Monday, August 20 , 2018, 10:28 pm | A Few Clouds 67º


Local News

Volunteers Remember Civil Rights Icon Martin Luther King Jr. Through Community Service

Residents join with Habitat for Humanity to perform home repairs and landscaping for a low-income elderly man with multiple sclerosis

After fewer than two hours of work under a gray sky Monday morning, weeds had been raked, brush had been cleared and amateur landscapers had unknowingly uncovered bricks from an old backyard flower bed.

In the front yard of the Santa Barbara home owned by an elderly man struggling with multiple sclerosis, 90-year-old Connie Speight carved a space for the red bricks in damp dirt before placing them in a line separating the cracked driveway from the yard.

“Weeding, weeding, weeding” was how Speight summed up her morning as a first-time volunteer of Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County.

Speight joined two dozen others happily offering helping hands as part of the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Volunteers worked in shifts to perform exterior repairs and landscaping for a low-income senior who has lived alone at his residence since the 1970s — plenty of time for unwanted weeds to annoy neighbors and stress out the homeowner.

The senior, who wished to remain anonymous, kept a watchful eye over volunteers from his front porch after meeting and thanking each of them.

“It’s not the Great Wall of China, believe me,” Speight said, smiling at her handiwork.

Monday marked the first time the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity International has participated in the initiative, which aligns well with one of its own.

UC Santa Barbara student Franklin Ly shovels dirt from the backyard of an elderly low-income resident Monday. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

A Brush with Kindness helps low-income homeowners stay in their homes by offering free outdoor improvements and landscaping to applicants once a month.

Nationwide, the nonprofit has conducted service projects in the name of the late civil rights leader for many years.

“I think we’re expanding our work,” said local Habitat for Humanity CEO Jon Peterson. “We’re just really trying to get out into the community to relate.”

The Montecito Family YMCA sent volunteers to the site, Thrivent Financial provided funding, and Goleta Valley Beautiful donated water-wise plants as well as labor.

“This was all over grown,” Habitat for Humanity director of development Alexandra Hamill said, staring in amazement at how much clearing work was completed so quickly. “Volunteers are very gung-ho.”

UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineering student Franklin Ly, 19, said he, too, was a first-time volunteer with the organization, eager to check out Habitat for Humanity.

He shoveled dirt near a backyard fence beside 17-year-old Olivia Le Sage, who volunteered “because it’s good to give back.”

Landscaping sure beat sitting at home "on a silk pillow eating Bonbons," said Speight, who was grateful to still be able to volunteer at her age.

“I feel to have your own place, your own home, affects so much,” Speight said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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