Making a Difference: A Celebration of Nathan

Nate Koca’s small gesture goes a long way in his hometown of New Lisbon
For over 20 years, Nate Koca has been going around town returning his neighbor's trash cans to their homes on garbage day. All because it's a nice thing to do.
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 9:30 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 10:28 PM CDT
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NEW LISBON, Wis. (WMTV) -Thursday is trash day in the city of New Lisbon in Juneau County. When all the garbage cans are empty and left by the curb, one man makes it his mission to put them back to where they belong.

“I mean he does it all on his own. He doesn’t ask for anything and it’s just neat,” said Kris Koca, the mother of Nate Koca.

For the past 20 years plus, Nate hops on his trusty tricycle and rides around town. He goes house-to-house walking trash cans back up to his neighbors’ homes.

“Well, he gets up in the morning, gets dressed, has his breakfast and he waits until he sees the garbage cans have been emptied and just starts,” said Kris.

Today, Nate is 42-years-old and living on his own. But two weeks after he was born, doctors diagnosed him with Down Syndrome.

“I remember crying. Now what’s going to happen?” Kris said about the diagnosis. “I mean when he was born, they wanted to shuffle him off to a home and it was like ‘gee, let’s not do that’ and he was such a good baby, such a good baby,”

When Nate was in early twenties, his late father Ernie brought up the idea about bringing in the trash cans.

“After supper, we would always jump in the pickup truck and go for a ride and look for deer,” said Kris. “We were coming back one evening and it had been windy and there were garbage cans in the middle of the street. Ernie said ‘it’s too bad someone doesn’t pick those up’ and Nathan decided that was something he could do,”

Nate Koca's father Ernie thought someone should go around returning trash cans to where they...
Nate Koca's father Ernie thought someone should go around returning trash cans to where they belonged. Nate took it upon himself to get the job done(Kris Koca)

Neighbors like Kris Larson are benefitting from Nate’s weekly community service.

“And it is very helpful at times, especially when it’s windy,” said Larson.

Larson has lived next to Nate for the past four years and they have become friends in the process.

“When I walk past the house, Nate opens the door and he will tell me ‘I see you!’ And I have to go haha!” said Larson.

The City of New Lisbon recently took notice of Nate’s niceness. He was named the 2021 Citizen of the Year by the chamber of commerce.

“Everyone thought Nate was really deserving of it,” said Jessica Bilski, the executive director for the New Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce. “You know, we need to know that good things are out there, and good people are out there,”

“He deserves every ounce of that,” added Larson. “He’s just an all-around good guy, he really is,”

“He makes me feel awesome. He’s super nice, he’s always waving. He’s great for the community, that’s what I say he is,” said Hal Schneider, a garbage collector who works for LSI Garbage Services out of Mauston.

If you miss him on Thursdays, you might catch him working at the local Kwik Trip with a big smile on his face.

“Everyone knows Nate,” added Bilski. “I mean, he’s just friendly, he’s a hard worker, he’s trying to get things done, he’s got things to do and he’s going to get them done. That’s Nate,”

Nate spends several hours every Thursday stopping at dozens of homes. And he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Koca recently received the distinction by the New Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce
Koca recently received the distinction by the New Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce(New Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce)

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