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The cleaning crew

CIVIC CENTER -- Steve Davis is proud of the cleanup work he does in

the Civic Center and Burbank Village but he has a message for those who

frequent the downtown area.

“I wish people were not so messy,” Davis, 47, said. “I wish that when

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they’re through, they would throw the trash in trash cans and not just

throw it anywhere they want.”

Davis is one of six developmentally disabled men employed through the

city’s GROW - Gaining Resources and Opportunities through Work - program

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to clean up the downtown area.

Wearing orange vests, leather gloves and using metal trash pickers,

the group combs the area six hours-a-day, five days-a-week, rain or

shine. They’re paid $5.75 per hour for their work.

The Burbank group is contracted to work for the city through City

Community Services, a La Canada-based organization that provides jobs for

developmentally disabled people. Their salaries are paid through

federally-funded grants, said Jay Lesowski, the group’s job coach.

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For some of the men, the program is transitional, Lesowski said. The

training program gives them skills they can use “to maintain a job in the

private sector,” he said.

The skills they learn are ones others might take for granted -- such

as taking breaks on time, always knowing their work schedule and

respecting managers and supervisors.

But that doesn’t mean the work is easy.

“They’re not just asked to do this as a token thing,” Lesowski said.

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“The city relies on them to do this.”

Often, the group performs light gardening maintenance - pulling weeds,

planting or shoveling dirt - or helping to clean the Starlight Bowl

before and after events.

“The program is open to people able bodied enough to stand on their

feet six hours-a-day,” Lesowski said. “There are people who are very

limited but can do a job like this and go on to other jobs.”

Some graduates of the program have taken jobs at supermarkets and

warehouses.

Though it’s a tough job that requires the group to brave the elements,

Lesowski said complaints are rare.

“I like to pull weeds out of the planter beds,” said Dan Smith, 35.

“This job’s OK.”

Several of the workers said they consider their group an extended

family. They said they enjoy one another’s company and the encounters

they have with the public.

The group often get encouraging words from people who appreciate the

work they do, Lesowski said.

“People thank us a lot,” said Joe Medina, 34. “When we’re put

somewhere else to clean, a lot of the retirees will tell us they missed

us when we come back.”

For Davis, the job is also a chance to spread the word about

littering.

“We’re in the matter of teaching others right from wrong,” he said.

“We’re setting an example for the rest of the community and Burbank that

they should use trash cans.”

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