South Carolina's largest one-day volunteer cleanup is less than three weeks away, but organizers hope that residents, particularly adult team leaders, will sign up now to maximize the effort.

If you go

What: 26th South Carolina Beach Sweep/River Sweep, coordinated by S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

When: 9 a.m. - noon Sept. 20.

Where: Locations include beaches, rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps.

Needs: Volunteers, especially adult volunteer coordinators willing to take on areas in need, to sign up as soon as possible. Also donations to cover the costs of supplies for the cleanup.

Contact: Susan Ferris Hill at or (843) 953-2092. Also, Bill Marshall at

Online: Find out more at

Beach Sweep/River Sweep will celebrate its 26th year on the morning of Sept. 20 when thousands of volunteers will fan out along its beaches, rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps, collect man-made debris and trash, and record it for the sake of research.

Stats from 2013

Here are some tallies from the Beach Sweep/River Sweep in coastal counties of Beaufort, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown and Horry:

4,391 volunteers, including 1,779 children, picked up 33,646 pounds of trash from nearly 203 miles of land.

Of those who volunteered by watercraft, 167 adults and children picked up 3,020 pounds of trash along nearly 25 miles of waterway.

Source: S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Susan Ferris Hill, the sweep's coastal coordinator at the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, said the cleanup is an opportunity for residents to show appreciation for the beauty of the Palmetto State's rivers and beaches.

To that end, Hill said organizers need adult site captains and volunteers to sign up two to three weeks before the sweep takes place. She also wants people "willing to tackle a needy area we don't currently have covered," some that she knows of and others that people may suggest.

The earlier people volunteer the better.

"This helps us greatly with logistics because from the (Sept.) 10th on, we're packaging supplies to ship to site captains outside of Charleston, as well as putting together supplies for Charleston-area site captains to pick up," Hill said.

In addition to volunteers, she also is seeking donations.

"A cleanup on this scale has costs. I'd love to hear from any environmentally conscious company that can donate to our cause. We do have some longtime donors, and I am extremely grateful for their contributions, but the economic downturn and slow recovery has made things difficult.

"So the better we have it planned, the smoother everything will be. Of course, if someone calls or emails me on the Thursday or Friday before, I will do my very best to either offer them several cleanup locations at which they can help or set them up as a site captain for an area we don't have covered."

Beach Sweep/River Sweep takes place in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy, which tallies debris data.

The Palmetto State's cleanup, organized by the Sea Grant Consortium and S.C. Department of Natural Resources, has taken place annually since 1988 when Sea Grant first started it as a beach sweep. It skipped the following year when Hurricane Hugo hit the day before the second.

For many, Beach Sweep/River Sweep has become an annual ritual.

While Hill has been the coordinator for Beach Sweep for 13 years, starting in 2001, she knows volunteers who have pitched in from the beginning. She added, "These people are stars - true role models."

Mary Bell, historical education coordinator at Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner, has been coordinating river sweeps at the park since 1991.

Unlike beach sweeps, which tend to get plenty of volunteers, Bell said she never gets enough volunteers. Typically a dozen or so show up at old Santee Canal Park, where they go out in kayaks and hike the trails.

One year in the late 1990s, a tornado hit Moncks Corner and volunteers found an array of debris, from dishes to building supplies, strewn across the park. But the biggest problem is more routine - trash blowing off people's boats and coming off of parking lots during storms.

Dawn Davis, chief of interpretation and education at Fort Sumter National Monument and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, said the monument staff have been involved since the beginning and that she was the Sullivan's Island coordinator from 1992 until about four or five years ago. She still helps as a mentor.

"This event is one of my favorite events that the park does," Davis said. "We get a lot of families, school groups, scout groups and even some businesses allow employees to come out to volunteer."

Over the years, Davis said some have been memorable, including the first one her daughter went on as a 2-week-old newborn and the time a student found an injured bird.

"With the help of her parent, they were able to safely contain the bird until a person with one of the bird rescue groups could come out and take care of it. The young girl would not leave until the person arrived and she knew the bird would be cared for. This was well into the afternoon," Davis said.

Because litter is a year-round problem, Beach Sweep/River Sweep is often viewed as an annual awareness campaign.

"Picking up trash at the beach or along a sidewalk is always a good thing to help our environment. We should always make sure we also take care of our own trash when we go out to enjoy a day at the beach or a park," Davis said.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.