Emily Cottrell was expecting to find liquor bottles when she spent St. Patrick’s Day cleaning up trash, but she didn’t expect to find a brand-new ID or part of a dashboard.
The trash was among several strange items that 100 cleaning crew volunteers scooped up at about 35 locations Saturday as part of the 2012 Great American Cleanup.
The participants joined Keep Alachua County Beautiful for the kickoff of Gainesville’s part in the national cleanup event, which will continue until May 31.
About 2,000 people are expected to contribute to Alachua County’s cleanup by the end of May, said Mickie MacKenzie, the executive director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful.
Hassan Jadid, 33, didn’t realize Saturday’s kickoff would involve cleaning. He was expecting an event encouraging people to volunteer for upcoming cleanups, so he came dressed in suit pants, a formal shirt and a tie so he would be ready for his afternoon shift at Shands at UF.
When he checked in at Westside Park that morning, Jadid laughed at his mistake, took off his tie and teamed up with Cottrell, 19, and Brittany Kroop, 20, to clean part of a neighborhood.
The team was given a box of 30-gallon garbage bags, neon orange vests and directions to the site in East Gainesville.
“I knew what I was signing up for,” Kroop said. “I just wasn’t expecting the amount of trash we found.”
In about two hours, the team gathered 10 bags of recyclables, 15 bags of trash, four tires and a card table from the side of the road and the surrounding woods, Cottrell said.
Across the nation, volunteer crews will clean roads, waterways, recreational areas and other places to help beautify their communities, said Peter O’Keefe, the national manager for the Great American Cleanup.
The national cleanup takes place in about 17,500 communities in 50 states and has about 4 million volunteers, O’Keefe said.
In Gainesville, the cleanup is a community-wide effort, said Kristin Buterbaugh, a 21-year old UF marketing senior and program coordinator for Keep Alachua County Beautiful.
The biggest group of volunteers is college students, she said.