Columbians to help with city cleaning

Friday, April 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

For Amy Gundy, volunteerism runs in the family. And that’s part of the reason a record number of groups have signed up for Cleanup Columbia 2004.

The annual event is set for Saturday as part of a city-sponsored effort to encourage volunteerism and keep the city litter-free.

The Gundy family has participated in the event every year since 1999 and are “veterans” of five cleanups. Gundy’s parents brought her to volunteer activities frequently as a child, and she hopes to do the same with her two children.

Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for the city’s Office of Volunteer Services, said the number of volunteers who have pre-registered to participate in the event is the highest since the event was first held in 1997.

“It is one event that people feel that they can be part of, in which they feel community pride,” said Nutter, who has organized the previous five events, “and it’s a great way for people to give back to the community.”

Nutter said 140 groups signed up to volunteer on Saturday morning until noon. If the turnout holds up, an estimated 1,350 volunteers will pick up trash from locations all over Columbia, including streets, city parks, the MKT Trail and Rock Quarry Park.

The annual event is organized by the City of Columbia Office of Volunteer Services in conjunction with the Public Works Department.

For participants of the event, the cleanup is more than just keeping the city trash-free.

Family bonding sessions, neighborhood get-togethers, club meetings and spending time with friends are just some of the reasons Columbia residents say they will turn up in droves this year.

Nutter said the Office of Volunteer Services was pleased with the strong response, especially after the figures dipped slightly the last two years.

Although she is optimistic about the turnout, Nutter also said she anticipates the turnout Saturday to be less than the number registered.

“Sometimes, people sign up with the best intentions to participate, but might not be able to make it on the day due to personal reasons,” she said.

The event would already be a “great success,” she said, even if 1,100 to 1,200 people took part.

Sarah Dixon, a retiree, plans to take part in the event this year with her 12-year-old grandson, James, for the first time.

To Dixon, the event is an opportunity to spend time with him and teach him the value of volunteerism.

“I looked for things that we could do together, and this was one of those things,” she said.

The increase in participation comes as no surprise to Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center in Columbia. The center helps coordinate volunteer needs for agencies in the community.

Mustard said last year the agency referred close to 7,300 people to volunteer agencies. This was a jump of more than 900 volunteers from the previous year’s figures.

“I think people are getting more attuned to how they can help out in their community,” she said, “People are taking a larger interest in their community and responding to the needs out there.”

Participants in the annual event range from the Girl Scouts to the Boone County unit of the Retired Teachers Association. Several church groups have also signed up.

The Gundy family is one such example. Amy Gundy said her two children enjoy it so much that they always ask about the event in advance. They have no regrets about giving up a Saturday morning to pick up litter.

“We are proud of our city and we want to make sure it is clean,” Gundy said.

Although the registration deadline for the event has closed, interested volunteers can still participate by picking up the litter from areas around their home and placing it with their trash.

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