LEESBURG, Ga. -- There's nothing like a little of the good, old-fashioned personal touch to get people involved.
With a number of volunteers, Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn and City Councilwoman Judy Powell notable among them, knocking on doors and personally recruiting volunteers to pitch in, some 80 civic-minded citizens took part in Lee County's Great American Cleanup Saturday. And the results were exceptional.
"We collected around two tons of garbage during last year's Great American Cleanup," said Powell, who made the annual nationwide event her kickoff to a planned downtown revitalization effort. "This year, we collected more than 11 tons.
"I'm so proud of the community and wanted to personally thank everyone involved."
Chief Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright, who is the backbone of the annual cleanup effort in Lee County, said a number of factors contributed to the success of the cleanup effort.
"We spread the word as effectively as we could this year, but I think a lot of it had to do with the leadership of officials like Mayor Quinn and Councilwoman Powell," Wright said. "They got personally involved, and their efforts paid off.
"We actually had three parts to this year's cleanup: the trash pickup, a prescription drug takeback and an amnesty day for old household appliances and goods. Last year we didn't even get one truckload (of amnesty goods), but this year we made several trips to the landfill."
County citizens also turned in 50 pounds of outdated and unusable prescription drugs that were handed over to the Drug Enforcement Agency to be destroyed properly.
"We want to educate the public about the dangers of having these old drugs around the house where they can potentially be abused or accidentally taken by a child," Wright said. "Twice a year Code Enforcement, the Sheriff's Office and the police departments in Leesburg and Smithville take part in the takeback so that these chemicals can be properly disposed of.
"A lot of people flush the drugs or dump them down their drain, but our wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat these chemicals, so they are discharged into our streams."
Wright said groups like Lee County High School's Junior ROTC program, Family Connections and the Leesburg Police Department-affiliated Explorers played huge roles in the cleanup effort; while businesses like Lee County Auto Service, the Smithville 66 service station and J&E Restaurant accepted old oil, auto batteries and cooking grease for proper disposal.
"We collected more debris this year than we have in several other years combined," Wright said. "It was a tremendous community effort."
The downside for Powell?
"After Saturday, I was driving on Peach (Street) and I saw a McDonald's bag thrown onto the road," she said. "I can't tell you how disappointed I was."