Shortly after the 1964 presidential election, Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson set out to achieve "national beautification." Her efforts began with cleaning up Washington D.C., through her Society for a More Beautiful National Capital, and campaigning for The Beautification Act of 1965.
Almost 50 years later, one Ahwatukee Foothills resident is carrying on Johnson's legacy.
"People were planting flowers and picking up trash," says Lee Brimmer. "LBJ wanted a beautiful America."
At dawn, Brimmer can be found riding her bike around her local neighborhood.
But that's not why her community commends her.
"She caught my eye because I would see her every morning when I was headed for work. I thought, ‘Gee, what's this lady doing out there on her bicycle picking up trash?'" Ahwatukee resident Marti Wasielewski said.
Many, like Wasielewski, spot Brimmer, a 67-year-old retiree, making her early-morning rounds around 44th Street between Ray and Knox roads, alongside Mountain Pointe High School and throughout the surrounding area.
She simply wants to make her community a cleaner and more beautiful place, one piece of garbage at a time.
"I don't think anyone cares about litter anymore," Brimmer said.
Before her husband passed away two years ago at the age of 93, Brimmer said she would always complain about it before she decided she'd do something about it.
She said she thought to herself, "What the heck, I'm just going to pick it up."
For more than 40 years, Brimmer has fulfilled quite the humanitarian role, beginning in 1971 when she lived in Milwaukee.
She moved to Ahwatukee last spring after living in central Phoenix for 30 years, because her daughter wanted her to be closer after Brimmer fell and broke both her ankles a couple years ago.
Brimmer said that once she moved, she knew it was important for her to exercise, and she also noticed a lot of trash in the Ahwatukee community.
"I decided I would pick it up as I rode my bicycle," she said.
Every morning, Brimmer goes out once there's sunlight, gets on her bike, and cleans up her community before most people are out and about.
During the summer, she found herself out as early as 4:30 a.m. Now, as it gets cooler and the days a little darker, Brimmer leaves her house around 5:45 a.m. and gets back to make sure her 17-year-old grandson is ready for school by 7 a.m.
Brimmer said she has been able to meet a lot of people who really appreciate what she's doing.
A local Circle K manager gives her a free drink every time she comes by. A Waste Management worker even donned her with a reflective vest so she could be spotted along the roads.
"I think it's great that she takes pride in her neighborhood," said Jim Bogard, a Waste Management route manager.
Bogard said he never hears much about commendable people, like Brimmer, who voluntarily spend their time collecting trash. He's unsure about who supplied Brimmer with the vest, but said that his workers are always doing something good to help the public without the need for public gratification.
Like Brimmer, "they do it out of the kindness of their heart," Bogard said.
"So many people focus on the negative and bad news, and nobody seems to recognize people when they do something good for the community, like she's doing," Wasielewski said.
Brimmer doesn't always do the deed alone. Her 7-year-old grandson, Benjamin Wenig, pitches in when he can.
Others can volunteer to be one of Brimmer's "Litter Gitters" by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ashley Haines is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.