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Chris Oller, right, teases Heather Keep with a dirt-covered and corroded piece of finger armor they found Saturday on the side of Mingo Road during the annual Keep Denton Beautiful Great American Cleanup.
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More than 1,500 volunteers turned out in the warm sunshine and cool breeze Saturday to clean up more than 125 linear miles of designated roadways, waterways, parks and trails as part of the annual Keep Denton Beautiful Great American Cleanup.

In what organizers said was one of the most successful cleanups in years, the event was held later in the month than usual in conjunction with The Big Event, a nationally recognized day of service celebrated at the University of North Texas that brought an additional 500 volunteers to the effort.

“This is a great event to see what a visible impact one can have on their community by volunteering for just a couple hours,” said Lauren Barker, program manager for Keep Denton Beautiful. “The weather plays such a huge role, and with the long winter we have had this year, everyone is just itching to be outside ... in the nice weather.”

A sense of connectivity to the community and building a bond between one another were the draws for Girl Scouts Stacie Gray and Lexi Thedford, both 7, who helped clean up Mack Park alongside their parents and 5-year-old future Boy Scout J.J. Corona.

Moms Tanya Gray and Brandy Corona said the girls collected two bags of trash and two bags of recyclables, as well as a plastic container. This is the second cleanup in which the girls have participated.

The time spent Saturday was not only about keeping the community clean and building teamwork, but to show the girls the reality of life, the moms said.

“We find sleeping bags and all sorts of items out in the woods of the park, and it’s a lesson for them to learn there are people less fortunate out there,” Tanya Gray said.

Over the years, Barker said she has seen a transition in more youth coming out to volunteer and hopes this is a trend that continues.

“I am not sure if we will partner with [UNT] every year forward at the moment, but definitely hosting the cleanup later in the month helped our turnout,” she said.

Student assistants Everett Dealy and Aquil Randall, for Borman and Rivera elementary schools, said this was their second year participating in the event. They each oversaw three students from their respective campuses.

Dealy said his group brought in four bags of trash and one bag of recyclables. Randall said his group picked up three bags of trash.

By event’s end, 603 bags of trash and recyclables had been collected by the volunteers.

“I’m looking forward to going out and driving around Sunday and seeing how our once littered roadways are now totally clean,” Barker said. “I love the event for that reason.”

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.

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