WALNUT CREEK -- Kathe Mitchell read about Community Service Day in a city newsletter, and "just decided it would be a good thing to do" to sign up for one of the 45 jobs on the list.

After a morning of planting native-species seeds for later replanting in local open spaces and parks, Mitchell had a few observations.

"I spent the morning working with some real nice people I wouldn't have met otherwise," she said. "And more powerful, I learned more about the behind-the-scenes workings of Walnut Creek and its people."

One such observation -- "It was obvious someone has spent a lot of time tediously collecting all those seeds. There's a lot of unheralded work going on."

Such volunteers -- ones like Mitchell, who vow to take part in next year's Community Service Day -- are just the people organizers like Leslie Hunt want to see taking part in local programs.

"These are the people who are so important, because they keep the volunteer organizations going," said Hunt, of the Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation and Friends of the Creeks.

For the second year, more than 1,000 volunteers turned out to help with a wide variety of cleanup, assistance, repair, maintenance, spruce-up, relief and improvement projects all over the city. The projects helped various nonprofit agencies, citizen groups, schools, libraries and even creeks.

"People had good success with volunteers coming and getting lots of stuff done," said City Councilwoman Cindy Silva, who spurred the first Walnut Creek volunteer event last year, modeling it on the successful Pleasant Hill Community Service Day event.

Silva on Saturday stopped by 10 or 12 different projects, she said. She was encouraged both by the feeling of camaraderie among the Saturday morning volunteers and by the work they accomplished.

"These a projects that volunteer organizations have done for years," she said. "But we achieve more when we have more workers."

Hunt said she didn't know any of the volunteers who turned out at the three projects she was helping oversee. But they were "really nice people," she said.

"People who volunteer are, on average, very nice people," she said. And they were new faces, which bodes well for Walnut Creek's volunteer base, she said. "We hope some of these volunteers turn into regulars."

Silva, who said Walnut Creek has had a strong history of citizen volunteerism, said such efforts are "the ultimate community-building exercise."

Mitchell agrees. She said she learned a lesson or two last Saturday with her group of about 15 people planting the seeds.

"Some of them had just recently moved here, and came out as a way to meet people," she said. "And I've lived here all these years and this was my first time doing it. I'm absolutely doing it again."

---