Cobb County Government

Working to keep the community clean


By Gary A. Witte
CobbLine Staff

When most people see trash on the roadside, they think someone should take care of it.

When Cobb County residents Ernie and Laurie Ruda saw trash on the roadside about 17 years ago, they decided to take care of it.

"We were both upset how it looked," Laurie Ruda said. "It gave us something to do rather than watch TV."

Their weekly volunteer efforts, largely self-financed, have grown through the years, resulting in a display of hundreds of feet of curbside flowers of various types, neatly trimmed hedges and a clean roadway along Bells Ferry Road where it crosses under Interstate 575.

The two are scheduled to be honored for their work with a certificate of recognition from the County Board of Commissioners this month.

The retired couple moved to Cobb County from Buffalo, N.Y. about 30 years ago. Ernie Ruda, an electronic engineer, then retired from the Georgia Tech Research Institute in 1990.

A few years later, they began cleaning up along Heck Road where they live and were so pleased with the results, they decided to expand.

The Rudas became involved with the county after their garbage carrier tried to charge them double their normal pickup fee for all the trash they placed in their cans.

"They thought we had a football team living there," Ernie Ruda said.

The county agreed to provide trash bags and pick up full ones. They also provided extended grabbers and offered reflective vests. The Rudas now officially operate as the "Bells Ferry Volunteers" in cooperation with Keep Cobb Beautiful.

At one point, the Rudas began cleaning the center median under the overpass — an area apparently untouched for several decades. The result was 14 full wheelbarrows of refuse.


Ernie and Laurie Ruda began their volunteer roadside cleanups about 17 years ago.


Laurie Ruda trims a hedge the couple planted.


Ernie Ruda blows away grass trimmings.

"It was amazing how much trash was in there," he said.

The couple puts in about 20 hours a week maintaining the road from North Booth Road to the Orchard Square Shopping Center. They occasionaly enlist the help of a few of their 11 grandchildren, but the bulk of the work remains their own.

"We get a lot of honks and thumbs up as people go by," Ernie Ruda said.
Those interested in adopting a roadway as a volunteer should call 770-528-1135 or go to KCB Home Page for more information.