Since forming in 2022, Love Weatherford has collected nearly 4,000 bags of litter, equal to about 40,000 tons of waste​. Courtesy of Facebook.

March 28, 2024

On Thanksgiving in 2022, Jeff Oakes noticed a significant amount of litter in his rural Weatherford neighborhood. 

In honor of the holiday and his gratitude for the community, he and his wife set out to pick up litter along their road.

“We went for a little walk, and we picked up trash, and the neighbors were coming out, and they loved what we were doing,” Oakes said. “It looked better, and there was a wonderful feeling that went along with it. We didn’t get the whole street done, so we decided we’d do it tomorrow. The next day, I went out with my wife again, and we did the whole thing all over again. And again, the neighbors loved it, and it felt good, and it looked better. And when we got done with our street, I said, ‘I’m going to do the next road.’

“It was four days in a row, and well, I was totally hooked,” Oakes added.


A rural road in Weatherford before the Love Weatherford group got to work. Courtesy of Facebook.​

Fast forward to 16 months later, Oakes is the founder of Love Weatherford, a local nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up litter and beautifying the community. 

Through its ongoing endeavors, Love Weatherford — which has climbed to more than 2,700 members online — has collected nearly 4,000 bags of litter, equal to about 40,000 tons of waste, according to Oakes.

While he cleans as often as they can — typically at least once a day while he’s driving around town or if someone pings him about a known area — Oakes hosts community cleanups about once a week. Anyone is welcome to join.

The items they find are familiar roadside eyesores — abandoned furniture, soggy diapers, tossed cigarette butts and chewing tobacco cans, hypodermic needles, rusty screws and nails and used condoms.

The "After" photo following a Love Weatherford cleanup. Courtesy of Facebook.

The most common item, he said, is discarded cans and bottles for alcohol, noting in one lot they picked up nearly 1,500 empties. He speculates they're no doubt connected to some of the abandoned vehicle front ends they’ve picked up, left behind after hitting parked trees, poles, fences and bridges.


But in some clean-ups, Love Weatherford has contributed to a few miracles.

“We (once) found a stolen bicycle and a family portrait of a husband and wife when the wife was pregnant that had blown away in a storm. Both of those items were returned to their owners,” Oakes said. “I also once found a diamond ring clipped to a dog’s name tag. I posted it online, and it turned into a major story after going viral.”

Two phone numbers were on the back of the tag. After a couple days, Love Weatherford found the owners, but the scenario was not as Oakes had expected.

A diamond ring attached to a dog tag was found during a cleanup. Two phone numbers were on the back. Courtesy of Facebook.

“After investigation, I found out that it was a high school boyfriend and girlfriend playing a joke on all their friends, saying that they were engaged,” Oaks said. “It was just a $5 ring from Target.”

Still, he said this story led about 400 community members into the group, accomplishing his primary goal to raise awareness and prompt action.

One of his favorite clean-up stories, he recalled, was when an adolescent volunteer discovered a $20 bill just as an ice cream truck drove by.

“Everyone that wanted ice cream ordered, and the total price for the ice cream was $20,” Oakes detailed in an earlier Facebook post. “Someone from above was thanking us for cleaning up, I’d say.”


Founder of Love Weatherford Jeff Oakes, right, accepts a check from Weatherford City Manager James Hotopp. Courtesy of Facebook.

As part of their initiative, Oakes and his volunteers plant wildflower seeds while cleaning up. Their goal is to replace remnants of waste on the highway with vibrant flowers, like bluebonnets, hoping it will deter travelers from disposing of their trash along the roads.

Already in his experience he’s noticed that people are less inclined to litter in an area that is clean.

“We picked up close to 100 bags on North Lake Road, and now I haven’t cleaned that road in probably six weeks,” Oakes said. “If I were to go clean it now, which I don’t need to because fewer people are littering there and more people are picking up trash, I’d probably pick up 10 or 20 items  — and that’s five roadside miles.”

He mentioned that the initiative has gained significant momentum, to the point where he's deliberately not picking up every small piece of trash as a test to see if others will follow suit.

“I can’t clean every piece of litter, and I can’t clean the whole town,” he added. “Other people have to step up, so now we’ve reached the point that I’m actually leaving stuff out there, hoping others pick it up — and they’re doing it.”

Although Oakes spends much of his free time cleaning, he’s hoping the celebration of Earth Month — the expanded celebration of Earth Day on April 22 — will inspire community members to beautify their area. 

“I’m really hoping with this April Spring Clean that we’ll pretty much get rid of the rest of the garbage, and then it’ll turn into maintenance, which is a heck of a lot easier,” Oakes said.

Several organizations, church groups and agencies across the city have committed to dedicating their time to Love Weatherford. And Oakes genuinely believes that if they all spent an hour cleaning up their immediate and surrounding neighborhoods throughout the month, Weatherford could be completely clear of litter in just 30 days.

He also hopes to see other nearby communities take similar initiatives in coming months.

“I’d love for cities to hire me to consult on how they can clean their towns up in 30 days or less, and I really believe that all the towns can be clean,” Oakes said.



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