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Community Clean Up Spurs City Pride

POSTED February 7, 2012 10:15 p.m.

A core group of residents have formed the Oakdale Women’s Improvement Club and they’re doing exactly as the name implies: improving Oakdale.
Spearheaded by Ramona Howard, this group has been responsible for rolling up their sleeves and attacking problems with little more than determination and chutzpah — and they’re not about to stop.
Saturday, Feb. 4 volunteers were on East J Street by the cemetery, with their trash bags, rakes and hoes, doing their part to tidy up the city.
“It just takes one person to start,” volunteer Bonnye Spray said. “You can’t believe how much can be done in an hour.”
They enlisted the help of Family Support Network for volunteers and two different Hispanic youth groups, including the Camaleones Promotores, showed up and rolled up their sleeves to get some work done.
Seventeen-year-old Oakdale High School student Kevin Hercules, was among the teenage volunteers.
When asked why he chose to spend a Saturday raking leaves and picking up trash, he said, “I like to see the community all nice and clean. It’s good to be contributing to society.”
Last month with only seven people, they managed to clean three blocks on G Street, picking up trash, plucking weeds, and doing whatever needed to tidy the street. The city provided the trash bags and safety vests and when finished, the bagged trash was placed in a designated spot for the city to pick up and dispose of.
Spray said it wasn’t until her daughter — who had moved away and returned — commented on the amount of trash on the streets that she realized just how far the aesthetic state of the city had fallen.
“This town needs a lot but the city can’t afford a lot. We want people to take pride in their city again.”
With the elimination of street sweeping, the streets have begun to clutter with debris.
“Landscapers are still blowing leaves into the street but there’s no street sweeper picking up the leaves. It just lands in the street and stays there,” Spray said.
But as the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “Many hands make for light work” and Howard’s gang of volunteers are proving the proverb true by enlisting the help of many hands for the mountain of work that needs to be done throughout the city.
And it’s not just about weeding and picking up trash, there are some innovative, fresh-thinking ideas on the horizon, too.
“We cleaned the community garden all the way to the river and under the bridge,” Spray said. “You wouldn’t believe how much trash was down there.”
Future plans are in the works to disc the community garden and create plots so that it can, once again, be used as a true community garden.
“The city is going to install sprinklers; it’s going to be great,” Spray said.
There’s even an initiative being tossed around to put the transients to work in exchange for food vouchers at local restaurants.
“Some don’t want a hand-out, just a hand up,” Spray said.
Armed with a can-do attitude, the volunteers meet twice a month to do their community clean up projects. Anyone and everyone are welcome — and they don’t even need to be residents.
“We had some Manteca people show up to help,” Spray said.
Thus far, the youngest volunteer has been 4 years old.
“All volunteers are welcome,” Spray said.
Times and dates of future clean up projects are listed at http://improvement.oakdalecity.com/

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