Monday, May 10, 2021

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Your Neighbors



When Julius Bernal sees a problem, he’s the type of man who figures out a way to fix it. And when he sees a weed, he’s the kind of person who pulls it.

Bernal is nearly 70 years old, retired, lives in Des Moines and enjoys frequenting the East Side Public Library at 2559 Hubbell Ave. Everything he borrows from the library he returns — except for one.



Julius Bernal is in his “expendable clothes” and ready to work. He aids the community by volunteering his time pulling weeds from the East Side Public Library’s flower beds, gardens and from around the sidewalks and parking areas.

“I’m just trying to do what needs done,” he explained. “If you see something that needs done, you just do it.”

Prep Iowa

Bernal has done extensive work, spending hours digging the unwanted plants up. The first time he volunteered to work on the problem he filled five trash cans with weeds.

“Somebody’s gotta do it,” he said.

That’s how Bernal rolls. He is a gardener — planting perennials, annuals, rose bushes, creeping flux, moon flowers, petunias and tulips — but he has other things, too.

On his most recent trip to the library, Bernal not only cleared weeds out, but he deposited two portulacas, a small century plant and some red caladiums. In all, he spent nearly 11 hours working there. He said many patrons expressed appreciation, but no one stopped to help.

“Des Moines is a great city,” he said. “I just want it to look the best it can.”

But the problem with weeds, of course, is that they often grow back. So Bernal said he’s looking for help.

“I could use some experienced gardeners who can tell the difference between the desirable plants and the undesirables,” he said.

Anyone interested in helping Bernal take weeds from the library can contact him at

A library card isn’t needed, but it would be beneficial to bring a narrow shovel. Some of the weeds have roots with the ability to quickly grow back if they aren’t dug up properly.

It’s not as though Bernal has a love for pulling weeds, either.

“I don’t like (weeding), but I’m not afraid of it,” he said.

He struggles with health issues, including vision impairment, a bad back and hearing problems. But like he once wrote on a job application, “I’m not inhibited by a broom.”

“I’m just a concerned citizen,” he said. “I thought I’d help.”

So he goes to “work,” loading up his Pathfinder with loppers, trimmers, trash cans, shovels, gloves, his trusty pry bar and a strong will to serve.

“I just try to help people who need help,” he said. “I just try and do what I can, and I try to be a good neighbor.”■




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