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400 volunteer in Love Ceres event
Approximately 400 volunteers turned out under warm sunny skies to pull weeds, pick up trash, clean up parks and visit rest homes Saturday morning for the fourth "Love Ceres" event.

"Love Ceres was a huge success," said Becki Nicholes, who organized the event with her husband, Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes. "We had about 400 people signed up and we were able to complete all of our projects that were planned."

The event was sponsored by Ceres and Modesto churches and carried out by members who attend them as well as other community members and the city of Ceres.

The group gathered at 9 a.m. at the Community Center for prayer and instruction. Crews were dispatched for work assignments all over Ceres. Most of Ceres' parks were cleaned up while a weed pulling crew worked properties.

Approximately 15 students from Ceres and Central Valley high schools visited with senior citizens at Hale Aloha Convalescent Hospital. Some chatted with seniors while others painted the fingernails of ladies. Others danced and sang for the seniors.

"They really enjoyed it," said project leader Cindy Runyan. "They mostly enjoyed visiting and talking to them. Unfortunately family members place them there and don't go back."

At Village Chapel Free-Will Baptist Church, youth washed cars of senior citizens.

A crew from Mae Hensley Junior High School hoed and pulled weeds as well as pruned rose bushes in the Doyle Cummings Memorial Garden at Smyrna Park. Others spread 100 square yards of fresh wood chips into the Smyrna Park children's playground area. Mae Hensley Junior High School Principal Carol Lubinsky also assisted and said her goal is "to teach our students to give back to the community."

Volunteers also helped assist elderly and disabled residents trim their yards and other household chores. The crews concentrated on Don Pedro Road and Las Casitas Mobile Home Park.

"It went really nice," said project leader Frank Alvarez. "We got a lot accomplished."

A crew cleaned up the front and back yard of a single Don Pedro Avenue mother of three, one of whom suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. As the crew cut down four unwanted 25-foot-tall trees and weeds in the back yard "we found a redwood deck under the weeds."

Another yard clean up occurred on Westview Drive.

"It's an awesome feeling. Being a Christian, we get rewarded 10 times above what we ever expected. The reward was just great."

With the help of Home Depot which donated materials and labor, the Love Ceres event helped an elderly woman in Las Casitas Mobile Home Park fix a backdoor landing which had rotted and she fell through. The crew braced up the platform and painted it. They also helped a senior couple fix a broken back yard fence in the 4700 block of Ninth Street.

A crew of women spent time cutting the hair of 25 children of parents who are women of the Redwood Family Center. The facility is for addicted women and is operated by Valley Recovery Resources, a non-profit organization.

"I just think is a great thing to do to make kids feel good," said Beth Hunt, who led the Redwood project with helpers Nikki Hughes, Trina Goblirsch, Gail Lambert and Arlene Watson. "I personally like doing stuff like that for people and the girls were all happy with it too.

One group stayed at the Community Center to offer prayer support for the workers.

Nearby, a crew prepared and gave out lunch at anyone needing one at Whitmore Park.

"The crews did such a super job working together," said Becki Nicholes.

The "Love Ceres" event was initiated in 2011 by the Nicholes's, who attend Big Valley Grace Church in Modesto and learned about the Love Modesto which was started in 2007. The couple asked if the effort could be expanded to outlying cities like Ceres. The church decided to promote a Love Ceres event as well as Love Escalon and Love Riverbank all on the same Saturday. Ceres churches joined in as well.