Locals answer Obama's call to service

January 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
All across the Bay Area on Monday, people answered the president-elect's call to honor Dr. Martin Luther King through public service. It was so successful, some local agencies reported more volunteers than they could put to work.

Good weather, better deeds. Monday, this country's newly revived spirit of hope transformed into a sense of action.

At Crissy Field in San Francisco, 80 volunteers spent the day digging up non-native plants and replacing them with species native to the area.

"There is a lot of inspiration going around. It just makes total sense," said volunteer Will Simkins.

From Crissy Field in San Francisco, to San Jose where doctors and staff from Kaiser Permanente spruced up a school, Americans found the better parts of themselves by giving to others onn this national day of service.

"I'm picking up trash, pulling weeds," said Amy Crumpacker who was in the Bayview at the Quesada Community Gardens where volunteers had already transformed a neighborhood.

"It changed everything, almost overnight. People saw a visible display of community and they began to respect it," said volunteer Jeffrey Betcher.

So now the rest of us are catching up. In Chinatown, brigades of volunteers swept every single block. Among them, 7-year-old Nevin Chin picked up yucky cigarettes. Nevin didn't pick up just five, 10 or 20 cigarette butts. In two hours he picked up 500.

Meantime, on Treasure Island, a different kind of smoking. Volunteers from Swords to Plowshares did a makeover on one of their own transitional apartments.

"I think we should be doing more for each other instead of just living this materialistic society and just consuming and taking. We should be giving back a little bit, too," said Maurice Delmer, an ex-Marine who helped invade Iraq. He is a student at UC Berkeley now, and a father.

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy organized the volunteer effort at Crissy Field, as well as ones at parks from Pacifica, throughout San Francisco, including Alcatraz and on up to Marin. The Conservancy was overwhelmed by the response to Obama's call to service. As many as 1,000 people are expected to help dig up, clean up and spruce up Bay Area parks Monday.

"I believe when President-elect makes a call for action to the nation, it adds an extra degree of motivation and inspiration for people to come out and show that they care about their fellow human beings and to be of service to their country," said Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy spokesperson Greg Moore.

Obama may have over done it with his call for volunteerism on Monday. The Conservancy takes care of 14 parks around the Bay Area; at 10 of those parks, registration was so strong ahead of time, they had to turn volunteers away.

It was a great response on a day to honor the man who inspired the man who inspired thousands of people to help out Monday.