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Monday, January 18, 2021

Man Who Cleans Park Every Day: “You are Truly a Treasure”

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Mr. Sonny has cleaned and cleared Haynes Park of debris for the last 2 years. And no one has asked him to do it.

Town Square Delaware discovered a lot of interest in a story making the rounds on Facebook about a Wilmington man who takes pride and joy in keeping a neighborhood park clean – and no one pays him to do it.

The response to his daily gesture and the gratitude of the community has been overwhelming.

“Daily random acts of kindness, above and beyond. Thank you,” said JoAnn Nye.

“Awesome Mr. Sonny. We need more men like you. May God continue to bless you,” remarked Thalia Holmes.

“What a great story. People still do care,” posted Linda Abrams Allen.

Lynn-Holly Oates has four young girls, and she takes her two youngest to Haynes Park regularly. Before Mr. Sonny started to come around, Lynn-Holly had to pick the playground trash up herself before her girls could play. “I would watch people drop bags of chips and candy wrappers without even thinking about it.”

She, like others in her community, is so grateful to be able to enjoy a clean park every day.

We are delighted to share her story with you.

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Wilmington resident Lynn-Holly Oates discovered Mr. Sonny cleaning Haynes Park

“I live across from Haynes Park in Wilmington, DE. My family has been living here since April 2009. When we first moved here, the park was full of litter, with trash strewn throughout the playground, basketball, and tennis courts.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a noticeable improvement in the conditions at the park. My initial thought was the city was responsible for keeping the park clean.

However, as time went on, I never once noticed a city truck or their workers tending to the park outside of cutting the grass every now and again.

As I continued to take my youngest children to the park, I noticed a man outside each day, picking up and blowing away trash and clearing the playground/basketball court of debris. Initially, I thought the city was finally stepping up to the plate and keeping the park clean, but over time I learned that was not the case.

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Mr. Sonny brings his leaf blower to Haynes Park

About 1 1/2 years ago, I approached the man who was keeping our park clean to ask his name and that is when I met Mr. Sonny. Mr. Sonny shared that he has suffered from 4 strokes, 3 mini and 1 major, and that cleaning the park not only helps the community but more importantly, is therapeutic — keeping him from being depressed.

Too often we hear negative stories about city residents and their is a perception that, we as a city, do not care about the conditions in our community. Mr. Sonny is a shining example of the good that goes unnoticed in Wilmington everyday. His actions have had a visible and lasting impact on the youth and families who frequent Haynes Park.

For example, Mr. Sonny explained that when he first began he would gather 4 buckets of trash alone from the basketball courts and now he is down to a 1/2 bucket. Because of Mr. Sonny, the boys playing basketball are holding each other responsible for cleaning up their trash; similarly, kids on the playground are using the trash can more and more each day.

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The children at Haynes Park enjoy a clean playground thanks to Mr. Sonny

For Mr. Sonny, this is the ultimate sign of the respect and a symbol that we can build meaningful and positive relationships between community members-across generations- by our actions. Mr. Sonny is definitely one of Wilmington’s “unsung heroes”. 

I truly admire him and appreciate his volunteer work to keep the park clean, and I also appreciate the message Mr. Sonny is sending about the therapeutic benefit to serving your community in whatever capacity you can.”

Photos courtesy of Lynn-Holly Oates


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