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Jared Klinghoffer, 7, of Walnut Creek, and Thomas Grovier, 7, of Pleasant Hill, left to right, both from Cub Scout Pack 2327, work together cleaning up a donated bike on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at the Pleasant Hill City Hall lawn during the seventh annual Community Service Day. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

PLEASANT HILL -- Who could pass up a chance to enjoy a free breakfast, meet friendly neighbors, get some exercise and learn something new? Pleasant Hill's Community Service Day on Saturday offers that opportunity with 24 community projects that are waiting for a little volunteer time and energy.

The California League of Cities presented the Helen Putnam Award to the city of Pleasant Hill for the origination and success of its Community Service Day event, which grows more popular each year.

One favorite project is the Bike Build-a-thon. People donate bicycles and bike parts during the year or bring them that day. With help and supervision by skilled personnel from REI and Sports Chalet, volunteers repair, recondition and clean the bikes to give to locals who need them for transportation or deserving kids.

"Eight years ago, we started with 30 bikes, a few people and Cub Scout Troop 232. Now it is like a well-oiled machine. Last year we refurbished 100 bikes," said Mary Gray, vice chairwoman of the Civic Action Commission.

Volunteer kids actually test ride the bikes to check them for safety and comfort.

"It is an incredibly worthy cause and very gratifying. Come on out and help us!" Gray added. "The Outback is even providing snacks for our volunteers."

As creator and founder of the event, Vice Mayor Michael Harris expects attendance to be bigger and better than ever. "About 1,000 people turned up last year," he said. "It is more than just working in the community, it is being part of the community."


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Harris talked of the excellent event organization that has developed over the years, and joked about its beginnings.

"The first year, I got there at 5:30 a.m. and started to work. I asked, 'Where is the coffee?" Everyone thought someone else was bringing it. What mad dash it was to get 500 cups of coffee in half an hour!"

Now, arriving volunteers can count on a pancake breakfast, registration and plenty of coffee, after which, they will head for the project of their choice.

That could be painting a map of the United States on the playground at a local school, cleaning and organizing books in the library, cleaning a creek, sprucing up parks or helping a senior with garden cleanup.

"The best part is that you meet the nicest people volunteering -- Scouts, businesspeople, everybody," said Aleta Slattery, Pleasant Hill Instructional Garden volunteer. "I love that people get to see the native plants and how to use them in their own yards to conserve water."

The Instructional Garden is a certified wildlife habitat and water conservation garden located behind the Pleasant Hill Library.

"We have projects for all ages and skill sets, and project leaders to help guide your efforts," said Tim Flaherty, Civic Action Committee chairman. "Community Service Day is a Civic Action Committee event."

Gardeners and potential gardeners can also hone their skills by joining Lesley Stiles and Stephanie Jacob at College Park High School where a garden established in 2006 provides an educational opportunity for students and some of the food for the cafeteria.

"The garden has usually has had a tough summer and Community Service Day allows us to get a Dumpster from Allied Waste. We will clean out forests of sunflowers and hollyhocks and put down Eco-Mulch from Heather Hamilton to get the garden ready for planting."

Volunteers are asked to bring wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, gloves, sunscreen and water if possible.

"We are so grateful for the help from the community. You get to see all these beautiful amazing projects," Stiles said.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is offering fliers and reusable bags for volunteers who want to conduct a neighborhood food drive in conjunction with Community Service Day. They can distribute the fliers and bags a day or so before and pick them up to deliver to their truck on that day or take them to the food bank later."

Other project locations include tree planting with the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District, Valhalla Elementary Edible Garden setup, Sequoia Elementary campus cleanup, Woodside Hill beautification, Rodgers Ranch urban farming, YMCA painting project and more.

Reach Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com.

IF YOU GO
The day begins at 7:30 a.m. at Pleasant Hill Park with a free pancake breakfast by the Pleasant Hill Lions Club and free T-shirt to the first 500 volunteers. For more information, a list of projects or to volunteer, visit www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us and search for eighth annual Community Service Day or call 925-671-5270.