1000+ Volunteers Team Up to “Be The Change.” What can YOU do?!

People talk about change. Some dream about it. Others take action and ARE the change.

In early October, more than 1,000 volunteers teamed up with Hands On Bay Area, a non-profit that inspires, empowers and enables volunteers to be the change they wish to see, for an appropriately titled “Be the Change Day.”

From San Francisco to San Jose, volunteers worked on 17 projects across the Bay Area — from sorting life-saving medical supplies that will be shipped to third-world countries, to beautifying sustainable community gardens. Everyone worked in unison with one goal in mind: to better the community.

At Sanchez Elementary School in San Francisco’s Mission District, I met some “Change Makers” who tore down an old chain link fence and installed a new picket fence, while others prepped its sustainable learning garden for the young students.

“Change” was Ranjan Prasad’s wish for his birthday this year. He picked Sanchez Elementary School because he is interested in supporting childhood education. Prasad and a handful of friends woke up bright and early to pull weeds and clean up the new garden. “Schools in San Francisco are in desperate need of help, so this is how I can give back to the kids, to the community,” Prasad said.

Across the Bay, I discovered a hidden gem in the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. I was greeted with soothing sounds from a koi pond fountain and a lush green backdrop of colorful flowers and soaring trees. Beyond the green oasis, sounds of rakes, hand shovels and conversation buzzed like an orchestra of goodness. More than a hundred volunteers worked, laughed and inspired one another.

Myriam Garcia and her two young children Max and Paloma, took a break to tell me why they spent their Saturday morning working in the community garden. “I came to beautify the city where I grew up, where I work. This is my community,” she said passionately.

“Volunteering means you do it from your heart, you’re not doing it because you’re getting paid.” Garcia said she’s planting the seeds of volunteerism early with her 8-year-old son Max and 6-year-old daughter Paloma.

Through volunteering she sees a shift in her children, who are learning an important lesson in civics. “You have to make them a part of what life is about… You don’t pay people to beautify your life.” She said her children are excited to give back. “Volunteering means you help others,” Paloma said proudly.

Down south at Sunnyvale’s Full Circle Farms, dozens of volunteers gathered to harvest food. “I just want them to come back, to be inspired to give back to the community they’re living in,” Shubda Garani, HOBA board member, said.

Volunteers told me their efforts will continue giving back long after the saws and shovels are put away –- and in Prasad’s case, long before his birthday candles are blown out.

“People think they don’t have money to give back, but they can give time,” Prasad said. Only time will tell how Garcia and Prasad’s ripples of kindness will billow through their friends, children and out into the community.

What can YOU do to be the change?!

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