Residents, police, church members join forces to serve La Habra

By Thomas Leftwich

The city of La Habra’s official motto is “a caring community,’ and on Saturday, Sept. 26, residents proved that motto still rings true.

Nearly 600 volunteers showed up at Portola Park to lend a helping hand at the inaugural Love La Habra citywide service day.

Love La Habra is a partnership of area churches, the city, La Habra PD, local businesses and service organizations all coming together to work on their choice of 19 projects ranging from creating quilts for the homeless, to painting city buildings and cleaning up local parks.

This event is part of the larger Love Our Cities campaign, which was launched in Modesto in 2007, and since then has expanded to more than 50 cities with more than 70,000 volunteers across California.

It was 8 a.m. and already 75 degrees as volunteers lined up to sign-in for a service project and receive their red “Love La Habra” t-shirt.

Madelyn Blancas, left, and Maddy Sopp, both 17 from Sonora High School, paint the sign for The Children's Museum during Love La Habra. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Madelyn Blancas, left, and Maddy Sopp, both 17 from Sonora High School, paint the sign for The Children’s Museum during Love La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Wendy Guandique, secretary to the Chief of Police, said she was surprised at the large turnout.

“This is really a testament to our residents and the sense of community we have here,” she said. “I think this is a great beginning toward building a greater sense of purpose by making new friends and improving the place we live.”

Longtime La Habra resident Rick Goodwin, a teacher at Servite High School, was one of the many volunteers happy to see an event like this hit La Habra.

“I believe in community relationships,” he said. “I’ve been a part of this city for a long time and it’s nice to see an event like this bringing people together.”

“La Habra needs this.”

Another La Habra resident, Marilyn Ausen, said she was excited to get her hands dirty and make new friends.

“This is so neat,” she said. “The more people I talk to out here, the more it reminds me why I chose to live here. I think it’s going to be a wonderful day.”

La Habra Police Chief Jerry Price, who helped organize the event, said in future years they want to team up with neighboring cities Fullerton and Brea for a regional day of service.

“This day of service is a great opportunity to bring our citizens together and let them get to know the police department on a different level, all while making the city even better,” he said.

Volunteers apply fresh paint to the Depot Playhouse Community Theatre in La Habra, also knows as the Mysterium Theatre, during Love La Habra, a city wide day of the community helping to make La Habra a better place. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Volunteers apply fresh paint to the Depot Playhouse Community Theatre in La Habra, also knows as the Mysterium Theatre, during Love La Habra, a city wide day of the community helping to make La Habra a better place.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

As the morning progressed and the Zumba warm-up was over, dedicated individuals evolved into dynamic groups to depart to their service projects.

Dozens of uniformed and non-uniformed officers volunteered their time to work on one of the many projects.

One popular project was the cleanup of Coyote Creek, a homeless refuge located behind La Habra Market Place.

Volunteers, LHPD explorers and officers filled dozens of trash bags with pieces of rusted metal, old tents, dirty clothes and used needles.

Capt. Jeff Swaim said the cleanup was a fix that would help the area, for now. “Imagine if all that garbage got swept into the ocean?” Swaim said. “We need to find a solution for this area. The fence keeps getting cut open and the homeless like to sleep down here.”

After a hard day’s work, volunteers made it back to Portola Park for lunch, live music and a chat with a new friend or two.

“It’s great to see the community come together like this,” Swaim said. “I hope we do events like this more often.”

Alexie Blount, 16, of La Habra High, front, paints the windows of the Depot Playhouse Community Theatre in La Habra, also knows as the Mysterium Theatre, as Maria Delgado, another volunteer behind her, helps out during the city wide Love La Habra event. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Alexie Blount, 16, of La Habra High, front, paints the windows of the Depot Playhouse Community Theatre in La Habra, also knows as the Mysterium Theatre, as Maria Delgado, another volunteer behind her, helps out during the city wide Love La Habra event.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Volunteers paint the sign for The Children's Museum at La Habra during Love La Habra, a city wide day of community helping to make La Habra a better place. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Volunteers paint the sign for The Children’s Museum at La Habra during Love La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Police Chief Jerry Price brings boxes of pizza donated by Jane and Steve Williams (Jane use to run the La Habra Journal) to the table for the Love La Habra volunteers as Reini Weyant right, gets the hot dogs ready. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Police Chief Jerry Price brings boxes of pizza donated by Jane and Steve Williams (Jane used to run the La Habra Journal) to the table for the Love La Habra volunteers as Reini Weyant right, gets the hot dogs ready.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Officer Tam Do describes first hand the various buttons and controls on a police motorcycle during a picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Officer Tam Do describes first hand the various buttons and controls on a police motorcycle during a picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

SWAT Team Officer’s Eric Ocampo, left, and Steve Highley answer questions about the various types of weapons at the disposal of the police at a public information display during a picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

SWAT Team Officer’s Eric Ocampo, left, and Steve Highley answer questions about the various types of weapons at the disposal of the police at a public information display during a picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

SWAT Team Officer Steve Highley of La Habra PD describes the various types of weapons at the disposal of the police when needed, including a breaching shotgun used to quickly get through locked doors, at a public information display during a picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

SWAT Team Officer Steve Highley of La Habra PD describes the various types of weapons at the disposal of the police when needed, including a breaching shotgun used to quickly get through locked doors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Eight-year-old Jacob Pepper of La Habra asks questions of La Habra Officer Tam Do during a police motorcycle demonstration, part of the picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Eight-year-old Jacob Pepper of La Habra asks questions of La Habra Officer Tam Do during a police motorcycle demonstration, part of the picnic gathering for the Love La Habra event at Portola Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC