"It was probably three years ago," recalled the owner of Bellam Self Storage and Boxes on Bellam Boulevard in East San Rafael. "Finally I just looked at all the debris and litter and so forth and I said, 'You know, this is not right.'"
She started walking. By the end of her stroll, she'd filled 11 large bags of trash.
"It was ... 'I'm going to do this,'" she said.
With permission, she cleaned up the property at the main post office, but her special spot is still a side street just off of Bellam Boulevard.
"I sort of adopted Simms Street," she said. "Public works calls me the mayor of Simms Street.
"It's fun, and some people walk up and say thank you," she said of her trash-collecting walks. "Other people toot their horns and wave and others shut their eyes. Most people wave."
Bellam Self Storage is just one of more than 70 San Rafael businesses participating in the San Rafael Clean Campaign. The movement, spawned from the city's cleanup days, began in 2005 as a year-round way of getting everyone to pitch in properly, said Cory Bytof, San Rafael volunteer coordinator.
"Several years ago, we were doing cleanup days all the time and we kept seeing the litter get worse and worse and worse, and our volunteers said, 'How can we get people not to litter in the first place?'" Bytof said.
Involving the business community has paid off, he said.
"We have a couple of people that are just so passionate about it, so interested," he said.
Those who join the free program get promoted on the San Rafael Clean Web site, receive window decals and are sent a certificate signed by the mayor.
Businesses pledge to keep clean, have adequate trash and recycling bins, educate employees about proper trash disposal, know and follow all city codes and acknowledge participation as a clean business to employees, business partners, customers and the public.
Christine Bohlke, sales and marketing director for the Marin Visitors Bureau, is a believer.
"It's just an important thing for me to keep Marin looking beautiful, especially San Rafael being our mission city," she said.
Read more San Rafael stories at the IJ's San Rafael section.
Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org