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Local group gathers 40 tons of trash
Keep Hall Beautiful passed goal in July and kept collecting
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Keep Hall Beautiful officials who set a goal to collect 10 tons of garbage in 2010 found out this week that they far surpassed their mark, bringing in more than 40 tons for the year.

After restructuring the office at the end of last year, the cleanup group decided to set a specific goal for the first time and watch what developed.

"We decided to come in with what we should shoot for because you always like to set goals and where you want to be," said Cindy Reed, the group's executive director. "By July we had already met the goal, so we thought ‘OK, let's do 20 tons for 2010' and still did better than expected."

During the office reorganization, Scott Broome became the project coordinator who sets up all the volunteer cleanups in the county, including at least two per month. Sometimes the office organizes two per weekend.

"We weren't used to working with adults and had only used juveniles in the past, so a new program working with the court system was wonderful," Reed said. "It makes a world of difference, especially with the youth program, because we pair them with groups that volunteer, and they can see their peers coming out and helping."

The group racked up more than 1,050 adult community service hours, 477 youth community service hours and 790 volunteers this year.

"It gives both the community service workers and volunteers a sense of pride, and some people come back after they serve their hours and volunteer more," she said. "It's a wonderful program to show kids how to have pride in their community."

As 2011 approaches, Reed is thinking of the next program ideas and goals to tackle.

"I feel like our program will grow even more because this was the first year we started doing the program this way," she said. "This year, snow canceled some events, and sometimes it was so hot you couldn't stay out for long, but I feel like we'll be able to exceed this year by 50 percent."

That could mean 60 tons of litter in 2011 from Hall County's streets and streams.

"Litter has been a major problem in our community, but it's becoming less and less of a problem as people become educated," said Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann, who also serves as secretary for Keep Hall Beautiful. "Volunteers go out and clean nearly every day. This is our best year ever in history."

It can only get better next year as the group continues its public education efforts, he noted.

"We try to tell people why it's good to keep litter off the streets. It's a proven fact that communities that are freer and cleaner of litter are more crime-free," he said. "One success begets another, and our volunteers are out there whether it's 100-degree or 10-degree weather."

Keep Hall Beautiful officials are already making plans for the Great American Cleanup months, which Keep America Beautiful will host nationwide March 1 through May 31.