Clean up week in Tuolumne and Ponderosa Hills began Sunday with 40 volunteers representing The Women's Improvement Society of Tuolumne removing everything from pine needles to swamp coolers.

This is the third year of the TWIST effort to assist Tuolumne residents in cleaning up the clutter in-and-around their homes. The service is free.

Watching a half dozen volunteers pick up "stuff" in front of his house, a Tuolumne resident said Sunday, "It's all just clutter now. I'm tired of tripping over it. After awhile it all becomes junk. If I had my way, I'd put out a lot more."

By Sunday night, the volunteers had taken nearly 20 trips to the dump and had a pile of scrap metal the size of two school buses, according to Terri Neher who coordinated the scavenger teams.

The annual event is especially helpful to residents because volunteers take anything. This year, volunteers were broken into six teams picking up e-waste and televisions; hazardous waste; household items such as furniture; scrap metal, tires and yard waste and slash. Those who participated in the clean up were very good about separating items for the targeted pick ups, Neher said.

Tuolumne does not have a drop-off location for hazardous waste and some people do not have the resources or the transportation to take their hazardous waste to a drop-off location.

TWIST leaders have a long-term vision for future clean up weeks that anyone who has clutter and items they wish to have hauled away can set the items out and they will be removed.

But for this year, with the assistance of the Board of Supervisors, and the public works department which waived the county's portion of the dump fees, TWIST assisted 45 residents in removing items for which they had no more use.

During a lunch break Sunday in Tuolumne Park, the clean up volunteers were exhilarated with the amount of appreciation they received from residents. The hard work was nothing compared to the gratitude they were accorded. "You just know you have made a big difference and that makes it all worthwhile," Neher commented.

"I was really impressed with how organized they were," said Gretchen Olsen, Tuolumne County solid waste manager. "I'm sure they got some unplanned gifts from people."

Olsen said she was pleased with TWIST's approach, a partnership. Everybody contributed something.

To all the TWIST volunteers who participated in what one termed "crazy fun," Tuolumne is less cluttered today and there are many very thankful residents.