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Weather, volunteers make annual Chipper event a success

Staff Photo: John Bohn Anne McPeters, of Dacula, center, works to move a Christmas tree to a wood chipper station during a recycling event put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday. At center right is William Stary, of Tucker. Both are volunteering at the event.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Anne McPeters, of Dacula, center, works to move a Christmas tree to a wood chipper station during a recycling event put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday. At center right is William Stary, of Tucker. Both are volunteering at the event.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Logan Peninger, 15, of lawrenceville, hauls a discarded Christmas tree off of a large pile of trees awaiting placement into a wood chipper during a Christmas tree recycling event put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday. Peninger was one of many young volunteers working at the event.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Ben Ducato, of Townsend Tree Services, front, loads discarded Christmas trees into a wood chipper during a Christmas tree recycling event put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday. At rear left is Cody Etris. Volunteers assisted in moving the trees to several wood chipper stations.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Volunteers assist in hauling discarded Christmas trees to wood chipping stations during a Christmas tree recycling event put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- As volunteer projects go, this is one of the most popular.

The 29th annual Christmas tree recycling event at Bethesda Park put on by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful saw a perfect combination of nice weather and a large crowd of volunteers on Saturday morning. GCB Board member Randy Dellinger said 150 volunteers worked the event where about 20,000 trees were chipped into mulch by five trucks donated by Jackson EMC, Walton EMC and Georgia Power. Those companies also donated employees' time to help at the event.

GCB executive director Connie Wiggins said Gwinnettians have recycled more than 1.4 million trees since the program began in 1984. The trees chipped on Saturday into mulch at Bethesda Park were brought from 30 drop-off locations from Dec. 26 to Jan. 18. Wiggins said for the last nine years, Gwinnettians have recycled the most trees in the state, and Gwinnettians recycle one of out every six trees in the state.

The mulch will be used for walking trails and to beautify Gwinnett parks, Wiggins said.

It's the fourth year Dellinger, who works for Jackson EMC, has participated in the "Bring one for the chipper" program, and he called that combination of weather and volunteers "fantastic," especially considering last year's event was postponed because of possible tornadoes in the area.

"We have a good relationship with the schools, so we have no trouble getting volunteers," Dellinger said. "I look forward to it. It's fun to do this."

Mill Creek High School alumni Talia Knapp and Anne McPeters, set to graduate this spring from Georgia Tech, said this is also their fourth year being involved. They brought several students from the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Georgia Tech.

McPeters said she was happy to see plenty of high school students involved. To her, the importance of saving landfill space made the project worth it, but the mulched trees also smell nice and look pretty.

Knapp agreed.

"It's a couple hours of work, but you feel really good," Knapp said. "It's a lasting impression. If anything I like being young and feeling like I'm contributing to my community."

Delliger added that he was happy to see so many "suburbanite" kids get out on a Saturday morning and do something productive.

Brenda McDaniel, an educator with GCB, said she works with 84 "green and healthy" schools, and this is one of the most popular events where students can earn volunteer hours. While the requirements vary by school, each school requires every student to reach a set number of volunteer hours per year, or during their four years at the school, McDaniel said.

"This is one of the kids' favorite events of all the ones to choose from," she said. "This is the one they want to be at."