Love Costa Mesa fosters community with Labors of Love

A group of volunteers from Labors of Love take part in a landscaping project on Saturday.
A group of volunteers from Labors of Love, organized by Love Costa Mesa’s neighborhood initiative, take part in digging out weeds, planting new plants and doing a totally new landscaping makeover for a Costa Mesa homeowner on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

Manual labor projects do not generally incite enthusiasm, but don’t tell that to the volunteers involved with Love Costa Mesa.

Introduced four years ago as a day of volunteerism to help those in need, it has since evolved into a movement with a series of projects happening throughout the year.

The first of those “Labors of Love” projects took place at the home of Mary Parpal on Saturday, as more than a dozen volunteers thrust themselves wholeheartedly into a beautiful landscaping project that was completed in three hours.


Reina Cuthill, director of the neighboring initiative for Love Costa Mesa, said those selected to be the beneficiary of the group’s projects generally fit at least one of the following criteria — they are elderly, widowed, disabled or a single parent.

Homeowner Mary Parpal, center, thanks volunteers from Labors of Love partaking in a landscaping project on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

“Labors of Love is comprised of a group of volunteers who all have different specialized skill sets, such as landscaping, painting, construction, plumbing, community advocacy, funding sources — all different types of people,” Cuthill said. “As we come together, we’re working as a team to be able to find neighbors in need and bless them with a manual labor project.

“Our goal is to gather the community together once a month, to be able to identify a neighbor and bless them, and to continue really growing the neighboring culture in the city of Costa Mesa.”

Cuthill added that the neighboring initiative, which is planned as a year-round program with projects occurring monthly, has the power to make people feel less isolated, replacing that feeling of loneliness with ones of being loved, seen, and heard.

Parpal, 72, lives with Parkinson’s disease. She expressed shock and awe at the good deeds put forth by the team that worked on her lawn. The longtime Costa Mesa resident also lit up when she looked inside the front window of her home and saw her 2-year-old grandson Kade staring back at her. Parpal’s daughter Tianna and Kade surely will be seen playing in the grass in the years to come.

Volunteers from Labors of Love take part in a landscaping project for a Costa Mesa homeowner on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

“It’s amazing,” an emotional Parpal said. “I’m kind of a reclusive person. I don’t know the names of anybody who even lives around me. I’m kind of shy, I guess that’s the other word for it. It makes me cry. It makes me happy to know that I live in a place where there’s people who care without making it feel like you’re taking something from them. They’re all just such nice people.”

Love Costa Mesa Day will be May 14 this year, with the organization hoping to complete 100 projects across the Newport-Mesa area that morning. To sign up, visit

“They’re usually about a three-hour project, and even the Love Costa Mesa Day that’s coming up in May, that’s a morning project,” said volunteer John Jason, who added his wife also lends a hand to the cause. “They meet, they talk, and then they send people out. The goal of that day is 100 projects. This is a monthly project, but the goal is to find people who need assistance, want assistance, and then come out and help them out [all year].”

A dumpster filled with overgrowth had been empty when the Saturday’s project began, Jason said.

Volunteers from Labors of Love participate in a landscaping project for a Costa Mesa homeowner on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

Cuthill said the volunteers show a desire to remain involved after participation, despite the physical nature of the work and it being separate from their daily routines.

“Every single one of them says, ‘This is incredible. When’s the next one?’” Cuthill said of the volunteers. “Every single person has [said to] me, ‘We want to come back next month,’ so people are so hungry to give back, and these are really subtle, small ways — by digging dirt, by hauling trash, by planting a succulent.

“They are small acts of kindness that can touch someone’s life, and we never know what people are experiencing, and so even an act of kindness like this, I really believe, can save a life.”

Henny Abraham from Labors of Love places a "love rock" in the garden for Costa Mesa homeowner Mary Parpal on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

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