RCTO Chermaine Fontenette makes a young friend along her collection route.

Collecting a Friend

Photos courtesy Chermaine Fontenette and Sara Panameno

Club Ambassador Chermaine Fontenette, Refuse Collection Truck Operator, Public Works/Sanitation and Environment out of the East Valley, kept seeing a young boy waiting when she drove by his house. So finally last summer, she stopped, and a beautiful friendship was born.

Chermaine Fontenette delivers a birthday present to Joseph – an LA Sanitation “uniform” she made for him.

“His name is Joseph Cornejo, and this is one of the reasons why I truly love working for the City of Los Angeles’ Sanitation Dept.”

“Last year, Chermaine drove by on our side of the street, but didn’t stop,” remembers Sara Panameno, Joseph’s mother. “She saw Joseph crying, so on her way back down the other side, she stopped. That was the first time they met.

Joseph, wearing the LA Sanitation “uniform” Chermaine made for him, and his collection of toy garbage trucks and bins.

“Ever since he turned one, he has loved garbage trucks. He’s obsessed. I once tried to take him for a haircut on a Thursday, and he cried and refused – that’s his day to wait out for the garbage truck to drive by. It’s his favorite day of the week.

“It’s a blessing she crossed paths with Joseph,” mom Sara says. “She’s a celebrity to him.”
Joseph has more than 30 garbage truck toys. He enjoys garbage truck videos, some of which include Chermaine, he enjoyed a garbage truck piñata, and he wears garbage truck pajamas. For his birthday last year, Chermaine surprised him by bringing a replica LA Sanitation uniform she had made for him.

“I was blessed to be invited to his fourth birthday party,” Chermaine remembers. “I created his own little Sanitation uniform.”

“Chermaine made his dreams come true of going inside an actual garbage truck. We can’t thank her enough.”