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Local couple checks off 30th year of helping to clean Boone lake as they clean with other volunteers at annual event

Hannah Swayze • Updated Apr 29, 2018 at 12:05 PM

Bobby and Sylvia Rotenberry have been married for 54 years. For 30 of those years, they’ve joined volunteers to help clean up Boone Lake — pulling on gloves and digging in the dirt to clean the lake that sits, literally, in their backyard.

Though this year marks the 19th Annual Boone Lake Association Clean Up Day, the Rotenberrys have been doing their part since 1987, only missing in 1988 — and they have the T-shirts from each year to prove it.

"We missed the year my mother died, she died on the day of the cleanup but we've been here every year since," said Sylvia.

"We think it's important. We really want to support them, we believe it's the right thing to do, and there's no shortage of garbage."

The yearly cleanup day has been sponsored by others, but 19 years ago was taken over by the Boone Lake Assocation. The organization hosts the daylong cleanup every year.

That day started at 9 a.m., when volunteers gathered at one of the seven stations around the lake and spent several hours gathering trash.

The Rotenberrys were two of an average of about 200 volunteers every year.

Val Kosmider, first vice president of the Boone Lake Association, says there's basically no limit to what people may pull out of the lake.

"Usually we get about 15 to 20 tons of junk out of the lake on clean-up day," said Kosmider. "If you can imagine it, it's in there."

As they clean, volunteers receive a ticket for each bag of trash they deliver to the site-designated dumpsters, except for tires and propane tanks, which are recycled or disposed of separately. The tickets are used in a drawing at a picnic organized by the association where volunteers are treated to a meal and draw tickets for gift cards for something they call "Trash for Cash."

Thanks to sponsors from the area like Johnson City Parks, Bristol Motor Speedway, Food City, Tennessee Valley Authority and many more, prizes for the drawings were 35 $45 cash prizes.

The grand total of all the "junk" pulled out of the lake will be released by the organization later in the week.

To learn more about the Boone Lake Association, visit the boonelakeassociation.org.

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