With the Landis family, picking up litter feels like a grand adventure.
The kids — Kenzie (6), Karli (10) and Khloe (10) — raced from discarded item to discarded item on their way down Tennyson Road. Lottery tickets are particularly highly prized, though they haven't found any winning tickets yet. They paused to admire autumn leaves, point out where cows live and do cartwheels. When accompanying friend Tisha Hance extracted a squashed fork from the road's asphalt, they cheered.
The enthusiasm is remarkable, especially because the Landises have been picking up litter weekly along the same stretch of road since March.
"During distance learning, we had a rough day, so we took a walk," Laura Landis, the children's mother, recounted. "We noticed trash alongside the road, and the kids wanted to bring a trash bag next time."
What began as an impulsive effort to clean up along Tennyson Road — a "hot-spot for litter," Laura said — eventually turned into a habit, and a way for the family to stay fit while helping the community. Laura heads out along Tennyson and other roads at least once a week, sometimes by herself but often accompanied by at least one of her four girls. Sometimes she straps on her "plogging" bag — plogging being a Swedish-derived term for picking up litter while jogging. Laura even started a Facebook group, "Getting Fit While Plogging," to share her experiences.
And sometimes the crew drags along a little red wagon to hold their trash bags and protective equipment. The wagon, purchased thanks to a donation from a passer-by, inspired Fulton Stream Team's nickname for the family: "The Red Wagon Gang."
"What I really love about that is they were already there, they were taking their walks, they saw all the litter and they thought, someone ought to pick this up, why not us?" said Courtney Coffelt, a member of the City of Fulton engineering department and the Stream Team. "I love that."
At the end of September, the City of Fulton recognized the Landises for their efforts with an "Adopt a Street" sign on either end of Tennyson Road.
"I (said) 'Hey I want to make it official and get up a sign for you,'" Coffelt recalled. "I knew they'd love it and it'd mean so much for the kids."
While they walk, the family often gets honks and hollers of appreciation from passing drivers, including the firemen who work at the Tennyson Road Fire Station.
"I like when people honk and say thank you," Kenzie said.
They're in it for more than just the recognition, though. Karli said when school picked up, she was reluctant to spend her spare time picking up trash until she heard about the environmental benefits.
"The Stream Team told us about how when trash gets into the road and it rains, it ends up in the (storm water system) and creeks and eventually the ocean, and it kills animals," she said. "That's what turned me on to (picking up trash) with Mom."
"It's the right thing to do," Kenzie said.
"And it's fun to do when you're bored," Khloe added.
Aside from recognition, fitness and and a sense of accomplishment, the family's routine has yielded one less-expected benefit: A new family member.
"The coolest thing we've found while plogging was a kitten," Laura said.
The family hopes their enthusiasm proves contagious.
They've already noticed less litter along Tennyson Road. Laura thinks seeing the family working to pick up trash might deter drivers who'd otherwise litter.
"Whenever we first started there was a lot more trash," Karli said. "We would pick up three or four bags a week."
They're also hoping other local families will adopt streets around town.
"We want other families to pick up trash," Karli said.
The kids often invite friends along. Thursday, they were joined by Hance, a high school junior who sometimes babysits for the family, and Hance's neighbor, Eli Nichols, 12.
"I volunteered to help," Hance said, adding it was her first time tagging along
Laura said other families who are interested in picking up trash or adopting a street should contact the City of Fulton (573-592-3111) and speak to Coffelt. The Stream Team can provide gloves — useful for picking up messier trash and discarded facemasks — trash bags, T-shirts and perhaps even an "Adopt-a-Street" sign, all at no cost.
Coffelt said she's working to revive the Adopt-a-Street program; the city employee who once ran it moved on long ago.
"We had to cancel our spring 'Clean Sweep' we usually do with Parks and Recreation," Coffelt added. "Nothing's been picked up, and it shows. I drive through this town all the time and there's a lot of litter out there. I'm really hoping and looking for volunteers."
She said she's happy to come and pick up bags of trash from participants so they don't have to stuff the extra garbage into their own bins.
"The Fulton Stream Team will support them in any way we can," she said.
Laura also suggested bringing plenty of water and a "trash picker" device, and wearing high-visibility clothing.