TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — This week is National Solid Waste & Recycling Workers Week – a time to thank the men and women who work hard to keep our cities clean.
“The men and women in the solid waste industry are truly the unsung heroes, who work hard each day to keep the community clean and healthy,” said Earl Gloster, the director of Solid Waste and General Services in Clearwater.
If you’re looking to celebrate, here are five heartwarming stories about the unsung heroes right here in Tampa Bay:
Earlier this year, Hillsborough County sanitation worker Waldo Fidele was hailed a hero for jumping into action to save 7-year-old Elias Quezada, who had climbed into a garbage can while playing hide and seek. He was still in the can when it was picked up and had its contents – including the little boy – dumped into a garbage truck.
Luckily, Fidele was watching the surveillance camera and saw the little boy. He quickly shut off the blade on the truck, saving the little boy.
“I thought I was going to be a mashed potato,” the 7-year-old later said.
Several months after Fidele saved the 7-year-old, the sanitation worker was honored by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Chad Chronister presented Fidele with Citizen Lifesaving Award.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, no doubt that Mr. Fidele saved him by seeing him in his truck,” Chronister said.
The 7-year-old boy’s grandmother was also in attendance at the ceremony to express her gratitude to the man she says saved her grandson’s life.
A little girl in Clearwater asked her family for garbage, not presents, for her 4th birthday last year. Addie Fazio spent two years waiting and watching in her driveway every week for the sanitation workers to collect trash on her street in Clearwater.
Family members called Waste Pro and asked if they would come by to help celebrate her birthday. So on the morning of Addie’s birthday, a parade of garbage trucks and sanitation workers showed up on her street and surprised her with the gift of a garbage truck toy.
Late last year, garbage truck driver Robert Riley noticed a young child wandering by himself in the Lazydays RV Resort in Seffner. He kept a close eye on the toddler and, after not seeing a parent with him, took the 2-year-old’s hand and called 911.
A deputy eventually arrived and worked with security to safely reunite the child with his parents.
Two crash collectors in Odessa gave a 7-year-old boy the “best Christmas gift” in 2019 when they let him ride in their garbage truck.
Logan Heer had been obsessed with garbage trucks since he was little. His family became friends with the two sanitation workers in their area when they moved to Florida. Logan would out to meet them every Friday, even bringing them water and snacks sometimes.
So for Christmas, his parents decided to surprise him by getting his waste worker friends to give the 7-year-old a ride in their garbage truck. The two workers even gifted their young friend with a Republic Service garbage truck toy.