Volunteers gather this weekend to clean up Oakland

All over town on Saturday, volunteers will head out to community gardens, dog parks, senior centers and schools to spend the day trying to improve Oakland.

The Throwdown for the Town is an event organized by The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a community organizing nonprofit. More than 200 volunteers are signed up to work at one of the 25 service projects that will include working in community and school gardens, restoring vacant parking lots and helping out in senior centers all over town from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will also be voter engagement workshops and youth basketball tournaments.

Abel Habtegeorgis of the Ella Baker Center said a goal for the day is to build a connection between people and the area where they live. “Allowing residents to take ownership of their communities is more than just service,” he said. “It’s about taking care of an extension of your home, and realizing your home is actually your city, your block, your neighborhood.”

In North Oakland, volunteers will be participating in activities with seniors at Piedmont Gardens; collecting surveys about people’s experiences with unemployment with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Community; promoting the new Lake Merritt dog park; setup for the East Bay Children’s Book Project at Mosswood Park; and gardening at St. Columbia Church and the California Hotel.

In East Oakland, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Community Gardening Program is hosting a cleanup of Verdese Carter Park at 96th and Bancroft Avenues. Volunteers will be spreading mulch and preparing raised beds for gardening and helping with general site beautification like sign painting. Tools will be on hand but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own as well.

“It’s a garden that’s been in disrepair the past few years, but we’re breathing new life into it,” said Peter Collier, the city’s community gardening program coordinator.

At the end of the day, volunteers will gather at Mosswood Park from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for a celebration that will include live music from local bands and free food for volunteers from taco trucks.

Click here for a list of service projects.