Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 6:47 am | Fair 63º


Local News

After Mapping Out Plan to Serve Santa Maria, Throngs of Volunteers Get Down to Work

Among the projects aimed at sprucing up the community is a freshly painted lesson in geography on the playground at Battles School

Kyra Allen, 12, puts the finishing touches on Lake Huron while volunteering at a Serve Santa Maria project at Battles Elementary School on Saturday. Allen’s family and other First Christian Church members completed several projects at the campus. Click to view larger
Kyra Allen, 12, puts the finishing touches on Lake Huron while volunteering at a Serve Santa Maria project at Battles Elementary School on Saturday. Allen’s family and other First Christian Church members completed several projects at the campus. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

An army of volunteers spread out across Santa Maria on Saturday morning with a mission to spruce up the community by completing projects at homes, parks and schools.

Led by the Rev. Carl Nielsen of Bethel Lutheran Church, Serve Santa Maria marked its ninth edition by completing assorted projects, such as spreading bark at Preisker Park, assembling picnic benches, cleaning backyards filled with junk, sweeping school grounds and building a fence.

“It’s just fantastic to see people working together, giving up a few hours of their day to love their neighbor,” Nielsen told Noozhawk. “For me, as a pastor this is real simple — it’s love God, love your neighbor. That’s what we’re doing.”

At Battles Elementary School, 605 E. Battles Road, two groups painted huge maps on the asphalt of playgrounds, while other volunteers swept piles of dirt in the parking lot and removed cobwebs from building eaves.

“This, to me, is kind of the crux of what it is to be part of the community,” said Gayle Pratt, one of about 400 volunteers who participated in Serve Santa Maria. “We’re all out there being part of the community. It matters.”

Adults and children wielded paint brushes, brooms, rakes and other tools in the mission to beautify different parts of Santa Maria.

Hayley Rodriguez, a Battles School fifth-grader, was among those painting the continents on the playground.

“Because I just want to make the first- and second-grade playground better, and my playground better by painting murals,” she explained.

Kyra Allen, 12, and her brother, Sean, 14, painted Northeastern states on a huge map sketched out on the asphalt.

Nearby, their mom, Heather, painted another state.

“We thought it would it be a good family services activity to do today,” Heather Allen said.

The Allens were among members of First Christian Church working at the campus adopted by the church’s congregation.

Principal Carlee Gruver walked up to painters who had completed painting all but a few states across the southern portion of the map.

“Wow, this is so cool,” she said, thinking of students’ reactions when they return from spring break. “This will be very exciting when they come back on Monday.”

On another playground, Audrey Larrabee scampered across the asphalt to pick up paint roller handles, bragging, “I just ran across the world.”

Actually, she ran across the playground’s sketched continents, a project drawn in white paint and waiting to be filled in with color.

Gruver figured the continents would not be colored in until summer, but the volunteers started quickly filling in North and South America.

When the stencil left off Antarctica, Gruver recruited a school custodian with artistic skills to sketch the missing land mass at the bottom of the world.

“It’s such a gift,” Gruver said of chores completed by volunteers.

In addition to First Christian Church members, volunteers on campus included teachers, parents and students.

“I’m very hopeful it inspires students to get involved in the community in a larger scale,” Gruver said.

First Christian Church member Kathy Kelly spent time filling in the large outline of Alaska with green paint.

“What a great way to learn the states,” she remarked.

Serve Santa Maria began with what Nielsen called “a crazy idea” six years ago. It now occurs twice a year, with the next one set for Aug. 29, shortly after the new school year starts.

“It’s my dream that we could visit every school in this community over the years to come and do crazy things like this for them, because everyone’s having a fun time,” he said, after explaining the gardening and other projects occurring at Alvin Elementary School, 301 E. Alvin Ave.

Near the end of the day, Nielsen dropped by Battles to see the volunteers, expressing amazement at the U.S. map, which was among a dozen projects occurring Saturday in the city.

“The kids are going to go bonkers over this,” he said, adding it will be a tremendous tool for teaching geography to youths.

He noted that volunteers at other sites included city leaders alongside residents, all of whom will leave with the gratification of knowing they helped their community.

“When we give away a few hours and our love, we get it back,” he said. “All these people are going to walk away going, ‘That was really cool.’

“That’s something you can’t buy at Costco.”

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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