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Keeping Tillsonburg Beautiful

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Paul DeCloet has been known to have planted a few trees over the years.

On Saturday, he was handing them out.

"Would you like a tree?" asked DeCloet, coordinator of the 10th annual Keep Tillsonburg Beautiful Day, handing out seedlings late Saturday morning at Memorial Park.

"These are maple trees, but with the wet weather we couldn't really prepare the site. But we will find a good home for them. Some of the children have taken one home to plant in their back yards or whatever."

"Can I have a tree?" asked one of the Tillsonburg Girl Guides.

"This is so good, when you can give a tree to a child and it will grow big just like them," said a beaming DeCloet. "When you plant a tree, you're putting your signature on it."

Although ground conditions were not good for planting maples, volunteers planted about 100 cedars with assistance from Town of Tillsonburg's Dave Phillips on the east end of Concession Street, pushing the 10-year total past 2,000.

"It's the 10th year we've done this and that's quite remarkable," said DeCloet, a member of Tillsonburg's Heritage, Beautification and Cemetery Committee, organizers of Keep Tillsonburg Beautiful Day. "It's been a very good day. Given the weather, we accomplished more than I thought we would."

DeCloet has had a lot of help over the years, not just from community volunteers who show up year after year for cleanups and tree planting, but also on the 'HBC' committee.

"Marion Smith, she's been on the committee for 10 year," noted DeCloet, "and I think she deserves special recognition.

"Kelly Batt, he does all the organizational work for the town. He's the contact person for all the sponsors and they play a vital role in our success. Even though they're not all here today, we do need to recognize them for the good they do for the long term benefit of the community. Everything we have here is donated."

Batt said community cleanup T-shirts, garden gloves, coffee, timbits and door prizes were all donated by Tim Hortons.

"They've been giving every year," said Batt. "They're awesome."

Ninety people registered Saturday, but DeCloet said more stopped by later in the morning raising it beyond 100.

"We have a lot of children here who have been here for several years and that's very important," said DeCloet. "It takes time to build community. Time and people."

"Last year we had about 120, but it was considerably warmer," said Batt, noting it was about 8 C Saturday morning.

"I was expecting 10 people this morning," DeCloet laughed.

"I was expecting less too," nodded Batt, surprised by a great turnout.

"They were told ahead of time it was an all-weather event," said Brownie leader Dorothy 'Brown Owl' Cooper. "We're all-weather campers, all-weather workers.

"It was a good turnout," she nodded. "But you know what, if there was only 10 people, it just would have meant more trees to plant for the 10 people. It would still get done. That's the name of the game – community service – plus it fills part of our badge requirements as well."

The Girl Guides were represented Saturday by the 2nd Tillsonburg Brownies, 2nd Tillsonburg Guides, 2nd Tillsonburg Sparks, 1st Tillsonburg Guides, and the Pathfinders. Scouts were represented by 3rd Tillsonburg Sea Scouts.

"We have quite a big email following now," said Batt. "Every year a few people give me their email addresses, so I add them to a mailing list and keep them updated, and they spread the word to their friends. It takes a few years to grow an event, then you've got a following and more and more people get into it."

Cleanups and tree planting dovetail nicely with Girl Guide and Sea Scout programs, said Batt.

"It's team building and they learn different skills. To me, that's really important."

Most of Saturday's cleanup took place around Lake Lisgar and Memorial Park.

"In other years we've ventured onto the trails," said Batt, "but this year with it being inclement, we stayed close to the pavilion."

Heading home to warm up, DeCloet said with a smile, "No. 11 next year."

chris.abbott@sunmedia.ca

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