It was a landmark day in every sense of the word. More than 250 volunteers from the travel and tourism world swarmed San Pedro last Friday to paint, scrub, plant, mulch and perform other fix-up duties at L.A. waterfront landmarks big and small.
Volunteers came from as far away as Australia and New York City to work alongside locals as part of Tourism Cares for Los Angeles, one of two places this year the nonprofit organization chose to rally its troops for a give-back event. The organization partnered with the L.A. Tourism and Convention Board.
The groups go to cities and towns nationwide to offer TLC at tourism spots -- in just one day. Over the past few years, Tourism Cares has worked in New Orleans, New York City, Sacramento, Peru and other places.
Now it was L.A.'s turn. Some worked on two the city's floating attractions: U.S. battleship Iowa and merchant marine ship Lane Victory. Others sorted seeds and spread mulch at White Point Nature Preserve, waxed the Korean Friendship Bell and upgraded the Banning Museum in Wilmington.
"We're all tourism professionals who learned L.A.'s waterfront is such an important part of the L.A. tourism scene," says Patty Janes, hospitality and tourism professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Her team removed a tall wire fence and cleaned up dirty historic Jeeps to improve the visitor experience.
"They're getting dirty. They are working and painting," Ira Cohen, a board member of the organization that supports the Lane Victory, said Friday as he organized buckets of paint. "I've never had a group of volunteers that have done as much as they did in one day."
Tourism Cares Chairman Brad Finkle, who also worked on the Lane Victory, says the organization focuses on preserving and restoring historic sites, gives grants and scholarships for college students interested in the travel industry, and partners with groups globally to help them develop similar projects.
"I painted the central market in Cusco [Peru]," Finkle says. Now the president of Trip Mate travel insurance company in Kansas City, Mo., can add painting the corridors of a 1945 merchant marine ship to his skill set too.