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Community Pitches In To Beautify Dent School
What better way to spend a Saturday than cleaning up an elementary school campus?

That's exactly what dozens of volunteers did on March 13, turning out in droves to help spruce up the buildings and grounds at Dent Elementary as part of a 'Friends and Families 4 Schools' work day. Members of some area churches, in addition to community residents, school staff, parents and students put their heart and soul into the work, pulling weeds, painting curbs, and more.

"I just want to help," said volunteer Steve Peterson. "I heard about it from our church."

The husband and wife team of Tom and Michele Irvin were also on hand for the work day, coming in from Modesto, where they attend church with some residents of Escalon and heard about it through their fellow parishioners.

"It's just kind of a community effort," Tom said. "It's about giving back."

Wife Michele echoed the sentiment, saying "Especially in these times of a tough economy, they can use all the help they can get."

Among the coordinators of the work day was Cindy Lam of Escalon, who is a member of the Dent PTA.

"I had the idea," she said, adding that the effort came together through the cooperation of all involved, from the PTA to the school staff to the community. She also pointed to friend Dave Baxter as being instrumental in bringing the work day to fruition.

Jayde Larsen, a 7-year-old second grader, was busy applying paint to a sidewalk with the help of little sister Kyra, a 4-year-old.

"We did it last year," Jayde said of participating in the clean up effort. "I like everything."

Helping out seemed to be fun for the students taking time from their Saturday morning activities, with fourth grader Isabel Coelho busy pulling some weeds and helping plant flowers to beautify the school.

"I liked planting the flowers," she said. "It feels like I did something to help my school."

Parent Aurora Lora, who has a kindergarten student at Dent, said "it's a good idea" to get the community involved.

Dent Principal Kendra Helsley said with custodians at the school so busy with the day to day items, projects such as weeding the school garden can fall by the wayside. Saturday's event, though, went a long way toward getting the school campus in top shape.

"We brainstormed a bit and a lot of the projects are those that are very time-consuming," Helsley explained.

She said there was a sign in sheet for volunteers and it was full of names, with dozens descending on the campus for duty.

"Some people just walk up and see a project and jump in," she said on Saturday.

There were people from last year that came back for another round of helping out, plus plenty of newcomers to make the four-hour work day go by quickly. Crews were able to check off many of the projects on the 'to do' list by the end of the day.

"People have taken a tremendous amount of initiative," Helsley added of those volunteering their time.

The work day ran from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday.