Ordinarily, it would take Food Share workers four weeks to divide hundreds of pounds of pinto beans into the two-pound plastic bags that elderly clients can carry, said Jewel Pedi, executive director of Food Share Inc.
But Saturday the job got done in one morning when about 35 volunteers showed up at the Oxnard food bank for United Way’s Fifth Annual Day of Caring.
The event is the kickoff for United Way’s 1993-94 fund-raising drive. Officials say they hope to raise at least $5.35 million in Ventura County this year, compared to $5.3 million collected last year.
But the Saturday morning gatherings across the county involved gardening tools and paint supplies rather than money, as nearly 500 volunteers and staff members turned out from Moorpark to Ventura to paint, landscape and otherwise spruce up various community centers.
For some, like Bill Appleton of Simi Valley, the event meant a repeat performance. Appleton has signed up for four of the last five annual Days of Caring. He showed up Saturday at the Moorpark Boys & Girls Club to apply fresh paint to the building’s exterior walls.
“Now see those (paint) bubbles on that wall over there? We could have avoided that if we’d only done more prep work,” said Appleton, who has obviously devoted some thought to the process in the last few years.
Appleton, 46, is a staff photographer at GTE in Thousand Oaks, and part of a 20-person GTE crew that showed up at the Boys & Girls Club.
“I think it’s a good community project,” he said. “Places like this that are this large, they can never get it done without a big group of people.
“Plus, we’re getting better at painting after four years.”
The club’s executive director, Toni Carbone, was only too happy to help Appleton and his co-workers improve their painting skills. Until this weekend the building was covered in a patchwork of spot jobs done to cover graffiti. “We decided we needed to get it painted completely,” she said.
“I have them till noon,” she said, gesturing to the GTE employees, who like all the event’s volunteers signed up for an 8 a.m.-to-noon shift. “What they don’t finish today, the older kids--my junior staff--will do.”
Down south, at Under One Roof in Thousand Oaks, five dozen volunteers clambered over each other in the coat-closet size offices of the various charities that make up the umbrella organization.
In one small room, Evelyn Coren, 12, of Thousand Oaks labored to stretch her paint roller up to the ceiling, but her 5-foot frame proved too short; 6-foot Cory Richmond, 24, of Thousand Oaks filled in with a paint brush where she missed.
The work was fun, Evelyn said, but she could do without the fumes. “It smells like medicine,” she said. “Yuck!”
Across the county, the volunteers at Food Share in Oxnard escaped the paint smells in exchange for hours of pouring speckled pinto beans into plastic bags for the food bank’s elderly clients to take home.
Volunteer Donna Sylvester, 48, of Ventura showed up at 8:15 a.m. with daughters Jennifer, 11, and Kathleen, 7, and family friend Nereyda (Neti) De La O, 10. Jennifer scooped the pinto beans out of their burlap sacks with a large cup while Donna opened the plastic bags for Jennifer to pour the beans into. Then Neti twisted ties on the bags, and Kathleen dumped the filled bags into cardboard boxes, 20 to a box.
“I’m having a blast,” said Donna, an out-of-work broadcaster who runs a direct mail business. “We’re recipients of Food Share each month, so we wanted to give something back.”
Charity directors at many of the county’s Day of Caring sites said they could not believe how much the gung-ho volunteers accomplished in only four hours of labor.
“I’ve never seen people work so hard and so long for free,” marveled Brian Bolton, executive director of the American Red Cross in Ventura, after the volunteers dispersed at lunch time.
United Way volunteers had painted the building inside and out, planted shrubbery and cleared messy vines off walls that had not been cleaned since the building--which the American Red Cross moved into two months ago--was occupied two years before.
“We were trying to figure out how we would get this done,” Bolton said. “When we heard about the United Way Day of Caring, it seemed like the perfect thing at the perfect time.”