Making a difference in the San Jacinto Valley
The Valley Chronicle
October 28, 2011
By Bob Otto
Because of the sweat and toil of a small army of volunteers, selected areas of the San Jacinto Valley have far less trash, a fresh coat of paint, and a more appealing look.
About 100 volunteers from pre-teen to late in their senior years banded together last Saturday during the nationwide Make A Difference Day event. They indeed made a difference in the community they all call home.
Ten-year-old Zachariah Flores and 17-year-old Zayna Korin could have done what many youngsters do on a Saturday morning – sleep in. Instead, they chose to become involved by painting a wrought-iron fence at James H. Welch Memorial Green Park in Hemet.
While Zachariah scraped and chipped away loose paint, Zayna brushed on a new coat of bright black paint, careful not to splatter or apply too thick a layer. While many of her West Valley High School classmates were snoozing the morning away, she toiled. But that didn't matter. What mattered, she said, was banding together with other likeminded volunteers to make a difference in her community.
"I saw it on the announcement board at school and said, 'hey, let's get involved,'" said Zayna, who is a member of the school's Navy ROTC program. So she, along with several other NROTC students as well as West Valley High AVID students, devoted most of their Saturday to the event.
They were part of the younger group, but many seniors gave of their time as well. Ten men and women of the Hemet Police Department volunteered. Their task was to clean up Florida Avenue between Buena Vista and State streets. They picked up trash, pulled weeds, and cleaned up around planters, all for a very good cause, said Linda Barfoot, Vickie Smith, Mike Fiscus and Pat Hagman.
"We take pride in our community and want to keep it clean," said Hagman, who has been volunteering at the event for five years.
But making a difference didn't just apply to Hemet. At the Calicinto Ranch in San Jacinto, about 15 volunteers painted picnic tables and benches, repaired a horseshoe pit, and erected a ninefoot, sturdy pole that will support a 400-pound cook pot in the barbecue area of the ranch.
All the work at the ranch benefits children whose parents are incarcerated in prison. "This barbecue area is for the kids," said Sophia Pirelli, director of the ranch. "The (volunteers) helping out lets the children know that there is this good side of people, a loving, caring side of adults being nice to children."
Virginia Figueredo swished her paintbrush methodically back-and-forth as she applied a fresh coat of paint on one of several picnic tables being refurbished. As a volunteer with Hemet Sunset Rotary, she has helped out for ten years on Make a Difference Day.
But it was her first time volunteering at Calicinto Ranch.
"This ranch is a fantastic place, fabulous," Figueredo said. "This is a way to help out the ranch because it does so much for the children."
The Central County United Way of Hemet sponsored Make A Difference Day, and has been involved with the event for six years, said Central County United Way Vice President, Connie Hall.
She said that many schools and organizations including, West Valley High School AVID, Diamond Valley Middle School AVID, the girl scouts, 4-H of San Jacinto, Hemet Police Department volunteers, California Life Family Center Empower Youth of Hemet, and Hemet Sunset Rotary made it all possible.
"It's a great day for the San Jacinto Valley when the good people who live here come out to make a difference for one day," Hall said.