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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 6:05 am | Fair 50º


Volunteers of All Ages Serve Santa Maria at Parks, Schools, Even Under Bridges

Several hundred volunteers turn out for 12th edition of twice-a-year effort to spruce up Santa Maria Valley

City of Santa Maria spokesman Mark van de Kamp photographs Serve Santa Maria volunteers removing graffiti from under the Highway 101 bridge over the Santa Maria River. An estimated 400 volunteers fanned out across the Santa Maria Valley on Saturday to participate in the 12th community-wide cleanup effort. Click to view larger
City of Santa Maria spokesman Mark van de Kamp photographs Serve Santa Maria volunteers removing graffiti from under the Highway 101 bridge over the Santa Maria River. An estimated 400 volunteers fanned out across the Santa Maria Valley on Saturday to participate in the 12th community-wide cleanup effort. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Armed with rollers and buckets of paint, St. Joseph High School students gathered under the Santa Maria River bridge to make graffiti disappear.

For the students, participating in Serve Santa Maria 12 helped them earn needed community service hours.

“But I think it’s nice to do also,” freshman Janelle Brickey exclaimed.

Every time they cross the bridge, fellow ninth-grader Mikayla Thompson said, they’ll have the satisfaction of knowing they helped clean it up.

“It’s nice to make it pretty again,” Janelle added

Serve Santa Maria, the brainchild of Bethel Lutheran Church pastor Carl Nielsen, occurs twice a year, with hundreds of volunteers fanning out across the Santa Maria Valley to complete assorted projects.

At Preisker Park, they spread bark Saturday morning. In Orcutt, they painted hopscotch and foursquare courts in addition to a huge map of the United States on the playground at Patterson Road Elementary School.

At some private homes, volunteers installed carpet on outside stairs, cleaned a backyard and removed an old fence before building a replacement.

“It’s just gotten so big compared to what it first was, so it’s very humbling and very gratifying,” Nielsen told Noozhawk. “I’m just so grateful for all these people.”

Volunteers — estimated at between 300 and 400 people and representing churches, schools, community groups, businesses and individuals— met at the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center before heading out to more than a dozen sites.

“It just wouldn’t happen without all of these volunteers,” Nielsen said. “These are people who are giving away half of their Saturday. Isn’t it remarkable?”

The first Serve Santa Maria in 2010 focused entirely on graffiti removal under the Santa Maria River bridge, Nielsen noted.

The young painters standing in the dry riverbed worked alongside members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to cover up graffiti adorning pillars of the Highway 101 bridge.

In all, project organizer Terry Breit counted at least 19 helpers at the site, a number he said “blew me away.” The crowd included a number of high school students.

“They are just wonderful workers,” he said.

Colorful graffiti soon disappeared under the volunteers’ paint brushes, with the group’s efforts even extending to the pillars sitting on the San Luis Obispo County side of the sandy riverbed.

Meanwhile, picking up a paint roller brought back a few memories for Breit.

“I put myself through college painting and I said I will never paint again,” he laughed as he happily wielded the roller to cover the plentiful graffiti.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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