BAY POINT -- Mariana Ortega carefully applied fresh stripes of white paint on the four-square court at Bel Air Elementary, one of many volunteers who spruced up the school while the kids were away on spring break.
The work done at the school is one of several improvement efforts that have happened in Bay Point since 2010 as a result of it being the first community chosen for Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley's neighborhood revitalization initiative.
"My son goes to school here. It's good for me to come and help. When the students come back it's going to be a big surprise," Ortega said.
She and her 8-year-old son, Jason, were among dozens of volunteers who worked with Habitat and school employees to help out during the weeklong effort. Jason is looking forward to playing on the freshly-painted court. "It will be easier to see the lines and we can play better," he said.
"I'm out here for the kids," Gloria Rodriguez said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter as she worked to place wooden slats on a fence before its utilitarian look will be softened by the placement of jasmine plants. The idea behind the fence is to shield the school children from graffiti spray-painted on a wall across from the school. (As of last week, there was no graffiti, because the wall had been painted).
"I was really excited to see that," said Rodriguez, the mother of two boys who go to Bel Air.
Other improvements made at the school include an outdoor reading area next to the library. There is also a whimsical look for the tetherball poles, which have been painted to resemble pencils.
The volunteer corps included parents whose kids go to Bel Air while others were putting in some of their sweat equity hours, which is when future Habitat homeowners do work to build their home or help out with a community project.
"This is a way for them to give back to the community," said Leslie Palaroan, neighborhood revitalization coordinator.
Last year, the Habitat for Humanity affiliate opened its El Rincon development of nine new homes, which are near Bel Air Elementary. The affiliate has also renovated numerous foreclosed homes in Bay Point as part of its mission to provide affordable housing.
That said, the idea behind the neighborhood revitalization initiative is to extend Habitat for Humanity's role beyond that of being a developer of affordable housing. Other neighborhood projects have included the March 2 cleanup of Willow Creek, trail improvement work, and graffiti removal and abatement.
"Habitat's commitment to Bay Point revitalization goes beyond our traditional housing solutions. Back in 2010, when we broke ground on our El Rincon development, we began surveying residents to identify other community aspirations," said Janice Jensen, executive director of the East Bay/Silicon Valley affiliate.
"The community identified three main areas for improvement: youth and education, youth and recreation, and community beautification. Our role in Bay Point is to support the vision residents have in improving their community."
This year, the East Bay/Silicon Valley affiliate launched its second neighborhood revitalization project in an east San Jose neighborhood.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.