By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
Around 2,500 area residents participated in the Don't Mess with Texas Trash-Off, marking the largest turnout for the event since Killeen began participating 13 years ago.
"Everybody really got out there to see how much trash accumulates," said Volunteer Services Director Beth Philyaw.
As of Saturday afternoon, nearly 400 bags of trash had been taken off city streets. Participants ranged from 2 to 88 years old.
The environmental awareness such an event gives to people is what Philyaw said she hopes will make residents more cautious of litter.
"All around, people were a little bit more informed and wanted to get involved," Philyaw said.
Keep Killeen Beautiful coordinators encouraged more people to sign up for Adopt-a-Highway programs and educated residents on how to report litterers to Keep Texas Beautiful.
A Keep Killeen Beautiful spokesperson said the organization can apply for beautification awards that could earn the city as much as $50,000.
With the cloud of being called a "scruffy" city still looming, city officials want residents to take initiative in changing that perception, Philyaw said.
Pvt. Thomas Harper with the 602nd Maintenance Company of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) said soldiers are given so much through Army Emergency Relief that this was just one way they tried to pay the community back.
Traveling along Fort Hood Street between Rancier Avenue and Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Harper said they picked up a lot of cigarette butts and broken beer bottles.
"We saw a lot of things that shouldn't have been out there," he said.
"It's interesting stuff that's making its way out there," said Volunteer Services Senior Secretary Sheri Watson.
Among the most interesting items found were a stun gun, a 1989 class ring, ammunition, and pregnancy tests.
The Youth Advisory Commission, which was picking up trash along its adopted roadway, Lake Road, found a DVD/VCR, among other things.
"The way we see it, if we don't clean up this community, no one's going to," said YAC Chairman Errol Reid.
The 16 YAC members who participated helped pick up eight bags of trash, he said.
Mayor Maureen Jouett was out early Saturday in the rainy mist with others along Avenue D and 761st Tank Battalion Avenue.
The city's effort in encouraging volunteers and its own examples of environmental stewardship are helping residents become more aware of their responsibilities in the community, Jouett said.
But people need to keep that mentality with them, she said.
"If people wouldn't throw the trash out on their streets, we wouldn't have to pick it up."
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org