Harvey, with station manager Adel Alqaisieh, is happy with a cup of coffee, a sweet roll and a little bit of pay after sweeping and cleaning the bathroom at the Valero gas station. David Pierini/Staff Photographer

If there are obstacles in Harvey Finkelstein’s life, they are swept aside when his hands work a broom.

Parts of Oak Park are a little tidier thanks to Finkelstein, 59, who asks local business owners for odd jobs like sweeping, taking out garbage or cleaning bathrooms.

He earns a little pocket money, but mostly a sense of pride and a feeling of belonging to a community.

“I like to work and people know I’m a good guy,” said Finkelstein, who lives with schizo-affective disorder. “It makes me more independent and it makes my mood go up.”

Finkelstein can’t remember when he started seeking the work, but he has lived in Oak Park for the last 15 years. He lives in an apartment with one other person with a disability plus live-in caretakers.

He has struggled for years with his illness, but the work in large part has been the best medicine. He has managed to stay out of the hospital for more than a year.

Finkelstein’s week centers around his jobs. Each morning, he is at Valero gas station on Wesley and Madison. There he sweeps, cleans the bathroom and takes out the garbage.

“Most people here, they know him,” said Adel Alqaisieh, who works at the station. “He’s friendly to the people. He’s cool.”

Finkelstein also works his way up Oak Park Avenue, sweeping for Re/Max in the Village, a flower shop and First Baptist Church, where he also attends Sunday services.

Mike White, one of his caretakers, met Finkelstein 28 years ago and has worked with him through two different agencies.

“He takes his work very seriously,” White said. “He generates this work on his own. It’s a very important value to him. He would feel like a bum if he wasn’t working.

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David Pierini

In June of 2014, David was honored with the 1st Place Award for Best Photo Series, as well as the 1st Place Award for Sports Photo, by the Illinois Press Association. Check out his award-winning caliber...

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