By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Volunteers Spruce Up The City
More than 180 volunteers hit the town early Saturday morning to clear alleys of trash, plant flowers and shrubs in parks and public places, blot out graffiti, labor in the community gardens and paint a mural about sister cities during Riverbank's annual spring clean.

"Come and see me if you need tools," said building inspector and coordinator Manuel Alaniz, addressing the crowd at the start of the day. He went on to add more information about work gloves, lunch, drawings for volunteers and more, before the crews got busy with their beautification tasks.

Workers started registering at the Community Park gazebo by 7:30 a.m., spread out across town an hour later for a few hours of solid manual labor and were besieging the barbecue for a hard-earned lunch behind City Hall South by noon.

Most popular assignment was working on the sister cities mural for which artist Alexandra Riddle of Waterford had sketched the design on the south-facing wall of City Hall North. In addition to Riverbank, the four circular panels depict Fuyang in China, Tamazula in Mexico and Furstenfeld in Austria, foreign cities with which Riverbank has set up commercial and cultural ties.

Community gardens founder Dottie Nygard was pleased some volunteers would be heading to work in the gardens that have sprung up opposite California Avenue Elementary School and Crossroads School with another tentative site planned at Rio Altura School. Residents are invited to grow their own vegetables and flowers there, tending them on weekends and evenings while students of the after school programs see to necessary daily care like watering.

"We have plans to plant some flowers and pull a couple of weeds," said Nygard of plans for the Saturday of service. "We have lots of families with young kids here. We want to show them food comes from Mother Earth and not from a drive-through or Save Mart. If children work in a garden, and see where fresh food comes from, carrots and peas and stuff, I believe they will start eating their veggies."

Prominent in orange and red shirts were working groups from the large Home Depot and Target stores in the Crossroads. Micaela Moser, leading a dozen volunteers from Home Depot, said her store was looking forward to helping in community improvements - they had joined in local law enforcement's National Night Out, for instance - and management had made them a $2,000 grant to buy tools and materials for the spring clean effort.

Two smaller garden equipment companies, Color Spot and Miracle Gro had also sent representatives. In the downtown, at the intersection of Santa Fe and Third streets, several groups were working side by side.

Kohl's also had sent a team of workers, said Yolanda Guider who was there to represent both Royal Neighbors of America and the Riverbank Historical Society in replanting the window boxes outside the museum.

Across the street, Girl Scouts of Troop 406 were weeding the flowerbeds surrounding the intersection and even scraping out grass that was coming up in the chinks between the paving stones.

There were also plenty of church volunteers like Irene Amaya of the Apostolic Church on Jackson Avenue.

"It was hard to get them out of bed this early, harder than when they were headed for Six Flags (amusement park)," she said of her young and yawning children, Daniel and Natalie and their friend Nathaniel Martinez.

Yolanda Benavides of the Community Praise Tabernacle said her group planned to plant flowers downtown and help with the mural.

"We hold services, distribute food and try and get people off drugs. But we do community service too," she said.

Volunteers put in plenty of manhours on Saturday, working together to beautify the community.