Annual Community Workday Builds Friendships

Dick Pryor, instigator and leader of the annual cleanup, mans a chainsaw. All workday photos are by Lynette Purvis and Claudette Ostrander

Evergreen Commons is a neighborhood that values thrift and values friendship. That becomes abundantly clear every year during the annual community work day.

“To me the biggest advantage of the work day is the social aspect of it,” says Dick Pryor, president of the homeowners’ association. “You always have two to three new homeowners. It gives them a chance to meet people. The social aspect is every bit as important as the work aspect.”

This year the work day, held in late April, attracted only 30 to 35 people, Pryor says, not the 40 to 45 who usually show up. But he’s not complaining.

“I’m not sure why [the turnout was low],” he says. “It rained like heck Friday night. We got almost an inch of rain. It was supposed to rain Saturday morning too, so maybe some people made other plans. But the weather was nice, it was cool.”

Ann Kerr and Cathie Shapiro handled the chair detail.

“I had a list of work that didn’t quite get done. But there’s always next year.”

Evergreen Commons, built by the Streng Brothers in 1971, is a particularly appealing neighborhood in large part because of its landscaping and site design. Many of the neighborhood’s 115 homes, some stand-alone single-family, some common-wall shared 'half-plexes,' open directly onto Evergreen Park. The neighborhood is in unincorporated Arden Arcade outside of Sacramento.

The park, which has a playground, picnic areas, a volleyball court, and pool, is also filled with a variety of trees. Maintenance can be costly. So the neighborhood association, which prides itself on keeping its fees low, has called upon neighbors to do some of the maintenance themselves.

Pryor recalls when he suggested that plan to the board about 15 years ago. “As long as I was willing to organize it,” he says, “they were in favor of it.” He’s been organizing it ever since.

Neighbors Ann Billington and Audrey Blake take a break from their labors at the food table.

Here’s how it works: Every home has to send a 'volunteer' to work for four hours, 8 a.m. to noon. Pryor has been known to turn a blind eye if folks start a bit late or cut out a bit early. If a husband and wife from a single home both work, or a child joins a parent, they can get away with only two hours each.

Those who prefer not to work, or are out of town, are assessed $40 instead. And those who do want to work, but can’t be there at the time, can do their labor at another time.

Though if they do they will miss out on breakfast, coffee and doughnuts, and orange juice, and a lunch barbecue, which this year included hot dogs, hamburgers, and Polish sausages.

The work parties are more than social occasions, and are far from symbolic. “It does save us some money for work we don’t have to pay the landscaper to do,” Pryor says, adding, “I figure it probably saves us $2,000 every year. It’s a considerable savings when you don’t have to pay $40 to $50 dollars an hour for a landscaper or painter to do it.”

Arranging a workday takes work itself, he says. “To keep 30 to 40 people busy at one time takes a fair amount of pre-planning.” Board members serve as supervisors, one overseeing pruning, for example, another irrigation.

This pile of debris suggests how much the volunteers got done.

The association and Pryor himself provide many of the tools. Homeowners are asked to bring shovels or wheelbarrows and the like.

The tasks tackled this year were, as ever, varied. “The tree service took out two trees the day before and did pruning on some others,” Pryor says. “So about half the work was hauling all the brush out. You get a better price on the tree work if they don’t have to haul the brush away themselves.”

Other neighbors refreshed the play area with ten to 15 yards of wood chips “so the kids don’t get hurt when they fall,” Pryor says. Others worked on the irrigation lines, planted four new trees and planted flowers.

Power washing had quite an effect on the patio furnishings. “It made the furniture look like it’s brand new,” Pryor says. And now that they globes atop the light standards were removed and cleaned, they just shine.

The pool in Evergreen Park is one of the neighborhood's most popular attractions. Photo by Dave Weinstein

The work plan for this year’s event was ambitious, with tasks ranging from “caulk around pool coping” and “remove vine from shrub next to sidewalk going to Zephyr [Way]” to “fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons” and “grind sidewalks to remove raised areas.” Not surprisingly, it did not all get done.

“We were going to paint the fascia boards on the pool house, but it was too wet in the morning—and by the time it dried out, it was too late,” Pryor says. “That can just wait till next year.”

The park at Evergreen Commons includes a playground for kids, picnic areas, volleyball, and more. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

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