COLUMBIA — Bret Stegeman moved to Columbia last year to be closer to Jefferson City, where he was raised.
But he wanted to become involved in the community and thought the yearly Cleanup Columbia event would be the perfect way to start.
Stegeman was trailing the west part of Broadway with Pat Seitz and her daughter, Kati Seitz, and a couple, Sarah Pieper and Brennen Kuchler, as part of the Cleanup Columbia trash pick-up event on Saturday. One thousand five hundred seventy volunteers were signed up to participate.
"I have to do this for school," Pieper said. She is studying biological sciences, as is Kati Seitz.
"And I'm dragging him along with me," Pieper continued, grabbing Kuchler's arm. He laughed.
"It's not too bad," Kuchler said.
"At least it's a beautiful day," Pat Seitz said. "We beat the rain."
Kati Seitz, 20, was the coordinator for this small group. She was obtaining service hours for the MU Pi Eta chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the biological honor society. The group members clutched green trash bags, which they slowly filled with trash as they inched down Broadway next to a rush of cars and the occasional honk of appreciation.
They found all sorts of trash: paper, food — even condom wrappers.
"I really can't believe some of the things people throw out on to the ground," Kati Seitz said.
But cigarette butts were the most frequent pieces of trash found. Kati Seitz held an 8-inch-by-12-inch manila folder filled to the top with dirty cigarette butts.
The group turned around at the light on the corner of West Boulevard and Broadway. Kati Seitz walked next to her mother and Stegeman, heading back toward downtown.
She bent down and rustled something in the grass.
"A remote?" she said, laughing. She held up an abandoned television remote, coated with dirt and grass.
Cleanup Columbia doesn't just happen downtown. Groups picked up trash at the Forum entry point of the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail, Rock Quarry Park, Fairview Park and Nifong Park. Groups of three and four sometimes dotted sidewalks next to main roads from Providence Road to Clark Lane.
Volunteers took their trash to the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.
The Seitzes and Stegeman kept on their way down Broadway as the sun crowned the sky around 1 p.m. Kati Seitz said it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.
"Well, you get exercise, for one," she said. "But there's also that feeling you always get with volunteering. It's that feeling, you know, that you're not just doing something for yourself. Even if it's just a couple hours."