With covers over their shoes, a group of kids collected near the northwest corner of Belle Air Elementary School's multipurpose room and liberally applied navy blue paint to the walls.
Where to paint was outlined with blue tape, which one boy explained to the others would later be removed. So, painting on the tape wouldn't be a problem. The kids were part of a larger group of volunteers at the San Bruno campus Monday. People of all ages were helping with different projects — landscaping, painting, reshelving a storage space. The school served as one site where people were giving back Monday. Nearly 200 people from 15 different faith communities in San Mateo County volunteered at various locations as part of the first Multifaith Day of Service in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Working side by side with Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Buddhist folks and more, to serve the needy here on the Peninsula builds bridges of understanding and reminds us that what we have in common is so much more important than whatever our differences might be,” said the Rev. Kristi Denham of the Congregational Church of Belmont.
Volunteers met for breakfast at the First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame then spread out to tackle a variety of projects like sorting children's books to be given to low-performing schools on the Peninsula; and sorting coats, stuffed animals and baby food for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
In South San Francisco, volunteers first took a tour of Safe Harbor Shelter before getting to work preparing lunch. Charcoal was warming by 11 a.m., about an hour before hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers would be served to the residents.
Volunteer Gary Deatherage, who helped organize the lunch at the homeless shelter, said the clients were welcoming and happy to see the volunteers.
Safe Harbor Case Manager Precious Barbie agreed. She said volunteers and donations are often made during the holidays but the needs of clients exist throughout the year.
Donations and volunteers are always needed. Some items that could be used are irons, hygiene products, clothing for interviews, towels, blankets, bicycles or even someone willing to fix and tune up bicycles. Donations can be brought to the shelter, 295 N. Access Road in South San Francisco.
"People-to-people understanding and acceptance of each other's beliefs are the paths to peace in the world,” said Lionel Engelman of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. "Hopefully, this event has accomplished that in some important way.”
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.