There is a well-known saying that states that the hardest part of a long journey is taking the first step. No one knows that firsthand better than Dan Christensen, a resident of Wedowee since 2000.
Last May, on a sunny Saturday, Dan fell about 12 feet from an extension ladder while he was staining his rear deck. A retired owner of a successful home inspection company, Dan understands the importance of good home maintenance. He knew when he hit the ground it was serious. Transported by helicopter to Grady Trauma Center in Atlanta, Dan suffered a compound pilon fracture, which broken down to everyday language means multiple broken bones at his left tibia and fibula. This type of fracture can be difficult to fix. Since May amid the pandemic, he has endured six corrective surgeries. Home maintenance feels awfully costly these days.
Happy to be in the comfort of his home and with his wife Nancy, Dan felt like his healing journey was making real progress. But halfway through his recovery, he developed a severe infection to the metal hardware holding his healing bones together. The bones were not healing the way they should. Dan's surgeon removed all the metal hardware, cleaned out the infected bones and tissue, and placed Dan on some heavy-duty antibiotics.
Currently, he is recovering from new metal hardware being installed in the healing area but cannot place any weight at all until further evaluation and X-rays.
This means no weight at all: Completely stationary. He absolutely cannot place any weight on the leg. No hopping to the fridge for a snack. No long showers. He must keep all weight off the healing leg.
Many of us think about days when we can just sit still in the recliner and read, or maybe binge on a good movie. Dan can't wait to move, since he has been confined to his chair for almost nine months. An avid bike rider, Dan plots his third bike ride with RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) this summer. He has plenty of buddies who can't wait to beat him in golf or catch more fish than Dan. Grandkids miss seeing him. He can't wait to step back out into the world.
A volunteer firefighter with Auslin Chapel VFD, Dan enjoys serving the Randolph County community. He likes to organize volunteers to improve operations and beautify the area he lives and serves. When he will be cleared is his medical team's decision, but Dan is particularly anxious to get back to his work with APALS.
APALS, Alabama People Against Littering Our State, continues to gain momentum under Dan's leadership. Appointed by Randolph County Commissioner Larry Roberts in 2018, Dan seeks to make the slated April cleanup month more than just a yearly project that happens each spring. He knows the long-term project of educating our county residents that roadside trash is unacceptable can only happen with more volunteers. He wants a volunteer commitment not only to educate the general public ways to prevent litter, but monthly and annual workdays where a soda and other litter can head towards a recycling center instead of becoming part of our Alabama landscape.
And even though he cannot walk right now, Dan spends a large part of his day emailing about cleanup efforts and hopes to be on his feet by April. Dan is currently seeking individuals, groups, churches, service organizations and local businesses to volunteer to pick up roadside trash near their homes or organization beyond just April 2021. He has 12 families that take care of a mile near their homes and businesses, and he is looking to add families and groups all across the county.
Michael Meeks volunteered to step up to plate with the APALS mission. Currently, he represents District 3 on the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce. Also, he represents District 3 on Randolph County Solid Waste Authority. Recently appointed by Mayor Jill Patterson Hicks to the City of Roanoke Planning and Zoning Board, he and a small group of committed individuals are excited about the Roanoke Project CARE.
Roanoke Project CARE dates are April 9 and 10. The entire county is invited for weekend countywide cleanup events. Sponsored by Keep Alabama Beautiful and Alabama Department of Transportation and enthusiastically endorsed by the City Council of Roanoke, Roanoke Project CARE will be a real boost to the APALS current efforts.
Meeks is holding an organizational meeting on March 4 at 5 p.m. at city hall in Roanoke in hopes of propelling Roanoke Project CARE's momentum into real action items that solve the countywide litter issues. Volunteers are needed. Keeping our county litter-free takes time, education and care by citizens.
And if each citizen takes one step toward a litter-free county this spring, we will be well on the road to keeping our part of Alabama beautiful. While Dan may not be able to get out there and walk the roadways, he has not given up on his mission to help eradicate litter from our roadways, and with Meeks and other volunteers, groups like APALS, and Roanoke Project CARE, he can rest assured that his steps will turn into more steps by others to help keep Randolph County litter-free.