June 06, 2012

Getting Dirty for a Great Cause

By Cynthia Munoz, 2011-12 Piper Editor

Rebuilding Together DIAD – April 28, 2012

Cynthia Munoz
“Oh please, oh please, oh please, don’t let it be weeding.” This is what I kept thinking to myself as I headed towards the Rebuilding Together Peninsula site for my Done In a Day (DIAD) volunteer shift on Saturday morning and wondered what would be on the to-do list. Weeding and generally any kind of garden work are not high on my list of things I enjoy to do. It was just the previous weekend that I decided to go out into the blazing heat to prune roses and pull weeds as our front yard was looking totally unacceptable. When I was done, I vowed that was the first and last time this year I would be doing that much yard work. Unfortunately, my plan was about to fall apart.

Joining about 12 volunteers from this Rebuilding Together Peninsula project sponsor, George P. Johnson and four other Junior League of Palo Alto•Mid Peninsula volunteers for the morning work shift, it was announced that while a couple of volunteers would help with scraping paint off of a railing to receive a new coat of paint, the rest of us would be in the backyard… weeding. Ugh.

So the majority of us headed down the side of the property towards the terraced backyard which I can only describe as a weed bonanza. With work gloves on and an array of gardening tools to choose from, volunteers got to work. Weeds and dirt were flying, rocks and gravel were being cleared out and lots of good jokes and camaraderie helped keep the energy high. The group did an amazing job of clearing virtually all of the weeds in less than an hour.

Every so often, Elsie, the 87 year old resident who has called this house her home for the past 47 years, would come out every so often and comment on how amazed she was at how quickly everything was going and what an amazing transformation she was seeing. Meeting her and seeing the look on her face seemed to be the best kind of fuel to keep the volunteers going. Even I, with my initial feeling of despair over the thought of a morning spent with my least favorite activity, found myself feeling extremely motivated and happy to see the progress being and was slightly disappointed to look around and see no other areas of weeds to attack.

The yard was cleared of all trash and unwanted items and the freshly exposed dirt was covered with a layer of root barrier fabric. Once this was done, an incredibly efficient procession of wheel barrows bringing tan bark from a giant pile on the front driveway started dumping the bark into all the planter areas. It wasn’t even lunch time and the yard was almost completely transformed!

The group took a break for a quick lunch and headed straight back to work, determined to transport the remainder of the giant mound of tan bark from the front of the house to the backyard. I have to not only give kudos to Noelle Santamaria for organizing this rewarding DIAD event for our League members, but also to her husband, Eric Mitchell, and his co-worker, Melissa Powers, for organizing and supervising the project on behalf of George P. Johnson. No volunteer was ever left standing idle and the work was efficiently executed.

I felt a little guilty having to leave exactly at noon, which was supposed to be the end of the morning shift, while the others I started working with at 9am continued on. It was quite inspiring to see this group of volunteers to give so selflessly of their time and energy. For many years, I wanted to take part in a Rebuilding Together project and thanks to the League and the DIAD Committee, I finally had the chance to do it. I drove to my son’s baseball game feeling really sweaty, dirty and tired but extremely happy to have been a part of helping a deserving community member. I also seem to have overcome my aversion to weeding, as I knew the exact area in my yard I had to work on as soon as I got home.

To learn more about our DIAD projects, visit our Projects page.

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