the first part of March and worked two to three hours a day about three or four days a week only taking a bit of time off in the summer or a “little break here and there.”

Smith told Saunders that council wanted to show him how much his efforts are appreciated.

“I am giving you another 200 bags to fill,” Smith said chuckling. “If you run out, come see us and we will refill that box for you. I am also giving you a blanket so if you get cold you can warm up.”

Saunders said one of his motives for doing the garbage retrieval was for his own health.

In 2008 his doctor told him he needed to make some lifestyle changes so he started going for long walks.

During those walks he decided he may as well pick up garbage.

“I’ve lost 53 pounds from walking and doing what I’m doing,” Saunders said. “It’s made me a younger 71-year-old by doing this.”

Saunders said he actually has been picking up garbage for five years, but this year he caught people’s attention.

“When social media picked it up, that’s how we found out,” Smith told him.

Last spring Oliver Berger noticed Saunders and made a video about him that went viral.

And the two times the Tribune posted photographs of Wilber out doing the garbage pickup, the posts garnered hundreds of likes and grateful comments from local people.

“They even put me on the front page of the Tribune,” Saunders said after the presentation.

There are lots of other people voluntarily cleaning up areas around Williams Lake that deserve recognition too, he added.

“I’m not the only one doing this,” he said. “Some of those guys are bringing in big machinery like they did at Bond Lake Road and Colpit Lake Road.”

When it comes to what’s popular in his litter finds, Saunders said lots of disposable cups, plastic containers, cigarettes and bottle caps.

“I pick up everything but I leave the cans for the can pickers,” he added.

For the most part he takes the bags in himself, and separates the recycling, however, it is not uncommon for random strangers to stop and offer to take the bags in for him, or even friends to do the same.

“Some people have been really good to me, even stopped to offer me money, but I tell them I don’t want to take it.”

Saunders lives on Dog Creek Road and has called Williams Lake his hometown for almost 45 years.

Before retirement, he spent decades working at Jacobson Brothers, Riverside and Tolko sawmills.

His wife Thelma and adult daughters Anita and Deanna were in the audience Tuesday to see him receive the recognition.

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