MERCED — Break out the work gloves, gardening tools and trash grabbers because Love Merced is back, and it's all about improving the city.
"Each project is focused on the same thing, just being able to step out of the comfort zone and help Merced," said project coordinator Aubrey Nelson. "Instead of being negative about Merced, it's about loving our city and figuring out how we can help."
About 412 volunteers have signed up to help with 18 projects.
The twice-yearly event began in Modesto in 2007; since then it's grown to 44 cities, mostly in the Central Valley.
The one-day Love Merced events happen every April and September, according to Nelson.
Last April's event attracted 600 volunteers, and about 500 rolled up their sleeves to help in September.
Saturday's projects include painting, picking up debris in parks, pulling weeds, removing trash from creeks and writing letters to the troops. All the projects are kid-friendly, according to organizers.
Nelson said that the event gathers people from all walks of life -- including county supervisors and city council members -- to work toward a common goal.
"We're working side-by-side pulling weeds with city officials," Nelson said. "They're part of the Merced community that day, not a paid official. It takes away titles, and people are there just to work."
Organizers need more volunteers for the Locks of Love and Letters to Troops projects. Residents can register by clicking on the "Sign Up Now" link at lovemerced.com.
People can sign up on the day of the event by showing up.
The kickoff is at 9 a.m. Saturday at Applegate Park. The projects last about two hours, and volunteers will return to the park about 11:30 a.m. for a barbecue.
Organizers are asking volunteers to bring extra supplies, such as trash bags, gloves and garbage bins.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.