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There are 500,000 of them in bright, day-glow orange waiting to be distributed to Salt Lake fire stations and senior citizen centers. The plastic bags in a festive pumpkin color will be available from Oct. 14 through Oct. 28 to contain fall leaves before they collect in drainage systems.

Salt Lake City has sponsored the program for five years and, with the Salt Lake Jaycees helping with distribution, will again make the leaf bags available to Salt Lake City residents free of charge.Judge Memorial sophomore Tom Peters knew that last year many residents of his neighborhood didn't receive leaf bags. So he called volunteer coordinator Tamara Wharton to see if he could help at the new fire station No. 4 at 800 East and 11th Avenue.

Peters is preparing a pamphlet to be distributed to residents in the area telling them about the program. Elderly citizens who are house-bound can call Peters, who will arrange to take bags to their homes.

"I just wanted to help out," said Peters as he organized friends to help hand out the bags on the first shift of the 1-7 p.m. weekday and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday schedule. So between football practice and AP classes, Peters will be handing out bags or taking them to senior citizens.

The yearly program began after a near-tragedy that occurred five years ago when Mayor Palmer DePaulis was with the public works department. A child playing in a pile of leaves was struck by a car. DePaulis decided that not only were the leaves clogging drains before the first snowfall, they were a hazard to children's safety.

Dustin Bills, supervisor in the Department of Public Works, Street Maintenance and Safety Division, told the Deseret News that while the number of loads collected by garbagemen double during the leaf pickup time, the program saves about $4,000.

"Drainage crews can be utilized in other ways, since they're not unplugging so many drains." Leaf bags placed in garbage containers will be taken on each collection day. If residents have too many to fit in the containers, Bills said they would try to send out special crews and maybe pick up on Saturdays.

Salt Lake City volunteer coordinator Tamara Wharton loves to see the orange bags sitting on curbs each fall. "Sometimes you see them hanging on a lamp post like a jack o' lantern," she said. "And people love to take a black marker and make a face on them."

Gary Casaril, the new president of the Salt Lake Jaycees, is organizing Jaycee volunteers to take a daily shift at fire stations and senior citizen centers to hand out the bags. "The Jaycees are community oriented," said Casaril. "In addition to supporting a Head Start program, Sub for Santa and Ronald McDonald House, we wanted to help distribute the bags for the city."

Last year, 105 volunteers worked to distribute the leaf bags. As the city prepares to gather the 500,000 bags full of spent autumn glory, volunteers will again play a major role.