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Volunteers Show Up Big To Serve Their Community
With an initial goal of 450 volunteers set for the annual Love Oakdale citywide event, organizers said the final tally surpassed that by over 200, much to the delight of Director Lisa Kjeldgaard. There were over 650 community members volunteering for varying projects at Saturday’s annual event and they took time to pose for a photo before spreading out across the city for their day of service. Jeff Kettering/The Leader

The City of Oakdale has once again shown Stanislaus County at large, that while the population may be small, its community is mighty. That was once again made evident on Saturday, April 29 as over 650 volunteers gathered to participate in the annual Love Oakdale event and would complete 50 projects located in the 95361.

“It was a big one,” Love Oakdale Director Lisa Kjeldgaard said of the annual citywide day of service.

As the Director of the Oakdale non-profit, Kjeldgaard has made it her mission to educate the community that “loving Oakdale” and Love Oakdale happen year-round. The event held the last Saturday of April each year is an opportunity for the community to gather and accomplish big things as a whole.

“I definitely think that it’s a combined factor of Love Oakdale having a bigger presence all year long and a huge shout out to Mindy (VanTil) having a huge social media presence,” the director said of the number of volunteers almost doubling from 2022.

Kjeldgaard further noted that VanTil’s dedication to tirelessly promoting the event the past 30 days as being the largest factor in the increase.

“She spent a lot of time and she understands the mission of Love Oakdale,” she said of the professional volunteering her time, “because she’s been involved before. She got people excited about it.”

The welcomed increase required a bit of a pivot the week of the event, as Kjeldgaard’s team expanded the size of their volunteer check-in station, as well as put in a rush order for additional event T-shirts.

By 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, the lawn area of the pavilion at the Oakdale Community Skate Park was covered with community members of all ages. Many were wearing the black (or white for youth) T-shirts designed by local students during a T-shirt design contest hosted this year.

“Our citywide volunteer day, yes it’s about the projects and I’m so proud of all the things we accomplished,” Kjeldgaard said. “Equally important I think is for the day of people coming together and just being a part of this incredible community that we have.”

While the volunteer help is instrumental in filling the needs or requests by families, other non-profits, the City of Oakdale, as well as Oakdale schools, it is the generosity of the sponsors that help make all the magic happen.

“The money’s just always been there,” she shared, speaking to the donors and community support. “I hope that with the Market (Oakdale Morning Market) we can start making some money to do even bigger things.”

The Oakdale Morning Market, starting Saturday, May 6 is a project of the Love Oakdale non-profit.

As the director speaks of the sponsors, her tireless committee and the varying projects her pride becomes apparent, acknowledging a vast majority of the event’s 45 project leaders, as well as their accomplishments.

Of the many, Kjeldgaard gave special note to Cody Fleischer and David Basmajian for their dedication leading a project at the Oakdale School Farm resulting in six varying concrete pours which will now make a big difference at the farm.

“We did a lot of painting at the schools,” she added. “A lot of big wins, just from participation and new groups of people.”

Following a Saturday morning dedicated to work, the volunteers were encouraged to return to event sponsor, as well as supporter Dying Breed Brewery for a lunch being served by the Oakdale Lions Club. Over 300 of the hardworking ended the day there with a celebration of the community’s efforts.

“Everything went really smoothly. The project leaders are huge,” she noted. “They spend a lot of time before the project, going in and looking at it. Making sure they know exactly what they need and communicating that with our team.”

As part of that planning, Kjeldgaard shared partnering with key members of the City, as well as Oakdale Joint Unified comes to be not only important, but critical to the overall success.

“Just so thankful for their buy in. That doesn’t happen in other cities,” she noted, sharing her experience when meeting with other Love Oakdale directors from throughout Stanislaus County. “Everybody is always amazed when I tell them what we’re doing. Other cities just don’t have that buy in from the city and the schools like we do.”

Persons interested in learning more about Love Oakdale or being a part of the year-round effort may do so by e-mailing or calling 209-607-9881.

“I love being part of this community. I love the way people are so proud of being part of Oakdale,” Kjeldgaard summarized. “It’s just so unique. It’s just a huge privilege to get to be a part of it.”

City of Oakdale Mayor Cher Bairos, left, exchanges a laugh with Refuge Coffee co-owner Kirsten Rodrigues, right, as she grabs a cup of coffee at the Love Oakdale Rally Saturday morning. Teresa Hammond/The Leader
Girl Scouts, along with some parent volunteers, invaded Dorada Park on Saturday morning, April 29 for Love Oakdale, spreading new bark throughout the play area, giving it a little sprucing up just in time for spring. Teresa Hammond/The Leader