The woman, from Itasca, picks garbage to support her family. I can't wonder how many times on garbage day she's driven down my own street.
Judy Sirko's regular trash runs--she calls them "treasure hunts"--help sustain a precarious existence shared by thousands of people in Illinois. Census figures show that the state, despite having the fifth-largest economy in the nation, has the highest poverty rate in the Midwest. Illinois also leads the region in a grim subset of that category: the group of nearly 724,000 residents, including Sirko and her children, trapped in what experts call "deep poverty."
I hate throwing usable things away, preferring to donate them to charity or sell them in a garage sale. Whenever I see somebody put something usable at the curb, I hope that someone takes it and gives it a new life. (But the flip side of that, when I see someone picking the garbage, is worrying about more nefarious goals: such as identity theft.) It's good to know that some of those treasures are being rescued and put to good use.