Make a Difference Day volunteers clean up Paradise

Charles Brooks mowing the grass in front of Paradise Adventist Academy for Make a Difference Day. Photo credit: Jessie Imhoff

Charles Brooks mowing the grass in front of Paradise Adventist Academy for Make a Difference Day. Photo credit: Jessie Imhoff

Cities across the nation celebrated Make a Difference Day on Oct. 25-26 to help improve their community.

This unofficial holiday, which has been held on the fourth Saturday of October since 1992, provides volunteer opportunities for people to get more involved and connected with their town.

For the people of Paradise, Make a Difference Day this year meant so much more. This year’s holiday falls close to the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire.

The coordinators of the events, the group Love Paradise, decided to spend this day cleaning up some of the major roads in town, including Skyway and Pearson Road.

“It’s always been community-minded, and this year it’s just even more so since the fire,” said Joelle Chinnock, secretary for Love Paradise, said.

The group, which has been a part of the town for the last four years, has been involved with coordinating volunteer opportunities through the larger organization Love Our Cities. Their efforts increased after the Camp Fire.

“Since the Camp Fire the Love Paradise has been trying to do as much as they can in the community,” Chinnock said. “We’ve put together over 150 home kits and distributed them to Camp Fire survivors. We also have water bottles that we’ve been giving out to people who can then access water at the well at the Paradise Adventist Church.”

Many people came out for this event to help out with different projects, including classrooms from Paradise Adventist Academy.

“We just take a day off the school schedule to just come out here and help clean up,” student William Rios said.

The school’s involvement with Make a Difference Day has been an ongoing event, but since the Camp Fire their involvement has grown to be more meaningful. The students involved with the volunteer efforts were working on a clean-up project on the street in front of their old school building.

“I think them participating in something that beautifies the area around the school that they miss has been more meaningful probably than past years,” teacher James Mayne said.

Rios’ thoughts on the clean-up day reflected the conclusion of his teacher.

“I didn’t live in Paradise, but coming out here and seeing the community come together all doing one single action, which is help cleaning up… it gives me hope, seeing how communities still care about each other and how the growth really helps other people grow,” Rios said.

The experience also provided a different meaning for Mayne. As the school worked on the street, he ended up raking leaves on the plot of his home in Paradise that burned down in the fire.

“I lived right across from the school, so it’s a little odd,” Mayne said. “It’s kinda surreal to be up here right now and raking up my leaves and stuff that I used to clean up every fall, so I’m appreciating being up here.”

James Mayne raking the leaves in front of his home in Paradise. Photo credit: Jessie Imhoff

Many were involved with the efforts to beautify and support their community.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the amount of people,” Chinnock said. “Not only community-wide people, but people who have been involved with this organization in the past are coming back and helping for an event that for some might be kind of difficult to come back to Paradise for the first time, but they’re here showing their support, wanting to help rebuild, so we are so grateful.”

Love Paradise will have another volunteer event in the Spring.

Jessie Imhoff can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JessieReports