NJ man honored for cleaning roadsides, reuniting owners with lost items

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- A Paterson man is being honored for turning trash into treasure along Routes 19 and 80 for nearly 25 years.

Benny Gonzalez was recognized for his remarkable service Friday in New Brunswick by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.

Benny was honored for his contributions to his community, but also for his perseverance - and for the hope that his comeback story represents for others.

170,000 people in New Jersey are living with brain injuries, with 10,000 - 12,000 more added each year.

Eyewitness News first caught up with Benny back in 2014.

We followed him as he engaged in his personal labor of love: keeping highway access roads clean and litter-free. He's never been paid for his time.

A traumatic brain injury Benny suffered as a child has done little to dampen his passion to help his community all these years.

"I feel that it's great, I love to clean," Gonzalez told us back then.

Over the years, Benny has found all kinds of items discarded on the roadside.

His passion has been returning the valuable items he finds to their rightful owners.

It's brought him joy all these years.

And today in New Brunswick, a grateful community got a chance to thank him for his service.

Benny Gonzalez in 2014.

(Some video provided by northjersey.com)

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