Helping Others

Thousands of volunteers expected for day of service on Mack Road

As many as 5,000 volunteers from across Sacramento are expected to gather on Mack Road later this month for what some have described as the largest community service project undertaken in the city.

Scheduled for April 26, “ReImagine Mack Road” will include more than two dozen projects along the corridor between Highway 99 and Franklin Boulevard, organizers announced Thursday. The slated projects include landscaping, painting, lighting, renovating homes for needy families and monuments welcoming visitors to the area.

And in what is likely the most ambitious project, volunteers are expected to renovate a gutted residence on the property of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, turning it into a community center.

Jenna Abbott, executive director of the Mack Road Partnership, said volunteers are expected to turn $80,000 in donations received into $1.5 million of work during the event’s four hours.

“Together, we’re going to take this to a place it’s never been before,” she said.

Mack Road has long been a troubled neighborhood struggling with poverty and high crime rates. But in a news conference Wednesday, community leaders touted new relationships that have been forged to improve life on the corridor for residents and businesses. Those relationships – among residents, health and safety advocates, business officials, politicians and police – led to “ReImagine Mack Road” and an anti-violence effort scheduled to begin this summer.

Called “Summer Night Lights,” that program will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights on the campus of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 7833 Center Parkway, just south of Mack Road. The program aims to reduce violence by promoting a feeling of community through food, music and activities such as dancing and sports.

Summer Night Lights also will take advantage of the community center being constructed by ReImagine volunteers, using it for cooking classes, tutoring and workshops.

On Wednesday, officials also announced that a farmers market will take place every Thursday beginning June 5 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The market also will take place on the St. Andrew campus.

Coordinator Todd McPherson noted that Sacramento is considered the “farm-to-fork” capital. But he said the motto needs to be “farm-to-every-fork.”

“We here all believe that fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables are a right everybody should enjoy,” McPherson said.

Speakers at the news conference applauded the efforts of Abbott and the many partners behind the two projects.

“This community sometimes gets a bad rap,” said police Chief Sam Somers Jr. “But that’s because people are living in yesterday. There’s a lot of fantastic things happening here.”

Les Simmons, a pastor at the South Sacramento Christian Center, said he grew up near Mack Road and Franklin Boulevard. He said he is encouraged by the positive efforts unfolding in the community.

“This is the first time something like this has come to this area,” he said. Through projects like ReImagine Mack Road and Summer Night Lights, he said, the community could “begin to rebuild some of what our forefathers in the past generation have built here.”

Among the most notable partners behind ReImagine Mack Road, Abbott said, is Sacramento’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is expected to bring 2,500 volunteers to the event. Another is Kaiser Permanente, whose south Sacramento campus is minutes from Mack Road. The organization contributed $35,000 to the day’s projects, including the community center, and another $25,000 to Summer Night Lights.

Abbott said volunteers are still needed. Anyone interested can pre-register and sign necessary waivers online at Volunteers who show up on the day of service can register at the Mack Road Church of Christ, 5051 Mack Road, starting at 7 a.m.

“It starts with one neighbor, one person saying, ‘Let’s get this done,’” Abbott said.