MANATEE — Susie Copeland and Jerry Nelson tossed beer bottles, plastic bottles and other assorted trash into bags Saturday as they walked along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue East.
As members of the Manatee County Community Action Team, they did their part during the Great American Cleanup to keep their adopted road clean.
“We have to take pride in our community,” said Copeland. “What better road to clean. It’s the gateway to the community.”
The Great American Cleanup is a nationwide community improvement program orchestrated by Keep America Beautiful. Cleanup events take place in communities all over the country — such as in Manatee County from March 1 to May 31.
Last year during the Great American Cleanup in Manatee County, 1,611 volunteers walked 389 miles of highways, streets, and shoreline, and picked up 121,592 pounds of trash, according to Keep Manatee Beautiful, the organization that coordinates the local cleanup event.
Of that number, 2,146 pounds were plastic bottles, 2,147 pounds were aluminum cans and other metal, and included 46 tires.
Not only did volunteers clean specifically designated roadways, parks, neighborhoods and beaches on Saturday, but residents were encouraged as well to clean up their own yards and neighborhoods.
In Palmetto, three dumpsters were located around the city so people could deposit their trash.
And then after spending the day cleaning up, volunteers were invited to Lamb and Sutton Parks for free hot dogs, hamburgers, music and a children’s bounce house at the annual Multi Cultural Festival, sponsored by the City of Palmetto.
Last year, more than 200 people attended the festival following the cleanup, according to Geoff Seger, director of parks and recreation for Palmetto.
Kailyn Baker, Lilina Baron, and Lawana Peterson planned to attend the event after they finished cleaning up Riverside West along the Manatee River shoreline in Palmetto. They were a few of the teens volunteering for the Great American Clean Up.
They volunteered because they wanted to help their community and help make the river cleaner, said Peterson, 16, a junior at Palmetto High School. Trash gets in the river that can harm the sea life, she said.
“You don’t see all the plastic in the water,” said Peterson.
Picking up trash was one way teens could give back to their community and help the environment, said Baron, 14, a freshman at Braden River High.
“More people can enjoy the parks without all the beer bottles all over the grass,” she said.
The trio found lots of beer bottles, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, cigarette butts, and even a few sandals. All in all, they collected about a large bag each before finishing.
Baker, 15, a freshman at Bayshore High, called the trash “pretty gross.” “People are pretty careless throwing their trash all over the place,” she said.
About a dozen volunteers from the Zeta Phi Beta sorority were cleaning up a portion of U.S. 41 near the green bridge, just a part of the five miles of road they adopted to clean up more than 10 years ago, said Rebecca McCall, chairwoman for the clean up effort.
The Adopt-a-Road and Adopt-A-Highway programs are some of the ongoing cleanup programs offered through Keep Manatee Beautiful in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation and Keep Florida Beautiful. Community organizations can adopt a road or highway to keep clean throughout the year.
Zeta Phi Beta members hoped their clean up efforts would inspire others to do the same, said McCall. They did get lots of support from people in cars passing by, and one woman actually stopped to thank them, she said.
“It is important to keep our community clean,” said McCall. “We keep the community clean for ourselves, our youth, and to make our community a better place.”