Aug 31, 2009

Hot Digs Volunteerism

Peter Jacques's picture
Peter Jacques
Office Manager / Video Producer

As assistant to Maria Giudice, part of my job is to take her event and party ideas and make them into realities. I have to admit that when Maria first mentioned to me her desire that Hot celebrate its 12th Anniversary by doing community service I had my doubts; especially after her suggestion that we pick up trash on the beach! Now, I am all for heeding President Obama's call to serve your community, but I immediately had visions of myself, staggering, freezing cold on Ocean Beach bagging old whiskey bottles and medical waste. I figured the park might be better- at least if we had to pick up trash it would be less windy. After some research I managed to get us a volunteer gig with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (they're much better than the fictional department on the TV show with Amy Poehler) and on the morning of July 24th a small but determined group from Hot Studio assembled in Golden Gate Park to give back to the community.

We were welcomed by a wonderful woman named Lily who has worked for the department all of her adult life! She showed us what to do (weeding, mostly) while pointing out interesting plant life and giving us a short history of the area of the park where we were working (Rhododendron Island- 36th Ave and JFK Way). That sounds like it might be boring but it was exactly the opposite—she had many a tale to tell about the park, its flora as well as fauna (a family of hawks watched and flew over us throughout!) and I was even lucky enough to be taken to the little nearby office; one of those little stucco cottages that sort of blend-in with the scenery (yes, by design.) We saw photos of the area when it was first planted in the Victorian era as well as later in the 1950s when it fell into disrepair and neglect.

L to R: Jisun, Peter, Lily (crouching), Benji, Maria, Marsha, Piper, Gary

L to R: Jisun Suh, Peter Jacques, Lily (crouching), Benji Hunt,
Maria Giudice, Marsha Plat, Piper Murakami, Gary

The volunteer organization One Brick helped bring it back to life with a large scale, all-volunteer restoration job a couple years back. We also got a chance to look at some of Lily’s own drawings of several of her co-workers’ pets and favorite flowers (is everyone in SF an artist?) Lily told us that back in the 1970s the park had over 150 full time gardeners but they have since dwindled down to 50 after years and years of budget cuts. There is a great deal of maintenance work to do and volunteers are gladly accepted. We spent three hours digging in the dirt and bushes and it smelled great: just like… dirt and bushes! I personally rendered temporarily homeless thousands of bugs and Maria, our fearless leader unearthed the biggest root of the day!The whole group by name were: Peter Jacques, Benji Hunt, Maria Giudice, Marsha Plat, Jisun Suh and Piper Murakami.

Having gone in as a doubter, I was surprised to actually be asking Lily, “Can anyone come do this any time?” I highly recommend contacting the SF Park & Rec to do this work, especially if you never get the chance to dig in the earth. It literally grounds you. After our work was done and the group photo was taken (why didn’t the guy tell me to come on out from in back?) we meandered over to Park Chow for a nice round of beers, burgers and smiling noodles! All in all, it was a very nice anniversary.

Thanks Maria... and congratulations on 12 years!

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Maria Giudice's picture

Great post Peter! Thanks for sharing your story.

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