By Tracy Correa
BAKERSFIELD — Eleven-year-old Reagan Johnston wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty Saturday (April 6) morning as she worked alongside her mom, PG&E’s Denise Clarke, planting flowers outside of downtown Bakersfield’s historic Fox Theater.
It was the first volunteer project for the duo. “I’ve just been wanting to get involved in something,” said Clarke, a senior engineering estimator. And sprucing up downtown Bakersfield was the perfect event, she said.
About 80 Bakersfield-area PG&E employees, their family and friends, teamed up with nonprofit Keep Bakersfield Beautiful to plant flowers and pick up trash in the heart of the city. The event is part of PG&E’s first-ever Month of Service — a month-long itinerary of more than 100 community service projects throughout the utility’s Northern and Central California service territory. Month of Service is an expansion of the utility’s ongoing and longstanding participation in Earth Day cleanup projects in April.
PG&E kicked off the Month of Service on a rainy and windy day at San Francisco’s Candlestick Point Recreation Area. It was here that PG&E CEO Tony Earley and dozens of employees worked side by side to beautify the state park for several hours. PG&E’s support is also financial: The utility presented a $277,000 check to the California State Parks Foundation.
In Bakersfield on Saturday, Mayor Harvey Hall welcomed volunteers on a perfect, sunny morning in the rear parking lot of the downtown PG&E building where he praised them for giving their time. He also thanked the utility for its commitment to the city. “PG&E is an ongoing partner in so many things in this community,” said the mayor.
Christine Flowers, executive director of Keep California Beautiful, the state affiliate of the Bakersfield chapter, said the local cleanup effort just keeps growing every year. “This is the largest one-day event we know of in California with the number of volunteers,” she said.
For PG&E employees, their friends and family, the event was a chance to give back to their city. Even students with the PG&E-sponsored New Energy Academy at Independence High School in Bakersfield pitched in to help.
“It’s just important to take greater responsibility in the city in which you live,” said Lisa English, one of PG&E’s Bright Minds scholarship winners. English, along with her husband, joined volunteers outside of Bakersfield City Hall (south building) where they planted flowers.
In addition to planting flowers at City Hall and the Fox Theatre, volunteers cleaned up around Garces Circle — a downtown roundabout with a memorial statue of Father Francisco Garces — and planted fresh flowers. Volunteers, all dressed in new PG&E “Power of the Blue” T-shirts, also walked with large garbage bags, picking up trash along downtown’s Chester Avenue and Eye Street.
In all, a total of 120 flats of flowers at three sites were planted and 10 large bags were filled with trash. (Click here to see a video of the Bakersfield cleanup put together by PG&E employees and brothers Jose and Carlos Zepeda.)
After the cleanup, volunteers attended the PG&E-sponsored Great American Cleanup/Keep Bakersfield Beautiful community barbecue at Yokuts Park. Hundreds of community volunteers (there were other beautification projects throughout the city) came together at the park for burgers, hot dogs and entertainment. PG&E’s Matthew Park, a senior government relations representative in Bakersfield, accepted a recognition certificate from Mayor Hall during a ceremony acknowledging the company’s sponsorship and support.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.