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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Cleaning Rio Grande Streets Is His Blessed Calling 4.5.2006

By Al Campbell

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
 RIO GRANDE – Larry Allen is a devout man joyously called to sweep the streets and sidewalks of this community.
 Many have seen Allen performing his daily task, six days a week – never on Sunday – for the past 12 years.
 The 40-year-old Marine Corps veteran, a Court House resident originally from Vineland, is known for his trademark gray plastic trash can atop a shopping cart, with broom and dustpan with long handle.
 “I started helping a man who asked me, and to help the town,” said Allen.
 “It’s ugly, so this helps,” he said March 31.
 Wind whipped down Route 47 and onto Third Street as strands of discarded videotape tried in vain to escape Allen’s broom and clutch.
 Having meticulously swept the gutter, he dumped the cigarette butts and beer bottle caps into the cavernous can; then he paused to chat with a reporter.
 Not many talk to him in the course of a day, which for Allen begins on weekdays at 6 a.m., winter and summer, and continues until 5 or 6 p.m.
 “Every day except Sunday; I go to church on Sunday,” said Allen.
 Married, his wife is Maria. They have an adult daughter he affectionately calls, “Shine.”
 He is a member of Christ Gospel Church, Whitesboro.
 “People say I should be a deacon, but this is my calling,” he smiled, holding up broom and dustpan.
 “It’s a blessed call,” he said solemnly.
 He also helps clean around the church as part of his mission.
 “My trade? Helping people,” Allen said.
 In the Marine Corps seven years, Allen was stationed or visited Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Okinawa and Guam.
 For four years, he was in the infantry, then spent three years as an aircraft mechanic.
 Enough of history, Allen’s work awaited.
 “If I see trash, I pick it up,” he said.
 An avid, daily Bible reader, Allen said his favorite passage is Psalm 23.
 “It says ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,'” he said with another broad smile.
Contact Campbell at (609) 886-8600 Ext 28 or: al.c@cmcherald.com

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