Make a Difference
Sep 01, 2018 10:35AM
● By Michael Harris
On Saturday, September 22, Pleasant Hill will observe our 14th Annual Community Service Day. When I started CSD during my first term as mayor, I hoped it would have a lasting effect on the community I love. Much to my delight, it’s become a symbol of what's best about Pleasant Hill -- people helping make our city even better.
I'm often asked how I came up with the idea for a citywide community service day. While I founded the city's CSD, I can't take credit for the idea of volunteers doing community service. Churches, synagogues, nonprofits, and schools often have projects where their members spend time tidying up their facilities or working in the community.
But the idea of an entire city dedicating one day a year to work on projects that beautify the city and benefit it in so many other ways is novel. In Judaism, there is a principle called Tikkun Olam. It means, “repairing the world.” It’s a tenet I learned as a child from my parents. All of us, no matter our age or social status, are responsible for making the world a better place than when we got here. It involves both “social action and the pursuit of social justice,” themes I’ve embraced all of my life.
CSD would not have been possible or successful without the help of many people, especially the former and current members of the Pleasant Hill’s Civic Action Commission. When I suggested the idea that residents work on two-dozen projects in our hometown on one day, some were skeptical. But even the skeptics became strong advocates for CSD. Special thanks to our sponsors and, of course, all those who volunteer on this special day.
They say, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Other cities have followed our example, including our neighbor Walnut Creek. Together, in 2012, we were awarded the prestigious Helen Putnam Award of Excellence by the League of California Cities for the best service project in California.
This year's CSD starts at 7:30am at Pleasant Hill Park with a free pancake breakfast provided by the Pleasant Hill Lions. The Lions have been instrumental in making this day successful. When I approached the Lions’ Don Flaskerud with the idea of the Lions serving a free breakfast to hundreds of people at our first CSD, Don jumped at the idea.
Community service was no stranger to Don or the Lions. Don may not have heard of Tikkun Olam, but he and his wife, Norma, exemplified it in their countless endeavors that benefit our community, including providing the food for the pancake breakfast. Unfortunately, Don passed away earlier this year, but he lives on through his good deeds. This year’s CSD is dedicated to Don's memory.
One of the great things about CSD is there are projects for people of all ages and abilities. It's wonderful seeing children and their parents, and sometimes grandparents, working together on a project. What a powerful lesson for our kids! If you have a project that you think would make our city better, please submit it on the city's website at www.pleasanthillca.org/csd. You, your family, friends, and neighbors can volunteer at the same website.
During the past 13 years, Pleasant Hill residents and friends have donated over 40,000 hours of service to our community. That's about $1 million worth of free service you’ve provide our hometown! You’ve made an enormous difference in our community. Thank you.
Sadly, this year's Community Service Day will be very different from the last eleven. We will be missing our beloved public information officer, Martin Nelis, who was tragically killed in a bicycle accident recently. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Martin for the success of CSD. He was the heart and soul of the event, as he was with so many things in this community. He took care of all the arrangements, large and small, and made CSD the success it is today. He will be missed but not forgotten.
Help honor Martin and Don's memory by volunteering for this year's Community Service Day. I hope to see you at 7:30am on September 22 at Pleasant Hill Park, where we will continue our tradition of repairing the world, one city at a time.