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Commercial residents working to reclaim city street from litter

Breithaupt Real Estate owner Dixie Breithaupt, left, looks on as Judy Harrell places a small bag of litter into a larger one held by David Tillman while Brian Breithaupt, right, looks for more litter to pick up along Washington Street Wednesday. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[06/14/01] Vicksburg Realtor Dixie Breithaupt wants Washington Street to have all the Southern charm evoked by her first name.

That’s why Breithaupt, whose firm has had its office on Washington since early last year, wakes before 7 every Wednesday morning to clean a segment of the street with about five of her agents.

Wearing gloves and bright blue company T-shirts, the Breithaupt Real Estate crew has collected cigarette butts, candy wrappers, beer bottles and many other forms of litter from one of Vicksburg’s main thoroughfares since last April. They’ll quit in August, Breithaupt said, when the humidity and high temperatures also associated with her name make outdoor work unbearable even in the early morning.

“We want to make a difference in the community,” Breithaupt said. “And it’s nice to get out here in the morning when it’s still kind of cool and before you have to start work.”

Starting at Bowmar Avenue Baptist Church, the group moves down Washington to the Polk Street intersection, pausing only briefly to stuff litter into the bags they carry.

Brian Breithaupt, Dixie Breithaupt’s son and also an agent at the firm, said the cleanup group’s efforts have produced a noticeable change on Washington Street. Still, he can’t forget a piece of litter he found one summer morning.

“I picked up a Baggie full of drugs,” he said. “I think it was pot.”

But Yvonne Winstead, another agent and crew member, said the group’s efforts have rubbed off on Washington Street residents.

“When we started, it was just a horrible mess,” said Winstead, who was joined by both Breithaupts and agents Stanley Martin, David Tillman, Mary Andress and Judy Harrell on Washington on Wednesday morning. “But now, I think people have seen what we’re doing and have started keeping their street cleaner. We don’t see nearly as many cigarettes and beer cans as we used to.”

Winstead said Vicksburg’s image is greatly affected by the condition of Washington Street in the minds of residents and visitors.

“We have so many tourists coming down here, and it’s a shame that they might see it with all the litter,” she said.

Holley Simrall, coordinator for Keep Vicksburg Warren Beautiful, said Breithaupt Real Estate’s cleanup project should serve as a model for others in the city.

“Picking up litter gives them a sense of responsibility for their part of the community,” Simrall said. “It makes them even more a part of Vicksburg and Warren County.”