BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Just over one dozen volunteers from Garden Pathways spent the morning in northeast Bakersfield cleaning up illegal dumping and going door-to-door speaking to area residents.
The group knows that cleanups are beneficial, however the impact can be only temporary.
When Garden Pathways does a cleanup, their goal is to transform lives from the inside out, by building relationships with residents and helping them get connected to services they offer, while encouraging residents to take pride in their community.
"We not only want to beautify neighborhoods, we want to beautify and change lives," said Karen Goh, president and CEO of Garden Pathways.
The program has seen tremendous success in the 34th St./Homemaker Park neighborhood with reduction in trash, crime and substance abuse.
"We choose neighborhoods that are in the greatest needs of help. Those areas that have high poverty, high crime, and high incidents of substance abuse," said Goh.
Many of the group's volunteers say they were headed down the wrong path in life. But the faith-based program has given them a second chance.
"I'm not proud of all the bad stuff I've done in the past. Now, it feels good to give back to the community and be a good citizen," said Jose Reyes.
Reyes, Who has been in the program for about four months, spent time in jail with no hope until he got connected with Garden Pathways in their Job Skills Readiness program as well as doing community service.
"This program has helped me out a lot especially with my relationship with my fiancée. I put her through a lot with all the bad stuff I've done," said Rayes.
Reyes' fiancée was so inspired by the change in him, she spent the morning picking up trash by his side.
"People that have been going down the wrong road need that love and support. I've seen firsthand how this program not only changes communities, but also changes lives," Gladys Felix.
Area residents are thankful and encouraged by the group's efforts to remove the junk and debris off their streets and alleys.
"It seems that a lot of times people don't care about their neighborhoods. Now seeing this group out here cleaning up and talking to neighbors sharing their vision will help everybody," said Carolyn Cooper.
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