Hundreds volunteer to prove they 'Love Merced'

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 29, 2013 

Rhonda Batson often walks the path along Bear Creek with her husband and children in tow and doesn’t like seeing trash collect in the area.

So she decided to do something about it.

“The place that you live needs to look nice,” the 42-year-old said. “We use this path all the time. When it’s messy and nasty we always talk about it like, ‘Ew, that’s gross.’ Now we have a chance to clean it up.”

Batson and her family were just a few of the estimated 600 people who took part Saturday in Love Merced, a day of garbage pickup, painting, yard work and other projects around town.

Picking up garbage next to Batson was Lanie Gladwin, 41, who said she “probably overly” enjoys picking up trash. She was on her fourth go-round with Love Merced.

Crews cleaned up garbage throughout the city, including McNamara, Applegate and Rahilly parks, as well as Ada Givens Elementary, Charles Wright Elementary and Herbert Hoover Middle School, among other sites.

A crew at Gilbert Macias Park, on the corner of G Street and Childs Avenue, painted the restrooms, hung new nets at the basketball court, added bark to the playground and picked up trash, among other work.

Dave McGurk, who said he’s in his 50s, came to help with Central Presbyterian Church. Others not affiliated with the church also were part of the crew.

“We wanted to take an area where we could say we know what we needed, bring these tools and try and get a whole project done in a day,” McGurk said, pausing for a moment from raking fresh bark.

Other projects in motion Saturday included a diaper drive, a letter-writing campaign for troops and some projects at specific homes.

A crew overhauled the back yard of a home in the 600 block of Rambler Road. The house belongs to William and Pamela Martin, according to their son, Garrett.

His father, who was a Merced County Sheriff’s deputy before he became a principal at Providence Christian School, was diagnosed in December with stage-four brain cancer. “The fact that they’re willing to show up to help me out means a whole lot,” the 23-year-old said. “It means a lot to my mom.”

The crew tore out stumps, cleared flowerbeds and prepared the empty pool to be covered by a wooden deck. Martin said the idea was to make the yard manageable for his mother.

Eric Hamm, one of Love Merced’s organizers, said the number of volunteers typically dips by a few hundred for the fall cleanup, compared to its spring counterpart. That’s true for the project in just about any of the 50 cities that participate, he said.

However, Saturday’s 600 is right on pace with the April event in Merced. “We’re very pleased with the turnout,” Hamm said.

A number of local businesses donated supplies or transportation for the event, and some donated a percentage of money they earned during the week. Hamm said the money is used for supplies and signage.

If you missed Love Merced, the next one is planned for April 5. Hamm said organizers are looking for volunteers, project ideas and more organizers.

To get involved, go to lovemerced.com or call Hamm at (209) 233-1596.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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