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Volunteers Contribute Time, Talent To Benefit Community
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Volunteer Alyssa Hagan tackles some weeding at a work site in the Almond Grove community along Jackson Avenue on Saturday morning, April 29; several of the senior citizens living there had work done for them through the Love Escalon effort. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Doing a little cleaning and organizing of shelves in the Escalon Library as part of Love Escalon was volunteer Ashley Semas, who was part of the community service work day for the first time this year. Marg Jackson/The Times

There was plenty of enthusiasm in the air, plus coffee, water and pastries near the stage, as volunteers gathered early Saturday morning, April 29 to ‘Love Escalon.’

The community day of service saw several dozen people turning out for the opening rally, while others had already started work at their project sites prior to the 8 a.m. formal kickoff.

Taking the stage to welcome the volunteers, coordinator Jessica Wylie thanked them for turning out and noted how important their work is, providing benefits throughout the community. She also noted the importance of the sponsors for the day as a while as well as for individual projects.

“There’s no way Love Escalon would be possible without our sponsors,” Wylie said.

She also welcomed former longtime Escalon City Council member Robert Swift to the stage to offer some thoughts.

“Volunteering, putting the money where the mouth is,” he said of what the Love Escalon event means to him. “We’re making it happen; that’s what has always been great about this town. Be it the service clubs, the church groups, coaching your kid’s baseball or softball teams or soccer teams, the chain gangs at the high school … volunteers, volunteers, volunteers, volunteers, volunteers. Talk is cheap, action is priceless and that’s what you guys are doing today.”

Also adding some thoughts about the day was current Mayor Pro Tem Andy Hagan.

“What I love about Escalon is exactly what Robert just said, you know, it’s hard to follow that up,” Hagan said. “Pretty much people working with each other to get to a common goal and that takes action, more than words, and you guys today are representing that.”

He said those turning out to volunteer can serve as examples, with the hopes that their community involvement will have a ripple effect on family and friends, so even more people take part next year.

“Escalon is a town of family values, faith, it’s a town that we all love because of the people that are in it,” Hagan said.

Some of the work crews assembling at the rally in the city’s Main Street Park were heading off to paint picnic tables and benches at Hogan-Ennis Park, others were going to spend time cleaning and organizing at the Escalon Library. Still more were assigned to C.A.R.E., Community Action Resources of Escalon, to help clean and stock shelves at the food pantry. The historic Main Street caboose also got a quick cleaning and several people helped freshen up the planter boxes along the city’s Main Street.

Elsewhere, a team was busy on a planter box rehabilitation project at Dent Elementary with the goal of creating a school-community garden, and several volunteers were tackling a number of projects for senior citizens living at Almond Grove along Jackson Avenue. One of the main projects there was taking out a set of stairs and installing a ramp to help a couple that recently moved in, providing added mobility for them, while other sites were getting plenty of yard work done.

Sherry Hill was on scene at Almond Grove coordinating work assignments there and said residents were very appreciative of the efforts.

Among the volunteers there was Alyssa Hagan, Andy’s wife, who said she also liked taking the opportunity to help her community.

“I enjoy just pitching in as a community to help make it the best it can be,” she said.

Overall, Wylie said, the work day seemed to go smoothly and there were lots of volunteer hours donated for the cause.

“We had 13 projects today, about 70 volunteers and I’m super excited to be able to provide the help,” Wylie said.

Love Escalon was just one of many similar efforts around the region; Love Oakdale and Love Riverbank were also hosted on Saturday.

“I like to help out,” said volunteer Ashley Semas, doing some cleaning of shelves at the library. “My kids need service hours for school so I decided to volunteer with them.”

Also at the library, volunteers John Weeks and Jorge Torres joined forces to put together a bicycle that will be a prize awarded during the upcoming Summer Reading Program.

Maybelle Abplanalp was among a crew working at the Escalon Youth Center, doing some landscaping, and said it was her first year volunteering with Love Escalon.

“I love the Youth Center and I have volunteered here in the past,” she explained.

At Hogan-Ennis Park, the picnic table and bench painting went quickly.

Ashley Dinneen was among the workers helping get that effort handled.

“We’re from Deegan Funeral Chapels,” Dinneen explained of her group, “and we take part in this event every year. This is what we decided to do, we wanted to paint the benches in the park because it’s so pretty over here.”

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A crew for Love Escalon turned out to work on the planter boxes at Dent Elementary, rehabilitating them for a school-community garden project. Work was done through Love Escalon but organizers said this is a multi-phase effort that was started, but not finished, on Saturday. Marg Jackson/The Times
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The Main Street Planters project work team gathers for an official ‘Love Escalon’ photo prior to starting the clean up and re-planting of a number of the boxes lining Main Street during Saturday’s community day of service. Marg Jackson/The Times