More than 1,300 volunteers participated in Cleanup Columbia on Saturday, an annual event where people all over the city pick up litter along streets, streams and trails.
Leigh Kottwitz, the neighborhood services manager for the city of Columbia, coordinates the event every year in partnership with the city’s volunteer program staff. She said the best part about Cleanup Columbia is that it brings people together.
“For the participants, there is a lot of power in being a part of an event where hundreds of other volunteers are also a part of, and volunteers really enjoy being a part of a large event like this where it’s not just their effort, but it’s multiplied by hundreds of other people that are doing something similar to what they’re doing,” Kottwitz said.
Volunteering for events like this, she said, helps residents feel pride in their own communities.
Meg Brown, a longtime volunteer and teacher at Columbia Public Schools, has been bringing her classes to Cleanup Columbia for over 15 years.
She said the event helps her teach students the value of sacrifice.
“Saturday morning’s busy – they have soccer, they have softball, they have swimming lessons, they have all kinds of different activities,” Brown said. “And they choose to sacrifice something else that they’d rather be doing to come and make a difference and clean up, and we talk about sacrifice in class, so I think my favorite part is just the number of kids that take that sacrifice and make a difference."
While volunteer turnout rates have remained stable in recent years, Kottwitz said she hopes to see more clean up sites covered next April.
Cleanup Columbia is held the second Saturday of every April. This was the twentieth annual event.