Neighbor shows civic pride with Gentilly cleanup

For the past five years, a Sugar Hill subdivision resident has been showing her neighborhood pride as a one-woman cleaning crew.


Blanche Hays, 71, patrols the St. Anthony Street walking/jogging path faithfully for a few hours twice a week to pick up litter. Hays said before the jogging path was built in 2006, she would clean the neutral ground and sidewalks on St. Anthony Street.


Hays, a retiree who has lived on New Orleans Street in Sugar Hill for more than two decades, said she started her solo cleanup campaign after Hurricane Katrina in an attempt to show the Sugar Hill subdivision was rebuilding.


She volunteered to keep add the jogging path clean after Gentilly Neighborhood Association President Debra Joseph asked for volunteers.


Hays, who retired after 20 years working at New Orleans Museum of Art, said she took on the task because she loves to keep busy. She said she has the time, energy and desire to give back to the community. She added that it needs to be done, and the exercise helps to keep her mobile and in shape.


Hays said although the weather affects her progress, it has never deterred her from cleaning altogether. Even though sometimes Hays said she doesn’t feel like doing the job, the feeling subsides and she does what needs to be done.


Joseph, the association president, said Hays’ efforts have had a positive effect and inspired other residents to pitch in. However, Joseph said, Hays is the only Sugar Hill resident who consistently volunteers.


Joseph said plans are in the works by City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell to procure a civic award or city proclamation acknowledging Hays’ tireless efforts.