Oakdale volunteers Care for their community

10/05/2013 8:04 PM

10/05/2013 10:54 PM

With a dad’s eclectic playlist – Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Eddie Money – as their soundtrack, more than a dozen members of the Oakdale High School “S” Club dug into a community improvement project Saturday morning.

The boys and girls, along with a few parents, pulled out dead or dying grass and weeds and filled up garbage bag after garbage bag at a neglected area of landscaping in the center of a roundabout at West G Street and Gilbert Avenue.

Their work was part of the larger Oakdale Cares day of volunteerism, which saw crews paint over graffiti; perform river cleanup in the Valley View Access Trail area; spruce up the slope at the Oakdale High football field; improve landscaping at the Oakdale Museum; and clean up parks and sidewalk areas, and more.

This was the first Oakdale Cares event, an offshoot of Love Oakdale, which itself is an offshoot of Love Modesto. Love Oakdale was held earlier this year, and its organizers weren’t prepared to have a second volunteer day this fall, said Oakdale Cares volunteer Pamela Kelly. She said this weekend’s event was meant to meet some city improvement needs until the next Love Oakdale, set for April 5.

“We have maybe about 100 (volunteers) today,” said Lloyd Kjos, one of the organizers, after the work crews had departed Wood Park. “It’s a good turnout,” he added, though noting that Love Oakdale drew roughly 300. Saturday’s volunteers included students of all grade levels, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, members of various community groups, and residents who simply care about Oakdale.

When the workers returned from their tasks, they were treated to a lunch of grilled hot dogs, chips and drinks, and to raffle prizes from Oakdale businesses. Here’s a look at a few of the jobs that got done.

William Meyer Park

A half-dozen Oakdale High students – most are members of the school’s art club – were raking, weeding, removing dead brush and otherwise improving the small park at Second Avenue and G Street. “These guys are great. We couldn’t get this done if they weren’t here,” said Doug Creekpaum, who was leading the work crew. Creekpaum is the Neighborhood Watch captain for the Meyer Park area. “This park’s had problems lately – it’s gotten to be a place where people come to do drugs and drink. This work shows the community is still interested in this park.”

During a cleanup last year, he said, more than 30 hypodermic syringes were gathered from the park. This time around, not one was found. “I’d like to pat the Oakdale PD on the back for that,” Creekpaum said.

Oakdale High doesn’t have a community-service requirement for graduation; the young men said they were helping simply because they care about their city. They and other Oakdale Cares workers received plenty of appreciative horn honks from passing motorists, and the Meyer Park group got a bit more. As Creekpaum spoke, a couple of the students came over to report that a man sitting nearby rewarded their good work with a $12 donation “for burgers or whatever we want.”

“It’s really nice for the kids to do the work for the city,” said Manuel R. Garcia, who was having a beer and “reminiscing with friends” in the park. “I love the city of Oakdale. I’ve lived here a long time.”

Mustang Circle

Working in the landscaped center of the roundabout, students were energized, and often amused, by the music coming from Doug Keyser’s boombox. “It’s my stereo, I pick the music,” he said of the admittedly “old fart” selections that were playing. Keyser’s son Alex is the president of the Oakdale High “S” Club but couldn’t take part in the cleanup because he was off taking the SATs. “He’s really good at delegating, obviously,” said his dad, who took Alex’s place in the work crew.

The “S” Club – with 200 members the biggest club at Oakdale High – has adopted Mustang Circle as an improvement project, and Saturday was just another of many days of work there. “Today we’re working on pulling dead grass and vegetation,” said freshman Hailey Brown. “Later we’ll start planting new grass and flowers.”

She said she hasn’t done much heavy-duty yardwork before, but “I really wanted to help with the community and get my hands dirty.” After a couple of hours of toiling, Brown was “still feeling pretty good. ... It’s a beautiful day, nice weather, better than if it was raining like last weekend.”

Oakdale Museum

At Oakdale’s oldest existing building, the Sydnor-Prowse House, built in 1869, volunteers were giving the landscaping a makeover. They were relocating boxwood hedges that surrounded the house, planting dogwoods and adding a splash of color – snapdragons, cyclamen, ornamental pansies – to the “block O” planter in the center of the walkway.

“The idea is to draw attention to the house, because it sits so far back from the street,” said Barbara Torres, president of Friends of Oakdale Heritage. Her group manages and operates the Oakdale Museum & History Center, which first opened in the West F Street home in 1985.

“Dogwoods were something planted by the Women’s Club, which I believe started in 1907 or 1909,” Torres said. Planting dogwoods at the museum is a way of returning some of the city’s history to the building, she said.

Among the volunteers at the museum were 8-year-old Charlie Leon, a third-grader at Fair Oaks Elementary, and his mom, Christina. “This is 100 percent his idea,” Christina Leon said. Charlie helped at the Love Oakdale event and really wanted to volunteer again.

Before arriving at the museum, mom and son already had helped repaint a fence that had been marred by graffiti. At the museum, Christina dug up boxwood shrubs that were being relocated from around the building. Charlie shook off the excess dirt and lugged the bushes across the yard to their new home. “It’s helping Oakdale stay clean and healthy,” he said of the work being done. “And it’s just really fun to do it.”

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