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GETTIN' DOWN AND DIRTY VOLUNTEERS MOBILIZE, FOR A DAY.

Byline: CONNIE LLANOS Staff Writer

In what many call the last stop for Bouquet Canyon is a place where hard work has made dreams come true.

On any given day, Santa Clarita's Los Angeles Retarded Citizen's Foundation Ranch is bursting with life as 101 mentally disabled adults live in beautiful ranch style homes, with limited assistance and unlimited fun.

But on Saturday -- as dozens of folks washed windows and scrubbed vans in support of a nationwide volunteer day -- everyone was focused on work.

``It makes me feel good to see people working hard to keep our ranch clean,'' said Blanca Bernell, a LARC resident.

With a huge smile and a loud hello she welcomed participants to Make a Difference Day 2006, the sixth year that the Santa Clarita Valley Resource Center and the city has organized the event and paired volunteers with nonprofit projects.

Volunteers were busy throughout the city Saturday, including those who helped restore the fire-damaged grounds of New Lease on Life dog rescue.

The nationwide event was started by USA Weekend magazine and the Points of Light Foundation to motivate communities to rally together and help each other.

Last year, more than 3 million volunteers participated across the country.

Neil Shah, Resource Center president, was pleased with the local community response.

What started as seven projects and 100 volunteers has grown to more than 20 projects and 750 volunteers, Shah said.

``The great thing about this community is that it really likes to volunteer,'' Shah said. ``The problem is finding enough big projects.''

Nonprofits submit their proposals for volunteer help by the end of July, highlighting their most urgent one-day projects. Shah and the Resource Center then pair volunteers to the projects.

This year, the event added a volunteer fair where nonprofits could set up information booths and get to know members of the community and one another.

Virginia Baus, a first-time participant in Make a Difference Day and a loyal volunteer for the Hunger Defense Fund, was excited to see the size of the nonprofit network in the valley.

``I am just excited to know there is so much out there.''

Sharon Ventrice, representative of the Prayer Angels for the Military, was glad to bring her organization to the volunteer fair.

A nonprofit dedicated to sending care packages to soldiers, the Prayer Angels held a letter-writing station for volunteers to send messages to troops overseas.

``This is great because it brings awareness to the community and this is one of the best communities to be involved with,'' Ventrice said.

Volunteers at LARC on Saturday -- primarily Newhall Land and Farm employees and their families -- seemed unfazed by the hard work and hot sun.

Marlee Lauffer saw it as an opportunity to bond with her 8-year-old daughter Katherine.

``Helping other people is fun,'' Katherine said.

For Kathleen Sturvey, LARC's executive director, the volunteer help is invaluable.

``They get done in one day what would take us weeks,'' Sturvey said.

Sturvey recalled how volunteers helped set up the ranch's 13 homes when they were first built five years ago.

Volunteers also worked all day to put together a brick mural that laces the ranch's entrance.

``They really make a difference in just one day,'' Sturvey said.

connie.llanos@dailynews.com

(661) 257-5254

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6 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 4 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) Above, volunteers, including Kim Rodriguez of Chatsworth, dig new holes while taking part in Make a Difference Day at the New Leash on Life dog rescue. Below left, plants await their turn to be placed into the ground. At bottom right, volunteer Kristi Kim, 8, of Canyon Country, cleans out the dirt in her shoes while volunteering at New Leash on Life. Below right, volunteer Norma Montes of Los Angeles digs fresh holes for new plants.

(5 -- 6 -- ran in SAC edition only) Above, volunteers work to replace landscape damaged in August's Placerita Fire at the New Leash on Life dog rescue during the nationwide Make a Difference Day on Saturday. At left, volunteer Tiffany Olay, 21, of Canyon Country, carries plants to their new home.

Alex Collins/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 29, 2006
Words:689
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