Love Merced 2013: Community comes together in effort to clean up the town

cwinterfeldt@mercedsunstar.com
and MIKE NORTH
mnorth@mercedsunstar.com
April 29, 2013 

CW "Love Merced" Day

CHRISTOPHER WINTERFELDT/cwinterfeldt@mercedsunstar.com Volunteer and Merced resident Beverly McCormick, 71, uses a shovel to dislodge weeds and pick up other debris from the Merced Bus Depot parking lot during the Love Merced event on held on Saturday (4-27-13) in Merced. According to Love Merced organizing committee member Erin Hamm, 39 of Merced, 650 volunteers, including 70 UC Merced students who were bussed in by VIA Bus who donated their services, came out to help with a variety of projects around Merced which included cleaning up bike paths, Bear Creek, and removing graffiti. The event kicked off at Applegate Park, followed by volunteers going to different sites around town to give love in the form of clean-up and donated services. Sites included bike paths, McNamara Park, Rahilly Park, the bus depot, and Franklin and McSwain Schools among others. According to the website, lovemerced.com, Love Merced started as a result of the success of the Love Modesto event held back in 2007. Since then, the volunteer event has spread to other cities around the region with over 95,000 volunteer hours donated. Along with the donated services of VIA Bus, Lowe's, Costco, and Food Maxx donated to the event. City Councilman Josh Pedrozo provided a barbeque of hot dogs, chips, and bottled water for the volunteers when they returned back to Applegate Park after completing their jobs. A group of 55 environmental students from UC Merced led by UC instructor Lynn Sullivan, 55, help out with the cause. "Our group is environmentally minded, and it was our chance to give back to the community," said Sullivan about why she and her students decided to volunteer. Hamm said Love Merced is a great opportunity for families to teach their children to pick up trash, and not to litter. While smoking cigarettes are unhealthy, Hamm noted their impact on the environment, saying that volunteers "picked up a ton of cigarette butts." Emphasizing Love Merced's ability to bring the whole commun

CHRISTOPHER WINTERFELDT

— Whether they were yanking shopping carts out of creeks, picking up litter in parks or writing letters to the troops, several hundred volunteers made Merced a better place Saturday during the Love Merced event.

The twice-yearly event, which is focused on beautifying the city, got its start in Modesto in 2007 and has grown to 44 cities -- mostly in the Central Valley.

There were nearly 700 people at Saturday's event, including about 150 students from UC Merced, said Aubrey Nelson, the Love Merced project coordinator.

She described the participation as "phenomenal" and said it's the best turnout Love Merced has had.

Nelson said Saturday was the third Love Merced event. She hopes the interest will continue for future projects.

The event kicked off at 9 a.m. in Applegate Park and after coordinating with organizers, volunteers dispersed to sites around the city to clean up and donate their time. Some of the cleanup sites included bike paths, creeks, McNamara Park, Rahilly Park, the bus depot, and Franklin and McSwain schools.

Several businesses donated to the event and a handful of local officials were in attendance, including Assemblyman Adam Gray, District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo, District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh and Merced City Councilman Mike Murphy.

City Councilman Josh Pedrozo hosted a barbecue and served hot dogs, chips and bottled water to volunteers when they returned back to Applegate Park after finishing their jobs, most of which took two hours or more to complete.

A group of 55 environmental students from UC Merced, led by UC instructor Lynn Sullivan, helped out Saturday.

"Our group is environmentally minded and it was our chance to give back to the community," Sullivan said.

Love Merced organizing committee member Erin Hamm said Love Merced is a great opportunity for parents to teach their children to pick up trash and not to litter. Hamm also noted the effects smoking has on the environment and said volunteers "picked up a ton of cigarette butts."

She emphasized Love Merced's ability to bring the community together.

"It's awesome to see longtime community members work together with UC students," Hamm said. "It helps people become more aware of cleaning the areas where they live as well."

Hamm said that the Love Merced organizing committee welcomes anyone who wants to help organize future volunteer cleanup events.

For more information about Love Merced, visit www.lovemerced.com.

Photographer Christopher Winterfeldt can be reached at cwinterfeldt@mercedsunstar.com.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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