COLUMBIA — Just think of all the debris you see on a daily basis: white shopping bags fluttering through the air, cigarette butts lining the sidewalks and glass bottles and cans punctuating the grass at city parks.
Saturday's Cleanup Columbia effort brought out hundreds of residents to clear away all that refuse and rubbish.
More than 1,600 people signed up to volunteer for the annual Cleanup Columbia. They represented 138 different groups, according to Leigh Britt, neighborhood services manager. Just more than 1,500 bags of trash were collected.
Beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing until the lunch celebration at noon, the groups picked up litter along Columbia's streets, trails, streams and parks.
"Cleanup Columbia is a beautiful way to start the spring season and beautify the area," said Dean Hainsworth, who volunteered in Nifong Park with a group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About 35 people trawled through the park for litter with bright-orange trash bags in their hands.
Children as young as 6 volunteered alongside friends and family.
"It's good to get the kids out, teach them how to work and to respect their community," said Josh Britton, who volunteered at the park with two of his children.
He said kids and adults are a part of the Columbia community, and it is everybody's responsibility to keep the area clean.
"Cleanup Columbia is an opportunity for hundreds of members of our community to come together, doing the same thing, building community pride," Britt said.
But for 6-year-old Derek Chapdelaine, participating in Cleanup Columbia was an opportunity to make the world cleaner.
"Littering can make the world yucky," he said.
The light breeze kept the participants cool at Nifong Park as they walked through fallen leaves and heard the crunching of branches. While kids ran through the park, laughing and shouting in the air, they picked up some larger pieces of litter.
Sariah Britton, 9, found a large plastic wrapping in the woods. As she picked it up, she had to wrestle the 4-foot length of plastic into her trash bag as it blew in the wind.
Volunteers also found many liquor bottles and trash from the streets, along with two car tires, several shingles and two 6-foot long strips of house siding.
"We found an old sock," Hainsworth said early on in the trash pickup. "That's the most exciting thing we found so far."
Kids and adults alike had the same mindset: beautify Columbia. Picking up the litter, they said, would help plants and animals and make Columbia a better place to live.
Britt said that MU was also involved in the city's cleanup project. The university's volunteer effort, Caring for Columbia, sent out about 1,100 volunteers into the community Saturday working in various capacities.
"The immediate impact is taking care of our environment," Britt said. "Keeping our community clean."
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