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Community Service Day breaks record

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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The City of Folsom was buzzing with volunteers Saturday morning, all giving their time and elbow grease to make the community that is known for being “distinctive in nature” shiny and bright.

It was the fifth annual Community Service Day, an city-wide event that mobilizes volunteers of all ages and interests to complete numerous service projects throughout Folsom. This year, the event set a new record with more than 3,200 volunteers taking to the streets to tackle some 70 different projects.

“I’m just blown away by the City of Folsom and how people step up and help their community like this,” said California State Senator Ted Gaines, who joined in the efforts on Saturday. “Go Folsom! I am so impressed with everyone’s volunteer efforts with all of today’s volunteers working on so many worthy projects in their community.”

For Gaines, Saturday wasn’t about photo opportunities, media attention and campaigning. Like all of the others, he rolled up his sleeves and got dirty with other members of his staff, who were on the Humbug-Willow Creek Trail working to make the well-used trail way fire safe. 

Gaines was working with local residents as well as members of the Folsom Fire Department, including Fire Chief Felipe Rodriguez, who were trimming, raking and removing a great deal of what would become fuel in the event of a fire.

“This is a very appropriate project because we have a huge fire hazard in the state of California in our wild lands, forests and even our suburban areas,” Gaines said. “We want to make sure there is defensible space. We’re here cleaning up a lot of the debris that would heat up a fire and bring it closer to these nearby homes.”

The Humbug project was just one of many area clean-up projects on Saturday, other projects including landscape enhancements at a number of local schools such as Folsom High School, Vista del Lago High School, Folsom Middle School, Russell Ranch and Empire Oaks elementary schools.

Further down the trail, volunteers we knee deep in hard work, literally, in Humbug Creek. This project involved the heavy task of removing evasive weeds that block the waterways year after year.

Other key outdoor projects including repairs to the Leidesdorff walking bridge at the historical Folsom Powerhouse State Park, beautification of the grounds at the historical Murer House and cleaning of the equipment at the Folsom Rail yard to help the Placerville-Sacramento Valley Railroad prepare for their upcoming season of holiday excursions and fundraising events.

Just down the street, volunteers could be seen painting new markings on the bike trails. The project added fresh clear markings to assist pedestrians and cyclists in being safe while sharing the trail.

Throughout the morning, several projects were taking place indoors as well.  At Lakeside Church, a large group was performing the colorful task of sorting through thousands of LEGOS.  This project assisted BrickDreams, a nationally recognized charity, run by two Folsom teens who donates used and unused LEGOs to children who are victims of domestic violence or abuse. Volunteers, many of them families with youngsters as little as 6 years old were enjoying the task of sorting the many pieces and then packaging them in tennis ball cans so they can be given to a child.

At the Folsom Veteran’s Hall, volunteers were busy packing care packages for our military. By the end of the day, enough boxes were sealed to pack a semi-truck trailer from the United States Postal Service that assists with the send off and delivery.

“It feels great; this is awesome,” said Ian Anglin, who was packing care packages with his family. “It feels good to be helping all these people who are sacrificing their own lives to protect our country every day.”

One of the busiest locations on Saturday was Twin Lakes Food Bank. Hundreds of cars trekked to and from the local charity throughout the morning, delivering bags of donated groceries from the city-wide food drive that took place.

Once delivered, the bags were sorted by volunteers working in the parking lot, prepping bins that were then relocated by forklift and transported to the food bank’s storage facilities. This particular project gathered enough non-perishable food donations to fight hunger to those in need in the area for the next 12 months.

In addition to the local food drive, the Folsom Lake Rotary was busy prepping and packing meals for Rise Against Hunger, which distributes meals to chronically starving children world-wide. On Saturday alone, this project prepared and packaged 14,000 meals.

At the kick-off event Saturday morning, several projects were taking place before volunteers even got inside the front door. The Folsom Lions Club was collecting used eyeglasses on site. The organization refurbishes the donated glasses and supplies them to those in need throughout the year.

Staff members of Folsom State Prison were on site collecting used bicycles. The bicycles are refurbished by inmates and later distributed to families in need with the assistance of local charities that assist with the needed parts and distribution efforts.

Before hitting the streets, trails and parks in the community to perform their tasks, volunteers packed into Lakeside Church. It was here they received their official event t-shirt, complimentary goodie bag and breakfast items along with a public thank you from Folsom City Mayor Steve Miklos. A resident of Folsom since 1985, Miklos was busy throughout the morning, talking with the local media, visiting the different sites and volunteering at many of them as well.

“Another record-breaking year; we hoped to hit at least 3,000 and we did just that,” Miklos said. “We had a lot of groups at the very last minute came in and brought in literally hundreds of volunteers. This community has such pride in itself. When we put the word out, they come out. To see this grow year after year, it’s just continued to show that the pride continues to grow; it hasn’t shrunken, it grows.”

In addition to thanking the members of the community, Miklos made it a point to acknowledge Folsom Communications Manager Christine Brainerd. For the last few years, Brainerd has been the force behind the management of Community Service Day, bringing it to its latest record-breaking level.

“Christine came into this role after we had already started Community Service Day, and she has done an outstanding job,” Miklos said. “She had some big shoes to fill on this annual event and her pride, passion and hard work inspires everyone that is involved.”

Now that Community Service Day is over, the City of Folsom will being working and planning for next year’s event. Many residents and volunteers are already looking forward to the day.

“It’s totally amazing that we can literally have one day where we can stop taking care of ourselves and take care of others,” said long-time volunteer Dr. Anthony Retodo. “Over 3,000 people coming together today to serve others, it’s just awesome.”