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Volunteers turn out for beach cleanup
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Organizers of the coastal cleanup keep busy at the sign in desk as volunteers show up to help clean the Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – When volunteer Phil Wrobel and organizer Randy Schwab showed up at 8 a.m. to begin to set up for the Great American beach cleanup, there was already a lineup of people waiting to get out there to start picking up trash.

“This was the earliest I’d ever seen people out and waiting for us to show,” said Wrobel. “There is more this time than ever and we’re thrilled with the turnout.”

The annual event was held on Saturday, March 15 in Indian Rocks Beach. As usual it attracted groups of people to help clean the beach, particularly volunteers from schools. Tara Croft of Seminole is a parent and president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at the Plato Academy in Seminole. Twenty-five parents and children from the school showed up to pick up trash.

“The kids who come out here are learning about safety,” she said. “They also learn about being a good citizen and how important it is to do community work. We’ve been coming here for three years now because the community service is really important.”

Croft and her son Aidan, 6, picked up plenty of trash and as usual she said cigarette butts were plentiful. They also picked up a lot of discarded paper towels and plastic bags.

Nearby walking the beach with their yellow trash bags were friends Emily Amaro, 13, and Katie Murray, 12, both of Largo. Amaro said between them they collected some unusual items.

“We found a bat and a wiffle ball,” she said. “We also have a pair of cutoff jeans some bottles and plastic bags.”

Both girls said what they were doing was important.

“I think it tells everyone to be safe,” said Murray. “It brings the community together and it is good exercise walking the beach and collecting the trash, I’d definitely do it again.”

“Getting rid of the garbage is good for the animals,” said Amaro. “We’re out here on our own and we’re learning something along the way.”

There is something different this year with the Great American Cleanup. The University of South Florida and Georgia State University school of Art and Design will be picking through the trash and selecting marine-related junk to turn into a sculpture. The effort is supported by the Keep Pinellas Beautiful organization and as part of it volunteers were given colored trash bags so they were clearly visible on the beach.

Kira Barrera and her soon to be son Erden Robbins, 9, came across the bridge from Largo to take part in the clean-up.

“This is our beach and I wish people would take pride in the beach and take care of it as much as we do,” she said. “We do wonder why people leave their trash behind on the beach; we don’t understand it.”

Barrera has been helping clean the beach for the past four years and said she’ll be back in the future. And like so many others she had a laundry list of trash she and her son picked up.

“We found a full watermelon,” she said. “We also found a red rubber ball and a large beach ball and lots of cigarette butts.”

Back at the sign-in table the organizers were busy tagging and sorting the trash bags as people came in from the beach. Wrobel was still talking about the early turnout of the volunteers.

“It was really amazing, there were so many people here so early,” he said. “We had roughly 75 people at this location alone. There were young and old, new residents and old residents, people of all types.”

Schwab, who had just run out of hamburgers for the volunteers, was still busy dishing out hot dogs. He, too, was pleased with the way the event went.

“The weather is great and I’m always happy when the kids come out and the Scouts take part in this. It has been a good morning,” he said.
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