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Monday, 2 December 2013

CNN Hero of the Year 2013- Chad Pregracke

For CNN Hero of the Year 2013- Chad Pregracke, removing debris has become his life's work. Sometimes called "The Rivers' Garbageman," he lives on a barge about 9 months out of the year with members of his 12-person crew. Together, they organize community cleanups along rivers across the country.

In the past 15 years, Chad Pregracke has helped pull more than 67,000 tires from the Mississippi River and other waterways across the United States.

He's also helped retrieve 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, 12 hot tubs, four pianos and almost 1,000 refrigerators.
"The garbage got into the water one piece at a time," Pregracke said. "And that's the only way it's going to come out."

It's a dirty job, but Pregracke, 38, took it on because he realized that no one was doing it. It began as a solo effort, and over the years his energy, enthusiasm and dedication have helped it grow. To date, about 70,000 volunteers have joined his crusade, helping him collect more than 7 million pounds of debris through his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters.

On average, Pregracke says he organizes 70 cleanups a year in 50 communities. The cleanups are posted on the nonprofit's website, Facebook and other outlets so people know where and when they can volunteer.

"Picking up garbage, it's tough, miserable and hot. We try to make it fun," he said.

"(I'm) creating a chance for people to go out there and do something positive," he said. "Talking is great, but it doesn't do much at all. Action is what I'm about."
"A lot of people call me a conservationist or an environmentalist, but the thing is I'm no different than anybody else," he said. "I just want to be known (as) a hardworking American."

Ultimately, Pregracke says, his message is about much more than cleaning rivers. He believes his story is proof that anyone can make a difference:

"If I had one thing to say, it wouldn't even be about rivers necessarily. It would be about finding (a) cause that's dear to you and taking action. ...
"Change is slow, like a barge or train, (but) once it builds momentum, it's hard to stop."

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