About a dozen people receiving services at the Merced Rescue Mission teamed Saturday with members of Christian Church of the Valley to clean up a section of G Street in north Merced. About 30 individuals volunteered their time on the sunny fall morning to bag garbage along the street between Yosemite Avenue and Bellevue Road.
The somewhat unlikely, community-driven event was inspired largely by the efforts of one man, Peter Ardison.
"As you're going along in life, even though you're doing good things, you still find good things that can be done as you're doing good things," said the 57-year-old retired fisherman.
Since the beginning of the summer, Ardison has been reaching out to members of the homeless community. During the hottest days of the summer, he drove around in his truck handing out water to people living on the streets.
At the same time, Ardison started several cleanup projects in his neighborhood. And now, the people he started out to help have decided to return the favor.
Douglas Padilla, 38, who has utilized the rescue mission services while battling alcohol abuse, enthusiastically participated in Ardison's cleanup event.
"It felt good to get up and help others," he said. "You see evidence of people changing and you say, 'I need that.' A man needs work and then he feels better about himself."
Frank Scripps, 35, who also uses the rescue mission services, said the event was a chance for him to get in touch with his faith.
"Coming out here and picking up trash, and helping the community, is a form of worship for me," he said. "God is calling on those to serve, and helps those who earnestly seek him."
'A real godsend'
Ardison has inspired people at the homeless shelter to become more engaged in the community, said Bruce Metcalf, chief executive officer of the Merced Rescue Mission, who also participated in the community cleanup.
"People were happy to help," he said. "They want to help because he helps them all the time. He's been a real godsend."
After attending a fund-raiser for the rescue mission, Ardison said he was inspired to reach out to members of the community in need.
"People can do a lot as one person," he said. "It just has to do with people helping people. That's what it's about."
Ardison started the cleanup project by himself a few months ago, collecting garbage off the street outside his home, off Bellevue Road near Highway 59.
"You could fill this room with the amount of trash Pete's gathered off of Bellevue a couple times over," said Susan Ardison. "It's unbelievable. The road looks beautiful."
Ardison also started trimming unwanted shrubbery along the road.
"Any bushes in the way, I just whacked them all down," Ardison said. "So the mail lady doesn't have a hard time with bushes hanging in her face when she's trying to get the mail in."
Ardison seems hardwired for community serv- ice.
Susan Ardison recalled a Christmas Eve, about 20 years ago, when her husband spent a week's pay on 200 pairs of high-quality socks to hand out to the homeless community.
The couple were living in Alaska and he spent all night driving around handing out gift-wrapped packages. In the morning, he stopped at a homeless shelter and donated everything he wasn't able to give away.
"I knew that day I was going to marry that man," she said. "I saw his heart."
Now Ardison said he plans to clean up a large section of Highway 59. For more information, contact the Merced Rescue Mission, at (209) 722-9269.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun-Star photographer Christopher Winterfeldt contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: 'Merced Matters' appears every Monday. In it we will tell the stories of Mercedians -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and a lot in between. We hope you like our effort to let you know more about others in our community, and we welcome your suggestions. Please contact Victor Patton at email@example.com or (209) 385-2431 with your ideas for 'Merced Matters.'