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Americans clean up their country

April 28, 2012 at 11:36 PM

LOS ANGELES, April 28 (UPI) -- Thousands of Americans went outside Saturday and picked up some of the trash littering the countryside, Great American Cleanup organizers said.

The non-profit group Keep America Beautiful, which sponsored the Great American Cleanup "National Day of Action," said about 10,000 people were expected to take part across the United States, CNN reported.

"Oh my goodness. The volunteers, the energy, the enthusiasm. To watch the kids learn how to plant a tree was amazing to watch. It becomes theirs," Gail Cunningham, senior vice president of Keep America Beautiful and managing director of the Great American Cleanup, told the news network. "It brought nature alive for the volunteers."

The Los Angeles River in California was among the targets for the clean-up effort. About 450 people scoured the river bank and filled up 400 bags with trash. Shelly Backlar of the Friends of the Los Angeles River group said the volunteers also pulled out a king-size mattress and a wheelbarrow.

"People are saying they can't believe what they are finding," Backlar said. "Everyone is smiling and really enjoying the river."

Volunteers turned out to clean up in Oakland, Calif.; Cocoa, Fla.; Indianapolis; Cobb County, Ga.; Hampton Roads, Va.; Houston; Shreveport, La.; Philadelphia; and Nashville .

CNN said more than 177 million pounds of litter and debris was picked up during last year's effort.

"When people get their hands dirty and get engaged, they care more for the environment and their community," Christine Flowers, executive director of Keep California Beautiful, said. "Volunteers learn something new and it gives them passion and fire to better the environment."

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