Generally when I cover a story I’m rarely a participant in the subject matter but this time was a bit different. Though I am not from Oakdale or live in the city (and there have been a few disgruntled readers who have reminded me of this), I do feel part of this “community” and felt the need to volunteer for the Oakdale Children’s Play Park Revitalization Project at Dorada Park when City Manager Bryan Whitemyer made the call for workers at a recent city council meeting.
On Wednesday I was there for the afternoon shift and when I checked in with Barbara Torres from the Heritage Museum I was asked if I was “skilled” or “unskilled” when it came to the assignments for the project.
While there are those that would disagree with my level of “skill” when it comes to home projects, etc., I do know how to operate a number of power tools including a power saw while still being able to keep my fingers and the limbs of my co-workers safe. Remember now, for the first few months of my retirement I had the assignment of “no white wall left behind” by Mrs. Rich of Villa Paloma.
I was thus awarded the red name tag designating me as a “skilled” volunteer and was off to my assignment(s) for the day.
When I checked in with the public works employee overseeing the breakdown and construction of the structure, under the echoes of saws, drills, and impact drivers, I advised him that I was more apt for something requiring assembly or putting together of parts rather than cutting or painting since I had often failed the construction worker’s mantra of “measure twice, cut once.”
For home projects, I’m the man when it comes to installing lights, overhead fans, plumbing projects, basic electrical, etc. since those are basically threading, hooking up, or using premeasured or existing pieces. (I have no problem with Ikea directions). Need the room painted, wallpapered, or even just a caulking project – get someone else or they’ll be a mess or wasted materials.
My first assignment, which was perfect for my “skills,” had me partnered up with one of the dozen California Conservation Corps workers who were out assisting the 20-or-so volunteers and city employees that were at the park that afternoon. CCC worker Rocco Chan, 19, from Stockton, and I had the project of assembling pre-cut (important for me) two-foot composite boards, made from recycled plastic, to a square using a drill to tap holes for the larger wood screws we’d use. We’d later ‘plank’ those square pieces with more composite boards for later assembly onto the park structure after the older wood ones were removed.
Later, I assisted in paneling the raised walkways and had my facetime with both Whitemyer and Mayor Pat Paul advising them I was there as a worker and not so much a reporter – my work associate Teresa Hammond was covering the actual event.
There’s something to be said about having the right tools for the job. Many thanks to Hilti for the power drills and drivers we used.
My involvement was minor to the number of other volunteers with their contributions and it really didn’t seem like work. It was hard, but satisfying. The best part was all the talk and getting to know more persons from this great community.
Throughout the afternoon the teams of volunteers sawed, drilled, assembled, and demolished in the park area while other groups supplied us with water and fresh batteries – all doing what they could. It was a wonderful sight.
This was the type of get together where there was a strong sense of “community” all helping for a common goal. I was so impressed with service such as this in a positive and healthy way to build a stronger community and a safer play area for the city’s children.
This is the 22nd anniversary of the Oakdale Children’s Play Park which has been enjoyed by thousands of families over the last two decades and is a popular place for birthdays and family reunions. With the renovation, it’s going to look great and be there for many years to come.
Thank you, citizens of Oakdale for allowing me to be part of your community that day.
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.