Hand out carnations to seniors in retirement homes. Bake and deliver cookies to firefighters. Spiff up schoolyards and city parks. Help Habitat for Humanity build a house.
Those are just some of the tasks available for volunteers in the annual Love Modesto workday next weekend. Forty other cities in Stanislaus County and elsewhere have embraced similar events that day, and most projects will end about noon. It’s one day to improve area communities, an event that’s expected to draw thousands of helping hands.
“It’s one morning,” said Jeff Pishney, a pastor at Big Valley Grace Community Church and the event founder. The 2009 debut drew about 1,200 volunteers. He expects to see 4,000 on Saturday in Modesto, with about 8,000 volunteers in all participating cities in the region. “Having our attention off ourselves and onto others for one morning is incredible.”
Modesto’s day offers 60 projects; there are more than 700 to choose from in all the cities, which include Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Los Banos, Hilmar, Hughson and Mariposa, among others.
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While there are plenty of jobs requiring a few hours of manual labor, there also are projects that are downright delicious. For example, you can eat a waffle breakfast at Standiford Place for $5, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support the McHenry Museum.
“Our residents’ average age is older than 83,” said Greg Hogle, a manager at the retirement complex. “We have people up to 100 years old who are still active. Seniors can’t get out and do as much as they’d like to do, so they came up with this idea.”
The breakfast will be served from 9 to 11 a.m. at Standiford Place, 3420 Shawnee Drive. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., there will be stories from “The Greatest Generation” (those who lived through World War II), followed by a reception and silent auction. Proceeds from that, too, will benefit the museum.
One new service opportunity is sponsored by the Modesto Police Department. If you get peeved by all the illegal signs posted on utility poles and elsewhere in the city – you know, the ones that read “Will buy your car for cash,” “Work from home for big bucks” or even “Garage Sale this way” – this is your chance to take them down.
“It’s something to beautify our city,” Pishney said.
Volunteers also can make buddy bracelets supporting special needs students; do basic yard and home maintenance for people undergoing chemotherapy; write notes of appreciation for teachers; or paint playground equipment.
“The work is not hard, and it’s fun to participate,” Pishney said. “Not only is it incredible for our cities that we all live in, but it also helps us. We’re better people for it, and our city is better for it. Each person doing something makes an impact.”
In Modesto, activities get underway at 8 a.m. Saturday, with a gathering in the street in front of the Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St.
“There will be lots of music, free giveaways, free Modesto Nuts tickets for everyone,” Pishney said. “There will be all kinds of free food and refreshments, free family photos, balloons and face painting and firetrucks – a super-family-friendly atmosphere.”
At 9 a.m., there will be a 10-minute rally, and then volunteers will meet team leaders and head out to projects. Volunteers in other cities also will hold rallies at 9 a.m. in a central location before beginning their work.
To see what projects are available, go to http://lovemodesto.com. There’s a link to “other cities” and their projects on the same site. Most projects will indicate whether they are “family-friendly” (can include children) or targeted for adult volunteers.
Organizers prefer that volunteers sign up before the event, something you can do on the website. Only a couple of projects, such as the Habitat for Humanity homebuilding event, will last more than three hours.