A local beautification organization in Santa Barbara County relaunched a traditioanl day of service to clean up their community.
Nearly 200 volunteers joined Serve Santa Maria to help clean, weed and plant at local homes all over the city Saturday.
This is the first cleanup they’ve been able to organize since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s people of good faith working together for the good of the community,” retired Pastor Carl Nielsen said.
Nielsen was a pastor for 40 years and is now the leader of Serve Santa Maria.
After volunteering in New Orleans four years after houses were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, he came back to Santa Maria proposing to City Council the start of this beautification organization.
“I thought, ‘Wow, why can’t we do something like that on a smaller scale in our own community,'" Nielsen said.
Starting at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, community members brought their yard tools to help out in Northwest Santa Maria along West Monroe Street, West Carmen Lane and Buena Vista Park.
“The carpenters, we’re trying to come out and just show we’re here to help and just be part of the community,” Rick Jenne, Carpenters Local 805 Volunteer Committee Chair, said
Serve Santa Maria finds their projects is by listening to the needs of the community.
“Some of our volunteers say, ‘Hey, I got a neighbor here that needs some help'and I say, ‘Well, give me a name and an address’ and I go and knock on their door and visit and say, ‘Would you like some help?’” Nielsen said.
Local businesses, like United Rentals, have offered the organization their services for free. They have also received donations from the Santa Barbara foundation and other family trusts.
“When all of these different forces can come together, then you come with what you call Serve Santa Maria,” Nielsen added.
Now, the organization has “beautified” over 20 houses and has been serving Santa Maria for over 11 years, with an exception to last year during the pandemic.
“We couldn’t do anything,” Nielsen said. “There was so much fear and anxiety once COVID hit.”
Volunteers said they couldn’t wait to get back to helping out their community.
“To me, it’s just important to give back,” Jenne said. “We’re helping out a lady here that just couldn’t take care of her yard any more, so just giving back to that.”
“I feel so blessed in my life that I want to bless other people and that’s what motivates me to do what I do," Nielsen added.
Pastor Carl Nielsen said they’re hoping to announce the next Serve Santa Maria event later this summer.