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Park benefits from Helping Hands
Sam Jones from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints breaks ground with a pulaski axe during the church’s volunteer day at Los Flores Ranch Park south of Orcutt. //Mark Brown/Staff

About 250 local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filled Los Flores Ranch Park south of Orcutt on Saturday morning with bright yellow work vests and a spirit of charity while they completed projects.

The Central Coast volunteers joined Mormons across California and Hawaii on Saturday in performing community service for the annual effort that is part of the Mormon Helping Hands program.

Residents from as far south as Los Alamos to as far north as Shell Beach turned out to the Santa Maria city-owned park to assist in tasks including planting oak seedlings, building fences, creating an aquaponic station for plants and fish, and repairing storm-damaged trails and roads.

Santa Maria Stake President Bill Ridgeway said the challenge each year is finding a place that can accommodate up to 300 volunteers. The past two years, the community service day was held at Nipomo Community Park.

Ridgeway said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members believe that as followers of Jesus, they have a responsibility to be good citizens and help their fellow man.

“That’s really our emphasis behind it,” he added.

Groups of yellow vest-clad volunteers of all ages spread out around the 1,774-acre park, working on hillsides and in valleys.

Having finished filling sand bags, Lompoc resident Ethan Pike and Daniel Floyd of Santa Maria, who are part of the same student congregation, planted seedlings.

Floyd said he worked with Mormon Helping Hands last year in Brazil, which he enjoyed, and was also having fun at Saturday’s event.

He said the volunteers had been productive.

“I was surprised at how fast it went,” he said of the work.

Pike said his church tries to do community service whenever it can, but the gathering Saturday was impressive in terms of number of participants.

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“It’s different to get a whole bunch of people in the same event,” he added.

Pike said he had considered going to the beach Saturday, but opted to volunteer instead.

“It’s nice to be productive and do something that will help other people.”

Up the road, a group stacked rocks to create the outline for a retaining wall for a planned barn.

Jessica Dewshup of Nipomo said the work of hauling rocks wasn’t too strenuous.

“The heavy ones are hard, but that’s why we have the men here,” she said.

Dewshup said she was looking forward to seeing the completed barn.

“I’d like to like come back when it’s actually built,” she said.

Alex Posada, Santa Maria recreation and parks director, joined the work effort Saturday.

He said the city has a list of chores to finish in the park before summer, a nearly impossible task due to the lack of a regular staff.

The city relies on volunteers to get the work done, Posada added.

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