This Long Beach family is offering some much-needed thank-yous


Sanitation workers are vital to any community. They keep streets and neighborhoods clean, and prevent trash from piling up. Most of the time, they do it without any thanks.

That’s something the Crane family, of Long Beach, is trying to change.

Leigh and Nick Crane and their children, Taylor and Cody, have always had great relationships with the sanitation employees that work in their neighborhood on Arizona Avenue. They have always given their own thanks to the workers, but now they hope the rest of the city will as well.

Last year, the Cranes started putting fliers and signs on their trash and recycling bins that were ready for pickup. The signs said, “Thank you for everything you do to keep our Long Beach community clean and safe,” and included a QR code that people could scan to learn more about the family’s initiative.

June 16-22 will be the Crane family’s second annual celebration of Waste and Recycling Workers Week, a 12-year-old initiative that is recognized across the country.

“I’m rooted in community engagement,” Leigh Crane, a former educator at the Lexington School for the Deaf, in Jackson Heights, Queens, and now a full-time mom, said. “So we put this together last year, and our street did it and some pals did it. We wanted to spread the word and the kindness. The goal is to spread awareness, compassion and connection through our community. That’s the power behind this.”

Taylor and Cody Crane, who are 4 and soon to be 3, respectively, always enjoy seeing the garbage and recycling trucks come down the street and greeting the workers. When Taylor was born in 2020, coronavirus lockdowns were in effect. While everyone was inside and not communicating much with others, the family made up for it by interacting with the workers passing through.

“We didn’t have a lot of in-person connection,” Leigh said. “And as new parents who needed community, we got that in our Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday connection with our recycling and sanitation workers. We did the waves, we said hello, we checked in on each other.”

One sanitation worker, Anthony Hemphill, used to stop and chat. He even surprised Taylor and Cody with Christmas gifts, exciting the kids. Hemphill died in 2022, so, Leigh said, the celebration is really in honor of him.

His colleague Sean Lewis, and others, have taken to stopping and chatting with the Cranes, and the family’s relationship with the workers has grown.

“Now Sean stops and checks with us,” Leigh said. “We’ve got now got great relationships with Sean, and Willie, and Carlos, and DaShawn, and Koran, and all our guys. It’s just — it’s beautiful, and it’s all rooted in this one man,” she added, referring to Hemphill. “His joy and his compassion reached beyond just me and my family. I know he’s reached so many people.”

Crane said she hoped the celebration could extend to the public schools in the future. It would be wonderful, she added, if all of the local elementary schools recognized Waste and Recycling Workers Week.

Crane said she would also love it if more people in the community expressed their gratitude to these workers. “That’s really kind of a root in all I do, is how we can increase generosity and gratitude in a local community,” she said. “Especially with a lot of hard stuff going on in the world, if we can root a lot of what we do around human connection and those two things, gratitude and generosity, that’s what I would love.”

“Whether it’s a wave, a smile or a friendly honk hello, it’s clear our Sanitation Department has a special relationship with our residents,” City Council President Brendan Finn said. “My family knows this firsthand. Fantastic job by Ms. Crane for taking the initiative to celebrate our sanitation workers. We hope all our residents will join in.”