Alexis Gomez said she sometimes feels her struggling Mack Road community could use some help, but instead gets put on the back burner.
Not Saturday, though. Not when 5,000 people from throughout the region came to her neighborhood for a massive community service project called ReImagine Mack Road. For that, Gomez, 20, felt grateful.
To see so many people still care about our community is awesome, said the Cosumnes River College student, who was among the volunteers. Im just happy people are still looking out for this community.
So many people showed up at least a thousand more than preregistered that ReImagine Mack Road event organizers ran out of bright-green T-shirts and had to resort to stamping hands.
Still, those green T-shirts could be seen all over the Mack Road corridor for more than four hours Saturday morning, painting fences, picking up trash and planting flowers.
The community spirit Ive seen here just phenomenal, said Susan Ramsden, an event organizer and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sacramento stake, whose members came out in droves.
Ramsden said she hoped the outpouring of support would signal to residents of the struggling area that others in Sacramento care.
They deserve every piece of love and attention (they are) getting, she said. Its time.
At the center of the ReImagine project was St. Andrew Lutheran Church on Center Parkway, where hundreds of volunteers prepared the site for a community center, as well as a farmers market and the coming Summer Night Lights program. That program is designed to build a sense of community and reduce violence by offering free activities for families on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during the summer months. The first event is scheduled May 31.
The planned community center will grow out of a dilapidated house sitting on the churchs property and donated by the congregation in hopes of helping the neighborhood. ReImagine Mack Road organizers had hoped to complete a significant portion of the homes transformation to a community center Saturday, but no work could be done because of a delay in getting construction permits.
Instead, the church grounds were full of volunteers laying down sod, planting flowers, spreading out mulch and doing other site preparations.
In a side yard, volunteers Daleen Rice and Judy Renno were raking and taking away debris. Both West Sacramento residents, the women said they were aware of Mack Roads reputation as a den of crime. But they said that encouraged, rather than dissuaded, them.
It made you want to help, said Renno, 61.
Told about the vision for the community center and the Summer Night Lights program, the women said they were glad their service could contribute to those goals.
You never know this could help someone stay off the streets, said Rice, 37. Theres another way. Theres always something else.
Elsewhere on Mack Road, volunteers painted wrought-iron fences, landscaped, built monuments welcoming visitors to Mack Road and painted a mural outside the Furniture USA store. In nearby neighborhoods, Sacramentos arm of the nonprofit Rebuilding Together organization tackled 11 homes in need of renovation and repair. Low-income families living there came away with new heating and air conditioning units, new flooring, beautifully manicured backyards and even new kitchen appliances.
So much work was done so quickly in the first few hours of the project that volunteers, their own projects finished, were congregating at St. Andrew church, looking for more assignments. In the background, the sounds of heavy machinery competed with Pharrells Happy blaring over the loudspeakers. The aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers, cooking on the grill for the thousands who participated, wafted through the air.
Surveying the masses, Sacramento police Officer Ron Chesterman said he was amazed.
Its better than what I expected, said Chesterman, who earned the nickname Mr. Mack Road for his work in the area. Ive never seen so many people working at one time.
Cale Sherman, a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints and a project manager at construction firm C.C. Myers Inc., answered a call to volunteer his expertise in laying down concrete at the community center site. Taking a break from operating a bulldozer, Sherman said hes volunteered about 40 hours so far.
Im happy it can be a new safe place for the community to gather together, said Sherman, 29.
Growing up in Elk Grove, Sherman said he saw Mack Road go from being a popular, newly established community to an ailing neighborhood. He said he and his wife, who is Vietnamese, shop at Asian markets in the area and hope to see it return to its better days.
Of course Id want to see it succeed, he said.
Resident Carmelita Miller said she brought her three children, ages 16 to 21, out to participate and give back to their community. She noted that all ages and all races were reflected in the volunteers who came out.
People are laughing and joking and working together, said Miller, 46. Its just heartwarming.
Jenna Abbott, executive director of the Mack Road Partnership and main event organizer, said she was thankful for the way the community responded to her call for action.
When we started this project we knew it would be a big project and it would take a lot of work, but we really had a lot of faith we could make it happen and the community would rally, she said. I am beyond pleased with how it turned out.
But even as Abbott toured the work her volunteers had done on Mack Road occasionally uttering an awed wow she already was thinking ahead. Much work awaits before the Summer Night Lights program can begin May 31, she said.
This is just the beginning, she said. Were going to need more help.
Call The Bees Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.