Angelica Nichols, 9, left, looks at a piece of litter as Arianna Matheny, 10, middle, and Paola Lima, 10, right, look on at the Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-off Saturday morning on Westcliff Road in Killeen.

By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald

Squeals and shouts from members of Killeen Girl Scout Troop 6403 echoed along Westcliff Road Saturday morning as 10 volunteers picked up trash for the first time on their newly adopted street.

As the search expanded, they triumphantly announced their finds and held them up for inspection — plastic, paper bags, newspapers and juice bottles — before stuffing them into large, black, plastic bags. For the girls, it was a treasure hunt of epic proportions.

“I’m finding water bottles and tissues and all this other stuff,” said Arianna Matheny, 10. “I’ve cleaned up streets a lot of times because I like saving the world. Trash kills trees, and if the trees are gone, we’ll run out of oxygen and die. I want to keep the world alive.”

The Girl Scouts were part of a volunteer crew of Killeen residents picking up trash in the state’s largest one-day litter collection event. The Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-Off, organized by the Texas Department of Transportation and Keep Texas Beautiful, compiled local efforts to clean up the state’s rights-of-way, parks, rivers and drainage ways.

In 2011, nearly 76,000 volunteers participated in 848 Trash-Off events across the state, cleaning more than 6,000 miles of highway. Volunteer efforts collected nearly 6 million pounds of trash.

In Killeen, more than 650 volunteers participated last year, collecting about 8,220 pounds of trash along more than 121 miles of roadways. In Copperas Cove, more than 60 residents went roadside to collect litter. The annual event is organized by Keep Killeen Beautiful.

Will Brewster, the city’s director of volunteer services, said more than 500 volunteers signed up for this year’s event, which covered 71 miles of roadways and three parks — Long Branch, Lions Club and Condor. The volunteers included civic groups, churches, children’s organizations, military members and individuals.

“This is excellent support to the community,” said Brewster. “This event keeps our neighborhoods beautiful, makes the environment safe, offers an opportunity for community service and builds pride.”

Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock commended the volunteers — especially the youth — for participating in the event. Hancock said he was proud of their willingness to contribute something positive to the community.

Dariusomar Stephens, 14, was part of a 15-member group representing the Killeen NAACP that helped clean the downtown area near city hall. Stephens said he volunteered because he wanted to make the city safer and cleaner.

“We need more trees and less trash to stop global warming,” said Stephens, “We’re helping the earth by doing this, and that makes me feel good.”

Rosemary Horan, 9, and her father, David Horan, showed up at the event to volunteer their services wherever they were needed.

“My dad said if you’re a good kid, you’ll want to clean up the environment,” said Rosemary Horan. “So I plan to help clean up Killeen. I have a book at home that says some animals are coming back from being almost extinct. Doing environmental things like this helps make that happen.”