Sanitation worker Dean Boodhan has many young fans along his garbage route, which he has driven several times a week for 16 years.
Even when he’s sound asleep, 3-year-old Ro Nelson recognizes — and immediately wakes up when he hears — the distinct sound of the garbage truck coming up the street of his neighborhood each Tuesday and Friday. And it’s all because of Mr. Dean.
Sanitation worker Dean Boodhan has amassed quite a fan base in his 16 years with the city of Winter Garden’s Solid Waste Department, and he is known throughout the city as the “magical garbageman” to many of the children along his route.
Stoneybrook West resident Delanie Nelson shared a photo on Facebook last month of Boodhan giving Ro a fist bump next to the collection truck and gave a shoutout to Mr. Dean for his “honks, skilled truck-operating skills, high fives and kind smiles” and for “making magic in our world and genuinely being a wonderful and patient human.”
This week, the post was up to 703 reactions and 28 comments, many from parents and grandparents singing Boodhan’s praises for his friendliness and love for the children.
“He always has a smile on his face and takes the extra time to put a smile on my kiddo’s face!!” one mother wrote. “He is the most magical garbageman! My kids live for his waves and honks!!”
“That fact that he makes time to show your son how it works, proves the honor and pride he takes in his work ethics,” another person said.
“That Facebook post is still getting likes and comments on it,” Nelson said. “They all have a story of things they have done with Mr. Dean.”
Boodhan said he considers excellent customer service an important core value, and he takes pride in his relationships with the customers along the same routes he has followed for 16 years. He eagerly gets out of his truck to talk to children who rush out to greet him, and if parents ask, he will stop to take a photo.
The best part of his job, Boodhan said, is “showing up every morning and giving the community the best service I can.”
The city employee even convinced a young student who was fascinated with sanitation trucks to attend school too.
“The kid didn’t want to go to school,” Boodhan said. “He said he didn’t like school, so I promised him, ‘If you go to school, I will come and pick up your garbage,’ and he said OK. … He loves the garbage truck; his costume for Halloween was a waste management uniform.”
Another time, Boodhan brought a birthday cake for a child.
In return, children give Boodhan drawings, colored pictures, cards and carefully created craft projects — which are hung up in the office of the Solid Waste Department.
Frank Gilbert, the assistant city manager for Winter Garden, agrees Boodhan is a valuable employee.
“He loves kids and always stops to talk to them,” Gilbert said. “He’s become a local hero, especially with the kids and the parents. He’s such a super guy. He’s humble. He’s so nice.”
“It’s been probably two years since he (first) stopped,” Nelson said of Boodhan. “Ro couldn’t say much, but Mr. Dean made a connection. He was doing it for the love. That was a huge part of it. It didn’t matter how old Ro was. It was that he stopped his busy day … and he focused on making my little boy feel really special.
“And as time progressed, Mr. Dean would get out of the truck,” she said. “When (Ro) was able to walk and talk a little more, Mr. Dean would get out of the truck and let Ro push the buttons on the truck.”
Ro has developed a real fascination with garbage trucks since meeting Boodhan, and Nelson said Ro has a growing collection of toy trucks and likes to watch television shows featuring sanitation trucks.
“If there were a couple of weeks that we missed the garbage truck because Ro was at school … we had to pivot and come up with something,” Nelson said.
When Nelson took her son to the Solid Waste Department recently for a special visit, Ro took along a miniature garbage truck and Mr. Dean signed it for him.
“Dean is one of our shining stars,” Gilbert said. “He is one of the nicest, most considerate and honorable people I have had the pleasure to know. We are proud to count him amongst our many hard-working employees throughout the city of Winter Garden.”
“From the first day that Ro could really walk out there, he was just so excited to see the garbage truck,” Nelson said. “Mr. Dean’s making a little bit of magic for whoever he comes into contact with.”
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