COLUMBIA — At 8:30 this Saturday morning, Benton-Stephens resident Kristen Heitkamp will be in Lions-Stephens Park, armed with a trash bag and ready to work.
Heitkamp, along with other members of the neighborhood who want to volunteer, will be among the 1,937 volunteers and 152 groups throughout the city who are already registered to participate in the 12th annual Cleanup Columbia day.
“It’s just a small thing, picking up trash,” Heitkamp said. “But when people take responsibility for the small things, it accumulates. The community draws from the small successes.”
The Benton-Stephens group will begin working at 8:30 a.m. Other groups across Columbia will start at various times throughout the morning. Leigh Britt, volunteer coordinator for the city of Columbia, suggests that groups start before 11 a.m. to give themselves at least an hour, because all trash collection needs to be completed by noon. At noon, there is a free lunch for volunteers at Twin Lakes Recreation Area.
Rain or shine, the cleanup will take place. However, for groups or individuals that decide not to participate because of bad weather, April 26 has been set aside as an alternate cleanup day. Britt said groups should contact the Office of Volunteer Services if there is a different day they would like to volunteer, so that trash bag collection can be coordinated.
Cleanup Columbia volunteers will pick up trash, along with doing stream cleanup and graffiti removal.
“If volunteers go out and pick up the litter, it will make our city look better and show our community pride,” Britt said. “There’s something about being part of a big event when there’s so many people coming together to work for a common goal. There’s a lot of energy going into making our city look better. I think this makes it special and makes people proud.”
The Benton-Stephens group will be participating in a Missouri Stream Team litter pickup and getting rid of bush honeysuckle in the park. Gloves, trash bags, and Stream Team t-shirts will be provided for the Benton-Stephens volunteers by the Missouri Stream Team Program, a program that involves volunteers in a variety of projects from litter pickup to water quality monitoring.
“I think it’s so important to give something back to the neighborhood,” said Sarah Wolken, a Benton-Stephens resident who also works for the Stream Team Program and is helping coordinate the Benton-Stephens cleanup. “Everyone in the neighborhood has a certain affection for the park.”
For volunteers not working with that neighborhood group, the city provides trash bags and gloves, along with safety vests and signs when necessary.
Benton-Stephens residents who want to participate should stop by Lions-Stephens park on Saturday morning. For others not in the neighborhood who want to get involved, Britt suggests they visit the Office of Volunteer Services in the Gentry Building on 1 S. 7th Street during supply distribution on Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Britt said this volunteer project is for people of any age but it tends to attract children’s groups.
“Everything from school classes, scouts, or families,” Britt said. “Kids really get an appreciation for the fact that they shouldn’t litter.”
Although Cleanup Columbia is held annually, Britt encourages citizens to maintain the beauty of their city throughout the rest of the year.
“This is not the only opportunity people have to pick up trash,” Britt said. “People can get involved in our Adopt-A-Spot program or just have a special one-time project when they go out and pick up trash themselves.”