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Only heartiest face rain for Kanawha cleanup

Lawrence Pierce
Tracey Todd and some of the Girl Scouts from Shoals Elementary pick up trash at the Great Kanawha River Cleanup on Saturday morning.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The three Shoals Elementary School students donned bright pink cloth gloves, armed themselves with trash-grabber tools and clambered over rocks toward the edge of the Kanawha River.

The Girl Scouts were three of the volunteers for Saturday's Great Kanawha River Cleanup.

"I think it's fun," Tori said. "Fun, while cleaning up and doing chores."

Girl Scout leaders had planned to bring about 40 girls to the event, but with the early morning rain, the event was made optional and only a few girls came with their families, Brownie Troop Leader Tracey Todd, Nola and Tori's mother, said.

"We use this as a community-service project," Todd said. It achieves one of the goals of the Girl Scouts, which is to "make the world a better place," she said.

Danny Haught, director of the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the river cleanup, knew as soon as he awoke Saturday and noticed the rain that there would not be as many volunteers as he had hoped, he said.

Haught's been organizing the annual cleanup for the past six years. Other volunteers for the event, which has taken place each year for more than two decades, told him this is the first time it's rained on the day of the event.

Although the rain had stopped by 9 a.m. when the event got under way, overcast skies threatened more rain and kept volunteer turnout low, he said.

"So far, our luck's been good," he said, "but you can see how [the rain] has affected our turnout because we only have a few volunteers, which is unfortunate."

Last year, about 100 volunteers helped out with the event, which took place at several spots along the Kanawha River. This year, close to 200 signed up to come. By 9:40 Saturday morning, though, only 11 were picking up trash at the Magic Island location, which is usually the most popular place, he said.

Volunteers also picked up trash along the river at Gauley Bridge, the boat docks in St. Albans, Daniel Boone Park, Campbells Creek and the locks and dam in Putnam County, Haught said.

Typically, many school groups and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts participate in the cleanup, Haught said.

"It's all about educating the children and protecting and preserving the environment," he said. "It works. I believe it does work."

Last year during the event, volunteers removed three and a half tons of garbage and debris from the riverfront, Haught said.

Gracie Hodge's mother Noel and sister Trinity also helped in the cleanup Saturday.

"We don't care about the rain," Noel Hodge said, adding that her family has come with Gracie's Girl Scout troop for the past few years. Saturday was the first time that Trinity, 5, had participated as a new Girl Scout member.

"It teaches [them] to take pride in [their] community," she said, "and to keep things clean for our next generation."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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