Community Columns

Come together in service Saturday for Love Modesto

Thousands come out for Love Modesto in downtown, throughout city

After a rally in downtown to celebrate the annual Love Modesto event, residents went to the neighborhoods to clean up and beautify the city on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
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After a rally in downtown to celebrate the annual Love Modesto event, residents went to the neighborhoods to clean up and beautify the city on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

In the increasingly polarized culture of today, is it possible for people from diverse backgrounds, different religious views and disparate political preferences to come together to make their community better?

The talking heads may say “no” but I say “yes” – and that’s exactly what will be on display Saturday when Love Modesto holds its annual communitywide volunteer day.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or how old you are, or what you do, or who you voted for in the last election,” says Jeff Pishney, founder and executive director of Love Modesto and Love Our Cities. “None of that matters. What does matter is that we’re all part of this community, and we all have a role and responsibility in helping make it everything it can be.”

Thousands of people seem to agree with Pishney, as evidenced by the sign-ups so far for more than 100 projects throughout the city – from cleaning up streets and parks to donating blood to assisting refugees to sprucing up schools to visiting nursing homes.

And by Saturday, Pishney’s team hopes to have 10,000 people actively loving their city. That’s an ambitious goal, but one that may well be met, given Love Modesto’s track record since its launch a decade ago as an outreach at Big Valley Grace Church. Year after year the effort has grown – not just in numbers of volunteers at the one-day event, but in the list of year-round initiatives that includes Love Our Neighborhoods, Love Our Schools and Love ALL Our Kids.

And, it’s no longer just about Modesto. Today, Love Our Cities is its own 501(c)3 nonprofit, with an office downtown, and with 70 affiliated communities, where to date more than 136,000 volunteers have given nearly 500,000 hours and close to $14 million of service in Love Your City events. In our community alone, more than 350 businesses, nonprofits, faith groups, service clubs, schools and other organizations are part of Love Modesto.

And whether it’s Modesto – or Hughson, Ripon, Riverbank or many other cities – the same thing is happening: People set aside things that separate them, including serious and legitimate differences, and come together for a common purpose. And a community is made better by it.

I like the way Pishney puts it: “Love where you live,” he says. “We have such a great city ... from our parks, schools, neighborhoods, congregations, service clubs, businesses, nonprofit organizations, families, friends and more. (But) as great a city as it is, we must make it better for all.”

One way to do that, he adds, is by tackling things head on. “We have challenges like any other city, but let’s not just complain about them or just talk about ideas on how to solve them. Let’s do something together about them.”

We need much more of that and much less of the pride, politics, personal agendas – and the incivility, disrespect and even hostility – that increasingly characterize and ruin relationships in government, education, business and almost every area of public and private life.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Saturday is the start of people loving Modesto – and their fellow Modestans – every day?

As I’m out and about Saturday, I hope to see a red MAGA cap alongside an “Anyone But Trump” T-shirt on a crew picking up litter on McHenry. And a couple of cut-throat business rivals teaming up to remove graffiti. And a pair of elected officials who can’t seem to get along, working side by side cleaning up a park. And all of them enjoying it.

Is that too much to hope for? I don’t think so.

Love Modesto begins with a rally outside the Gallo Center for the Arts at 10th and I streets at 8 a.m. Saturday, followed by service projects throughout the city. For more information, and to sign up for one of the 100-plus projects, go to lovemodesto.com.

Vasche is executive director of Pinnacle Forum of Modesto. He retired as editor and senior vice president of The Modesto Bee.

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