The recession has hit the wallets of the majority in this country in one way or another. Local governments are not immune from having to make changes to their day-to-day spending either. People have been laid off and services once taken for granted have been eliminated completely.
THE LAND PARK VOLUNTEER CORPS is making a difference in the neighborhood. This grass-roots group works hard at tidying up William Land Park and the surrounding area. They receive no compensation for their hard work, except for an occasional “atta-boy” from a passing neighbor. / Photo courtesy, Jill Macdonell
But in Land Park, despite the recession and deep budget cuts, residents have found a way to sprout something positive: in the form of the community-driven Land Park Volunteer Corps.
If you live near or frequent William Land Park on the weekends, you have probably seen members of this group hard at work tidying up the park and surrounding areas. That is where the group meets each month to take part in what they call “park work days.”
Craig Powell, lead coordinator of the group, described how the community came together to beautify the park.
“I used to be a member of the Land Park Community Association and I saw first-hand how deep the budget cuts were every year,” Powell said. “I didn’t want to see our beautiful parks deteriorate before our eyes.”
Initially it was hard to get the word out about helping clean up the area, but Powell said he always had a feeling that if they put out a call, the community would answer. On May 1, 2010, Powell and associates delivered 1,000 letters to Land Park residents asking for workers and donations.
He hoped for a few volunteers and perhaps a few hundred dollars in total.
Instead, Powell was met with a staggering 400-plus number of volunteers and over $9,000 in donations. Since that time, the volunteer corps has gone to work reinvigorating the park.
The work days, which take place the first Saturday of each month, begin behind Fairytale Town at 8 a.m. for a breakfast that is catered by local businesses. At 8:25 a.m., six to nine teams are dispatched to work on different projects that are decided upon days in advance by Powell and park superintendent Frank Hernandez. Of the 400 or so contributing members, roughly 60 to 90 are there to work on a given work day. From 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., the teams work continuously on their projects.
“It would blow your mind how much work they get done in two and a half hours,” Powell said.
The monthly projects include trimming the badly overgrown ivy behind Funderland that Powell said “encroaches onto the pathway,” maintenance of flower beds on Sutterville Road, weed wacking, clipping and cutting outgrowths at the bases of trees, pond clean-up, bush trimming and even helping to renovate the stables at the pony rides by adding a new roof.
The group has taken part in 11 park workdays so far since its May 2010 beginning, and Powell said that 90 percent of the bushes the group has trimmed had not been trimmed in years. Powell calls these endeavors “monster bush trims.”
The money that is donated is used to supply tools and supplies for the work that needs doing. Workers range from young to old and all are welcome to join in on the clean-up effort. The non-profit organization receives no compensation for the work they do other than the donations made to help fund the outings. But according to Powell, the response from the community has been payment enough.
“Our pay comes from getting ‘atta boys’ from people passing by,” he said.
People are curious to see what the group is doing and Powell said that everyone seems to think it’s a great idea. Powell notices more and more new people showing up for the work days due to word of mouth from other members. Anyone is welcome to join in on the projects as Powell explained that “someone can arrive having never gardened or landscaped before and will be able to do so after two and a half hours.”
While none of the volunteers receive wages for their work, Powell said that the payoff is in seeing the results of their toil right in front of them.
“People can see exactly what they’ve done and they get that endorphin rush of working hard and then sitting down to have lunch.”
ALL THAT IS NEEDED to help out with the Land Park Volunteer Corps is a pair of your own gloves and a willingness to “get down to business.” Financial donations for the purchase of gardening tools are also welcome. / Photo courtesy, Jill Macdonnell
The work days end with a lunch also provided by local businesses.
From humble beginnings that came about because of huge budget cuts, Powell cannot get over how quickly the group has grown in just over a year.
“It has been more successful than I ever thought it would be,” he said.
The group runs nine months out of the year from March through November. Anyone interested in becoming a part of the corps can contact Powell by phone at (916) 718-3030 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group has a mailing address where donations can be sent and Powell said that the corps is looking to broaden the fundraising base. Donations can be sent to: Land Park Volunteer Corps., 3053 Freeport Blvd. #231, Sacramento, CA 95818.
The next park work day takes place on Aug. 6 at 8 a.m. at the normal “base camp” behind Fairytale Town. All the group asks is that you bring your own gloves and a willingness to get down to business.