Saturday dawned crisp and clear. Just after 8 a.m., several cars pulled up to The Farmhouse and about three dozen people wearing bright yellow vests emblazoned with the Mormon Helping Hands logo descended on the yard and gardens of the residential treatment facility.
The Farmhouse is part of the Yolo Community Care Continuum, a nonprofit organization that provides programs to adults experiencing a psychiatric disability.
At first it was a bit startling, according to program director Renae Baird, to have such a sizable crew ready and willing to do whatever was needed to spruce up the area around the house and barns on the 10-acre site. But by mid-morning, she was relaxed and all smiles as she stood in the center of the driveway surveying the whirlwind of workers.
“I was a little overwhelmed when they showed up, but we are so grateful to everyone here,” she said, pointing to the freshly mowed fields, where two hours before there were waist-high weeds. She looked to the bright flowers planted in the barrels lining the newly paved driveway, to the newly planted shrubs and trees, and to the team behind the facility preparing the garden and cleaning the patio area.
Across town, among the more than 250 volunteers swarming the campus of Montgomery Elementary School, the Cuvelier family of Davis was busy scooping up the weeds and chunks of tall grass others were pulling from the flower bed.
“I hear a lot of parents saying that it is fun to work in a big group like this, because the kids never work this well at home. The kids are all having fun and doing quite a good job,” chuckled Wendi Cuvelier as she helped sons Cameron, 15; Kyle, 12; Ryan, 9; and Braden, 5; pile weeds in a wheelbarrow.
“I am really enjoying the general happy attitude of everyone seeing how quickly we can get the work done and see what a difference we can make.”
Added Wendi’s husband Corey Cuvelier, who serves as president of the Woodland California Stake — which includes eight congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Davis, Woodland, Winters and Dixon — “Any time you can get all four of my boys to work this hard at the same time, you can bet it is a good cause.”
But it wasn’t just Davis residents digging in to help. About half of the workforce totaling more than 400 was made up of members of the LDS Church and their friends from Woodland, Winters and Dixon.
“We are grateful to all those who volunteered, including those from surrounding communities,” Corey Cuvelier said. “I believe what the volunteers were able to accomplish in such a short time will benefit those who use and enjoy these great facilities.”
Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza expressed his appreciation, telling the Mormon Helping Hands group as they gathered in the multipurpose room at Montgomery School, “Davis is a city of volunteerism. We see it over and over, in the parks, the schools and community organizations. But to see one group in one day come in with such force and generosity is humbling. It makes us all want to do more.”
Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, who recommended The Farmhouse as one of the service projects, also was on hand to commend the group and send the team off on their projects. He joined the team to work at The Farmhouse.
Winfred Roberson, superintendent of the Davis schools, also addressed the volunteers, thanking them in particular for their efforts at Montgomery Elementary. State Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis and her son, City Councilman Dan Wolk, planned to attend, but were forced to change plans when Dan’s wife went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby girl that very morning.
Sen. Wolk had co-authored a bipartisan, joint State-Assembly resolution declaring April 30 “Mormon Helping Hands Day.” Both the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Davis City Council presented similar resolutions.
Last year, more than 400 volunteers refurbished eight parks in Woodland, including painting the historic Opera House. This year, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers were assigned to landscape maintenance projects at Montgomery Elementary School, Mace Ranch Channel, Arroyo Park and The Farmhouse.