DEER ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - If you visit Deer Island this weekend you'll see a much cleaner landscape thanks to 160 volunteers, most of whom are employees at Harrah's, Golden Nugget, Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos.
Friday morning, they sailed across the Biloxi channel, docked on Deer Island, grabbed garbage bags and went on a dirty version of a treasure hunt. Instead of finding golden doubloons, the cleanup teams discovered debris that had washed ashore or was left behind by island campers.
Sometimes it takes a little digging to find the treasures. But the 9th annual Deer Island Cleanup is a work of joy for the volunteers who came to rid the tourist attraction of junk.
"I love giving back to the community," said volunteer Tamia Watts. "And here at the Beau Rivage, that's something we're very proud of. I mean, this is our city. We should do all we can to take care of it."
The Deer Island Cleanup is part of Mississippi Power's Renew Our Rivers program and this year serves as a warm-up for Earth Day on Sunday.
Tyrone Box has no problem working in cleanup in between shifts at Golden Nugget.
"I love it. I love it," he said. "I mean, everybody was complaining you know, we've got to work today. I got to be at work as soon as we leave here, but I mean I'd rather be nowhere else right now."
This makes three years in a row for Eric Pringle.
"We just like to help keep our area clean, our beaches clean," he said. "And I mean, it's fun coming out here. We really enjoy it."
Volunteers come out here for a lot of reasons. There's camaraderie, there's teamwork. But when they see garbage that somebody may have left behind on purpose, they get angry.
"It makes me sick," Box said. "Just to see all the stuff that's out here. I know that a lot of it is from storms and so forth. But like all the plastic bottles and all that. I mean, that could be easily taken care of if you just if you just throw your trash away."
Likewise, Michael Hyde said others need to be more responsible.
"We just need to realize that if we come out, clean up after yourself," he said. "It's not that hard. You clean up your mess and we wouldn't have to be out here doing this."
While the litter left behind by some is disappointing to Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Wilson, he knows it has to be done.
"You've got to do something about it," he said. "You can't just stand around and say, 'Gosh, I wish folks wouldn't do that. Let's do something about it. Let's pick it up and if it happens again, and it probably will, we'll do it again."
This is the ninth year Mississippi Power's Renew Our Rivers campaign included the Deer Island Cleanup program. In honor of Earth Day, similar cleanups will be held Saturday in Gautier and Moss Point.