Longtime resident Donald LaRouche takes a look at donations raised for him by staff and regulars of River’s Edge Deli on Main Steet. LaRouche has become a fixture in the community by moving bins off the street on trash day, picking up garbage and cleaning up for businesses. Chance Viles / American Journal

Donald LaRouche, 68, is a man with autism who loves his community. He is often found in the Main Street restaurant River’s Edge, where he has lived nearby for 30 years, or walking down Main Street returning trash bins after they are emptied. He can also be seen picking up trash on the street during his walks, after the city’s annual parade, or clearing debris after the Together Days festival across from the restaurant. LaRouche was also a strong advocate for the ongoing changes to the Cumberland Mills intersection for decades, after losing his wife in a fatal accident there.

He often clears the ice and snow for River’s Edge before they even open. As a sign of appreciation, restaurant staff and regulars donated $300 in a stocking with LaRouche’s name, as well as a number of gift cards to local stores, which they presented to him during breakfast Dec. 22.

“Around Thanksgiving, I was thinking of those people in Westbrook, like Donald, that don’t have family in the area,” donor and co-organizer Jim Stultz said. “In my household, everyone has a Christmas stocking with their name embroidered at the top. I decided to order one with ‘Donald’ on it.”

LaRouche, still in his olive-green winter coat with a mug of hot coffee in hand, accepted the gift with a smile, but few words. He said he appreciates the gesture.

“River’s Edge has been a good friend of mine; the coffee is good too,” LaRouche said with a smile, cash spread on the table before him.

LaRouche doesn’t have many plans for the money aside from saving some and maybe getting some more coffee, but he was more than happy to see how much his friends turned out for him.

“He does a lot for us and we never ask him to, so he deserves that show of appreciation for what he does,” River’s Edge owner Steve Lampron said.

“Westbrook is great to me, so I like to take care of the city,” LaRouche told the American Journal. “It’s a good community.”

Stultz said they put together a stocking not only to show their appreciation but to also give LaRouche a sense of local family during the holidays.

“He cleans even after the parades; he is definitely a local icon,” Mayor Mike Foley said.

About 20 years ago, just after Stultz met him, LaRouche’s wife Holly had died when struck by a car in the Cumberland Mills intersection. Afterward, he advocated that lights be added along with other alterations to the intersection.

Between 2016 and 2019, there were 81 crashes in the three intersections, according to Maine DOT statistics. An average of 15,275 vehicles travel on Main Street per day, 9,783 on Cumberland Street, 16,467 on Harnois Avenue and 9,094 on Warren Avenue. The state has deemed that triangle with four intersections where Harnois Avenue, Warren Avenue, Cumberland Street and Main Street converge, as a “High Crash Location.”

LaRouche is credited by the restaurant’s regulars for helping make sure the intersection was improved. Foley said there was not a time that went by over his past 20 years as either city councilor or mayor where LaRouche didn’t check in on the status of the Department of Transportation project.

“Don was critical in advocating for those lights,” Foley said. “The lights being added now are really for pedestrians before there was virtually no pedestrian infrastructure. He was jumping for joy when construction started [in May].”

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