They showed up in a morning drizzle, clad in rain pants and ponchos and rubber boots.
Then the sun broke through, beaming down on more than 200 volunteers who quickly transformed a soggy field into a shiny new playground Friday for homeless children.
They built flower beds and assembled colorful slides and climbing structures. They hauled wood chips and rich black soil, and planted marigolds and zucchini and herbs. They shoveled and hammered and drilled.
"The sun is shining, and we are blessed today," said Leo McFarland, president of Volunteers of America, admiring the work that will benefit youngsters staying at the organization's family shelter on Bannon Street.
The one-day project is part of a $1 million initiative by the Walt Disney Co. to build playgrounds and gardens that encourage children to exercise and live healthfully. Sacramento is one of 12 communities around the country chosen to take part in the program, and children staying at the Bannon Street shelter helped design their playground.
More good work unfolded Friday at the Salvation Army's homeless shelter on North B Street, where students from the University of California, Davis, and others came together to make that building warmer and more energy-efficient.
The volunteers caulked windows, installed weather stripping beneath doors and put in energy-efficient light bulbs. That effort was sponsored by Energy Service Corps, a joint venture between AmeriCorps and the California Public Interest Research Group Foundation.
Mother Nature posed a threat to both projects, but workers took the sodden conditions in stride.
"We got here this morning and there was nothing but dirt," said Van Crampton, a volunteer and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employee, as she helped put together a flower box with fellow do-gooders at VOA. "Look at it now.
"You learn to do things you have never done in a matter of seconds," she said. "You do it instantaneously."
Representatives of Ka-Boom, a nonprofit group that encourages youngsters to be active, and Disney personnel met with VOA youngsters in January to pick their brains about the perfect playground.
"Some of them wanted rocket ships. We couldn't do that," said Ka-Boom's Jorge Contreras.
"But these playgrounds are not cookie-cutters. They are unique."
The Sacramento kids asked for and received climbing walls, three different types of slides, and a vegetable and flower garden, among other things.
Jennifer DeMello and Wendy Dapore, who both work for SureWest Communications, spent part of their Friday cobbling together a giant toy bus for the children.
"I volunteer for the animal shelter in Auburn. Dogs are my thing," said Dapore. "But this is really great, too. This is for the kids."