Volunteerism offers families chance to get together outside

Dennis Luker, 37, of Saugus, picks up trash with Cub Scout Pack 527 of Santa Clarita, with his 6-year-old son Tyler, right, and fellow pack member Carlo Colon.
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It’s common for families to look at the end of the summer and see the declining opportunity to get together and spend quality time with one another. Often offering a break from school, work and day-to-day hustle and bustle, the summer is considered an ideal time for families to bond with each other.

However, there’s plenty of community service and volunteerism opportunities for families to spend time together even with summer winding down and schools back in session.

“For parents, I encourage them to start their kids (volunteering) young,” said Tess Simgen, the arts and events volunteer engagement supervisor for the city. “When parents bring their kids, you’re being a good role model and you’re teaching them a good life lesson.”

River Clean Up, CERT and the Marathon

One upcoming opportunity to give back is part of a long-standing tradition in Santa Clarita, the Santa Clara River Rally. During the event, volunteers flock to a local portion of the Santa Clara River, and pick up gloves, trash bags and water bottles to walk out into the riverbed to pick up trash.

Since the event started 25 years ago, over 445,000 pounds of trash have been collected during River Rallies, Simgen said.

“Last year, we had over 1,200 volunteers show up … and kids as young as five coming down with their parents,” said Simgen. “It’s a good place for families to bond and do something together.”

In addition to the River Rally, a Community Emergency Response Training is being held the same day. The course is set to begin Sept. 7, and the three-week program takes place every Saturday until Sept. 21.

The CERT program, which is run as a partnership between the city and Los Angeles County Fire Department, helps the class participants practice what they’ve learned, and helps the community prepare for a disaster.

Friends and family wait at the finish line for their loved ones to arrive at the 2017 Santa Clarita Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. Signal file photo

A third opportunity for the year is the Santa Clarita marathon, where families can volunteer for a water station or course monitor. Course monitors make sure a certain spot is secure, while making sure the runners are going the same way, said Simgen.

“It’s a good way to meet other people, other families, and work with others and it could be fun to cheer on the runners,” said Simgen. “We get runners from different states, and sometimes even different countries.”

Simgen said groups and families can apply to volunteer to work the event together. There’s a 5k and 10k on Nov. 2, and the half marathon and full marathon are on the second day.

Volunteer registration for the River Rally Clean Up/Environmental Expo and the CERT program are now open, and marathon volunteer registration starts Sept. 1. For more information about what roles you and your family can play in these city-run community events, visit http://santaclaritavolunteers.com/

Castaic Lake

Castaic Lake is visited and enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year. And in order to keep the natural beauty of the lake at a pristine level, a number of individuals and groups volunteer their time to help clean up trash and leftovers from these events.

The Friends of Castaic Lake, is a volunteer group that makes a positive impact on the Castaic Lake Recreation Area by working to keep it clean. For the last 36 years, the nonprofit group has had a mission to enhance operations for the County of Los Angeles’ largest regional park.

And on the second Saturday of each month, the members of the FOCL hold a Pride in the Lake Day, from 9-11 a.m., where the volunteers pick up trash.

“This is a great way to get out there and do something positive for our community,” said Courtney Tole, Friends of Castaic Lake social media and communication coordinator. “We will supply gloves, trash bags and trash-pickers; all you need to bring is a desire to make one of Los Angeles County’s best parks even better.”

Other volunteer events, which people can either offer to work at or attend for fun, include the  “Casting a Special Thrill” or CAST event for disabled children, the December “Winter Magic-Lighted Boat” parade, or even the “Fishin’ and Fun for Kids” day, which draws over 400 kids to the lake to learn how to fish and fish alongside one another.

“Adults and kids alike thoroughly enjoy our events (and) our goal is to make every event fun and memorable for all guests and volunteers in attendance,” said Tole. “(And) we are always looking for more volunteers.”

FOCL meets at the BISC Building located inside the park on the third Tuesday of every month (except December). If you are interested in getting involved, attend a meeting, or for more information, contact the park office at (661) 257-4050.

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