Lessons in litter and love
Jaxon Giles, 8, is excited to drop a discarded bottle in a trash bag held by his dad, Russ Giles, as they wander their litter pickup circuit Saturday morning in the Fernan area.
Jaxon Giles and his dad, Russ Giles, scour the area for trash Saturday morning as they walk along East Sherman Avenue. Community service has been a tradition for them since Jaxon was 3.
Father and son Russ and Jaxon Giles work together Saturday morning to pick up a piece of trash under the Interstate 90 overpass on East Sherman Avenue.
Staff Writer | January 24, 2023 1:08 AM
A father and son walked along East Sherman Avenue on a sunny and cold Saturday morning.
With pickers in hand, they scoured the sidewalks and drains for the usual suspects: cigarette butts, beer cans, floss picks, coffee cups, candy wrappers, pieces of tire treads.
Jaxon Giles, 8, kicked at a snow mound, determined to free what he knew was an encased piece of trash. He beamed a big smile when he freed a frozen sock, and smiled again later when he found more discarded clothing in a hotel parking lot that he placed in a garbage sack.
"That's your second sock today!" said his dad, Russ Giles.
Litter-seeking adventures are often had by this dad and little dude duo, who live in the Fernan area. They have been combining their bonding time with community service since Jaxon was 3.
“We started down at the North Idaho College beach,” Giles said.
“We would pick up like the pine cones and clear off the sand,” Jaxon said.
Just about every week in the summer, and a little less frequently in the colder months, the Giles guys walk the circuit from Fernan west along Sherman, past the Interstate 90 overpass, through the Sherman Storage and Sparkle Car Wash and Baymont by Wyndham Coeur d'Alene parking lots to the south side of Sherman and back.
They've made a lot of friends along the way, and they are always gracious to raise their pickers in response to honks and waves from drivers. They know where dumpsters are located, and they chat with business owners who welcome them to empty their bags in their trash receptacles.
"The guy at the car wash, he knows us,” Giles said.
They have been greeted by friendly staffers who bring them doughnuts or order them a breakfast on the house at Michael D's.
Jaxon admitted he sometimes drags his feet about getting up and out early on a cold weekend morning.
“For me, when Dad says let’s go pick up trash, I’m like, 'Ugh, Dad I don’t want to,’” Jaxon said. "But after I pick up trash, I’m like, ‘Oh, I feel good!'"
Sometimes the unexpected happens on their walkabouts. They've found credit cards, phones and other items they were able to return to the owners.
“We were riding a bike and somebody lost their car keys," Jaxon said. "But luckily they had their number on it."
Giles said he's noticed how Jaxon has become more cognizant of the presence of trash and is always mindful, at home or out in the community, to put it in a proper receptacle.
"He makes a point to put it in the bag," Giles said.
"Littering is bad for the environment,” Jaxon said.
The father and son clear leaves and garbage from drains that need unclogging and sometimes when Giles is on his own, he will clear the hillsides just below the freeway.
Giles served in the Marine Corps, works as a basketball coach at NIC and is a lifelong North Idaho resident whose family has been in the area for a few generations. He said he and Jaxon don't conduct this act of community service for the recognition.
"This is to teach him not only good deeds, but to keep our area better than it was when we came here," Giles said.