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A Little Work Can Make a Big Difference

Service: Volunteer Connection Day gives residents a chance to make a hands-on contribution to their communities.


Although he doesn't think of himself as a "Home Improvement" kind of guy--"I am a thumbs man--all thumbs!"--attorney Rick Brady will gamely play the role of handyman on Volunteer Connection Day.

Brady and his attorney colleagues have volunteered to help paint walls and do a little carpentry at the Laguna Hills Child Abuse Services Team building.

Organizers of the event hope they will have plenty of company.

Across the county, at nearly 60 sites, volunteers will gather Saturday to help complete cleanup projects for cities and nonprofit organizations in observance of Volunteer Connection Day, organized by the nonprofit Orange County Volunteer Center.

"We are always open for volunteers," said Cathy Cook, volunteer coordinator for Olive Crest Homes, a service and treatment center for abused children that is seeking volunteers to help landscape and clean the homes. "Our mission is to treat and care for abused children; there is just no time for the staff doing extra work like landscaping and cleaning. Without volunteers, we would probably have to pay staff, and that would definitely hurt our budget."

Organizers are still seeking recruits and hope to surpass last year's total of 9,000 volunteers who lent a helping hand during the daylong event--and provided free services valued at about $500,000.

Janet Taylor, program administrator for the Imagination Celebration, a 15-day festival incorporating arts into education for children, said volunteers are crucial to the success of their programs.

"Volunteers are our lifeblood," said Taylor, who will be coordinating three Imagination events on April 27. "This is a huge volunteer effort. Without volunteers we would not be able to do this."

Those who volunteered last year said the cleanup offered an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of a community.

"[Volunteering] is a very easy thing to do," said Brady, who last year volunteered to clean up a park in Costa Mesa with a group of colleagues. "It is disarmingly simple and easy to do and it means so much to the recipients."

The event coincides with the final day of National Volunteer Week, which begins today. Jeanette Wood, spokeswoman for the Volunteer Center of Orange County, said a large force of people working only four hours one day makes a big difference.

"You see a tangible change in your community," Wood said. "This is a way to recruit people into volunteerism. With [this event] we are planting a seed that we hope will grow into more people volunteering [on a regular basis.]"

One volunteer, Michael Gavin, corporate medical director for PacifiCare, saw the difference by helping beautify a neighborhood with trees last year. Gavin, who along with his wife, Jeanette, planted several trees in the city of Hawaiian Gardens, says Volunteer Connection Day helped make him feel like a part of the Southern California community.

"At first the neighborhood folks were kind of suspicious of what we were doing," said Brady, who lives in Long Beach. "Since we didn't have a water truck, we went to people's houses with buckets and asked for some water. By the end of the day people started coming out [of their homes] to help out. It was fun."

This year the Gavins will plant flowers and bushes in Anaheim.

"We love to garden," Michael Gavin said. "We do it ourselves and if we can get other folks involved then its great."

For information about volunteering, call (714) 953-5757, Ext. 106


How to Help

The fourth annual Volunteer Connection Day brings together people who would like to help on various projects at more than 50 locations around Orange County. A selection of the activities and who to call to get involved:

* Anaheim: Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK) needs 20 volunteers to assist in spring festival and silent auction; will serve food, sell tickets, run the silent auction and help children access computers. Call Roxanne Cortright or Mike McKelroy, (714) 533-8275.

* Buena Park: City needs 50 volunteers to remove graffiti and paint picnic tables. Call Rudy Juarez, (714) 562-3865.

* Costa Mesa: City needs 500 volunteers to clean up neighborhoods and parks, paint, plant and clear weeds. Call Muriel Berman, (714) 754-5167 or Ann Gyben, (714) 754-5667.

* Dana Point: Doheny Longboard Surfing Assn./Surfrider Foundation needs volunteers to clean up the beach. Call Ed Neely, (714) 661-1218.

* Fountain Valley: City needs 30 volunteers to remove overgrown shrubs and replant in new locations. Call Sally J. Franz, (714) 965-4446.

* Fullerton: Fullerton College Child Care Center needs three to six volunteers to plant shrubs and plants along the play yard. Call Linda Wokurka, (714) 992-7467.

* Garden Grove: Community Development Council needs 100 volunteers to pack lunch boxes and sort donated food. Call Carol Alejo, (714) 897-6670, Ext. 3600.

* Huntington Beach: Foster Children's Connection needs 10 volunteers to paint the preschool. Call Regina Markwardt, (714) 540-7018.

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