Best Volunteer - 2012
Last November teenager Jacob Schmidt schlepped a bag of trash into the alley behind his parents' house in Compton Heights. He looked at the garbage bins and realized how much they "uglify" the city. So Schmidt, then a junior at Metro High School, asked city officials if he could swirl some color onto a few of them. Instead, the city granted him a much bigger canvas: their entire fleet of giant trash containers — those 35-foot-by-8-foot bins into which street sweepers toss debris. The city owns 25 such "cans." With official permission, Schmidt spent much of July and August spray-painting and brushing nearly all of them — on his own initiative, using materials he paid for with cash donations made online. He soon realized how big the project was and enlisted friends for help. Even streets department director Todd Waelterman, a self-described "square-thinking engineer," praised the young man's work: "It's very colorful, and very creative."