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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of 150 volunteers came to Memphis to clean thousands of pounds of trash out of McKellar Lake.

Volunteers with Living Lands and Waters have been knee deep in their yearly project to clean up McKellar lake in Memphis.

“We’ve had plenty from the West Coast, the East Coast, a lot of Midwest,” said Leah Cafarelli, who is project manager for the organization. “Last week we had students from Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas.”

Normally, there are as many as three hundred student volunteers taking part from across the country. This year, however, the number of volunteers is down by about a half as the spread of the coronavirus has forced many colleges and universities to impose travel bans.

Organizers of Living Lands and Waters tell us they fully understand the travel concerns and place the highest priority on volunteer health and safety.

“A lot of our student volunteers won’t be joining us,” Cafarelli said. “We want to keep everyone safe and health.”

The group was still able to get about 150 volunteers to make the trip to Memphis, collecting around 43,000 pounds of trash so far.

It’s still an experience volunteers say they wouldn’t miss for the world.

“I grew up on the Mississippi in St. Paul, pretty close to the headwaters,” said Mitzi Peine, who is one of the volunteers. “It’s incredible being down here in Memphis, seeing where things from my hometown end up, and the impact actions have further upstream.”

Organizers say regardless of how many or how few volunteers there are, the cleanup will stay on track.

“We’re just gonna stay healthy and stay positive and keep doing the work, whether we have volunteers or not,” Cafarelli said.