COVID-19 did not stop Santa Clarita residents from volunteering in their community

Abby Jacobs, left, and Catherine Houghes join hundreds of voluteers as they use their hands to spread move some of the hundreds of yards of mulch during the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Day of Service beatification project at the Newhall Park and Ride in Newhall on Saturday, October 10, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Amid a monthslong pandemic lockdown that prohibited people from gathering and ordered them to keep a distance, thousands of local residents managed to safely contribute nearly 20,000 hours in volunteerism throughout Santa Clarita in 2020. 

A total of 2,475 volunteers offered a sum of 19,739 hours of their time with city-run events and projects. The accumulation of serviced hours equates to about 10 full-time employees, according to data provided by Tess Simgen, arts and events supervisor with the city, who said Thursday she was completing a 2020 annual volunteers report. 

“These numbers are still very high considering the situation we had in 2020,” she said. 

Arts and Events Supervisor Patrick Downing hands out bags of supplies to some of the 900 registered participants during the 2020 Neighborhood Cleanup and Online Environmental Expo at Central Park in Saugus on Saturday, September 26, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

In 2017, for example, more than 5,000 people volunteered 56,886 hours, which generated an economic impact valued at $1.6 million, according to that year’s report. In quantifying last year’s volunteer hours to a dollar amount, the value equates to $622,000, according to Simgen. 

“I’d be willing to challenge any other city in the state to have numbers that reach that level, and particularly again in a pandemic,” said Councilman Cameron Smyth during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We see it as a council, how this community comes together to support one another in all difficult times.” 

More than five major events were canceled in 2020, such as the Santa Clarita Marathon and Cowboy Festival, while others had to undergo adjustments to allow volunteers to participate while following safety protocols such as physical distancing. 

Among the most successful events was a drive-thru neighborhood cleanup in September, where residents drove up at sites to collect cleanup kits and were then encouraged to pick up litter at local neighborhoods and trails. The event replaced the annual Santa Clara River cleanup. In October, about 250 residents spent their weekend beautifying the hillsides in Newhall scarred by the August Elsmere Fire that charred 200 acres. Several more residents also spent time clearing and maintaining local trails that many used amid the lockdown. 

“With the pandemic, we were free to walk our trails and enjoy our open space,” said Simgen. “and, I mean, those trails don’t happen magically. We have a dedicated group of volunteers who work on those trails to make sure that they’re in good condition, they’re safe, and that our residents can enjoy them.” 

In late October, the city launched its Santa Clarita Volunteer Hub, which offers nonprofits a new platform to recruit volunteers and helps residents find where they can volunteer locally. To find out more, visit

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