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Community Pride Day returns this weekend

It started with two women picking up trash as they walked and has morphed into a day where more than a hundred volunteers help keep the community clean.

The fourth annual Community Pride Day will be this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. It’s a day to collect the garbage and debris that’s collected during the winter and to clean city parks, trails, downtown and other public areas.

“The intent is to pick up the trash that winter has left behind in the city parks and downtown area,” said Steve King, who is on the organizing committee.

Organizer Lou Beckel and her Friend Mary Henry first got the idea to clean up Austin when they were walking around town. Beckel, who said she often walks four miles a day, was bothered by the trash she saw around town and started picking it up as she walked. She later asked if Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry would be willing to help organize an event to clean up the down town, and Community Pride Day was born.

Beckel said many people don’t realize how much trash accumulates over the winter, and it’s important to keep the community looking good.

In past years, as many as 200 volunteers have participated in the cleanup, Beckel said. More than 70 volunteers have already signed up, and more people are expected to participate Saturday. Volunteers will meet in the city pool parking lot at 9 a.m. Saturday for coffee, hot chocolate and doughnuts before being split into teams to clean up areas.

Even though this is the fourth year, King said there is still plenty of trash that accumulated over the winter to be cleaned up.

“I think it’s the best thing we have as far as cleaning up town,” King said.

King said he’s hoping the weather will cooperate Saturday, as rain is in the forecast.

“It’s a nice day,” King said. “It’s not complicated. You walk and pick up trash.”

Gloves and garbage bags are provided for the volunteers. As they pick up trash, they’ll leave the bags on the street. Organizers then drive trucks, which are provided for the day by Holiday Cars Inc. and Usem Inc., to pick up trash bags on the street corner and dump them in garbage bins donated by Waste Management.

Many scout, church and school groups volunteer each year for the clean up effort. For the second year, volunteers from the Austin Coalition for Environmental Sustainability plan to sort out recyclables from the garbage.

King said involvement and donations by local groups and businesses are a vital part of making the day a success.

While Beckel said it’s beneficial for planning if a crew signs up in advance, Beckel said volunteers can show up on Saturday to help even if they aren’t signed up. For more information or to register, contact the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry at (507) 433-1881. Volunteers are asked to arrive a little before 9 a.m. for coffee, doughnuts and hot chocolate, so work can start by 9 a.m.