By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Smaller force makes big impact
Love Ceres consisted of mostly trash pick-up
Love Ceres1
Members of the Ceres Junior Bulldogs youth football program spent part of their Saturday morning picking up trash out of the new planter areas on the newly rehabilitated Fourth Street project. It was one of the work projects organized by the Love Ceres project. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

A much smaller number of volunteers than in years past turned out for Saturday's "Love Ceres" event but there was high enthusiasm to make Ceres a better place.

A small group showed up at Whitmore Park at 8:30 a.m. to receive some general instructions for trash pick-up in the park and in downtown Ceres.

Grace Community Christian Church Pastor James Burbank said he and pastors Bill Kearney of Ceres Christian Church and James Stochl of Harvest Presbyterian Church felt it was important to bring back the community service day after Brian and Becki Nicholes gave up the leadership of the project in 2017.

"Our heart was that no matter how small it is, let's start it up again and let the community know we care," said Pastor Burbank. "If you don't impact the community what's the point of being a church."

"We're hoping this is much bigger next year," said Pastor Stochl.

Some volunteers moved down the Ceres Main Canal between Hatch Road and Whitmore Avenue to pick up trash and dog feces. Another group headed to the Modesto Western Mobile Estates on Faith Home Road to help a disabled woman with yard work.

Ludy Jauregui and Sarah Sutton, leaders in Girl Scout Troop 3278, stood by in Whitmore Park with scouts Haiden White and Stephany Mitchner waited for donations of books that will be part of a "free little library" to be placed at the new Ceres Community Garden. The girls came up with the idea to allow people to take a book and bring one at the garden. Future book donations may be arranged by emailing Sarah Sutton at

"The concept is simple: take a book, return a book," said Sutton. "The girls have gotten some books donated on their own and with their cookie earnings, this is what they donated to the community."

The troop is small, only five members. The library is part of their "Take Action" project.

"We asked them what they wanted to do and they said they wanted to put a library out to promote literacy and we all built it together," said Sarah Sutton. "They actually used power tools and painted it."

One girl couldn't be there because of a broken ankle. The other two were busy with other things.

Ceres High School teachers Tucker Schwarberg and Maria Figueroa lead 11 students in the collection of trash in Whitmore Park, which will host the Ceres Street Faire the weekend of May 5-6. The two teachers are part of the administration program and got involved in Love Ceres for the requirement to form a partnership with the community.

"I told them that it looks good on their college application when they do community service," said Figueroa, "and then everybody was like, ‘Ooh, I want to do it.'"

Joseph Estrada, president of the Ceres Junior Bulldogs youth football program, and wife Kim walked with 14 youth participants up Fourth Street to pick trash and lots of cigarette butts out of the new planter landscape areas.

"People don't care," said Estrada. "I don't know if we need more trash containers out here for them to dispose of all this but it seems like a lot of stuff inside our brand-new planters. I don't think realize how much trash hurts our community. By us coming together and picking up trash really helps out."

Now in its fifth year, the program has attracted 200 youth, he said. Estrada said he comes from a "tough background" so he likes to give back to the community and "help the kids who don't have that support system. My goal is to have a Boys and Girls Club in Ceres."

In the Community Garden at the southeast corner of Fifth and North streets, Daisy Girl scouts were painting peace poles and the fence surrounding the garden.

Members of the Ceres Rotary Club also worked on Love Ceres projects.

Dressed in safety vests, a group of five led by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce started earlier in the morning to pick up trash along the Ceres gateway entrances on Mitchell Road.

Renee Ledbetter said the Chamber was originally going pick up trash along Highway 99 but opted not to because the grass had not been cut by Caltrans and there were too many hazards. Even though only five turned out for the trash pick-up, a lot was accomplished.

"We collected about 12 or 13 bags (of garbage) in those two sections," said Ledbetter. "We were able to get it done in a couple of hours. There was a lot of trash, especially on Mitchell near the bridge."

Ledbetter said she was discouraged to find that on her way back to her car after the roadside cleanup, someone had tossed out a fresh Starbucks cup.

"It is discouraging but that's the nature of some people and what are you going to do."