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Over 400 turn out for good deeds
Eighty-three year-old Carole Weise lit up when members of Believers Family Church walked into Hale Aloha Convalescent Hospital for a Saturday morning visit. Carol was eager to stroke the coat on Julie Hilbert's dog, Jireh, who also performed tricks for the elderly residents as part of the "Love Ceres" event.

"How nice - this is wonderful," said Weise. "We don't get many visitors."

Pastor Jeff Hilbert strummed his guitar and sang for an hour in the rest home's activities room while members chatted, shared cards and did nails for residents.

Throughout Ceres, similar good deeds were accomplished by approximately 450 volunteers for people they didn't know. The event was prompted by a Modesto church to offer hope and express loving deeds for the community. Many who turned out to work, however, were not affiliated with any church.

"It was great," said event coordinator Becki Barton Nicholes. "It was busy. For Ceres and the size of our town, I would say it's getting better."

Work projects were varied as Ceres itself.

Six large bins were filled with trash from a clean-up of the Don Pedro and Collins Road neighborhood, a home on Richard Way and some of the alleys in downtown Ceres.

Volunteers used 100 gallons of paint to paint over graffiti at various places in Ceres.

Light maintenance was performed on the homes of several disabled military veterans.

Children were mentored.

A food and toy collection drive was conducted in residential areas.

High Fashion Salon cut and styled the hair and doing make-up for 26 women who are temporary residents of the Redwood Family Center in Ceres. While the clean and sober women were getting a makeover, volunteers looked after their 23 children.

"When the women came back some of them couldn't be recognized because they never get this kind of treatment," said Nicholes.

Members of PHAST chapters from Ceres and Central Valley high schools volunteered for the "Butt Hunt" to comb for cigarette butts in Smyrna Park and educate persons about tobacco dangers.

"We had quite a few high school kids turn out to work."

Members of the Ceres Rotary Club offered 400 barbecued hot dog lunches in Whitmore Park.

According to Nicholes, 7,100 volunteers signed up for projects in 22 area cities, including Hughson, Waterford, Modesto, Turlock and Denair. Organizers plan a second Love Ceres event on Sept. 29. The plan is to expand the event to 40 cities.

"We're really excited," said Becki. "We know we will need some extra help to oversee our projects next go round."

The small army of volunteers were sent out to work with good wishes and thanks from city leaders and dignitaries at a 9 a.m. ceremony held at the Ceres Community Center.

Mark Whitehead, pastor of Victory Assembly of God, said: "We get to be a blessing and we get blessed. And one of the coolest things are the connections that are happening right here in this parking lot. People get to know each other and our city becomes stronger."

Mae Hensley Junior High School Principal Carol Lubinsky said many of her students were working at Relay for Life and at Love Ceres. "Our goal is to teach our studnets to give back to the community."

Former Ceres City Councilman Stan Risen prayed for the group, asking God to protect all and "help us be a blessing to those we are serving."