Wielding 'grabber-sticks' and plastic trash bags, a small army of citizen-activists descended on City Heights Monday, determined to clear litter from the streets, alleys and sidewalks in a 16-block area.
They were answering the call to community service on the Martin Luther King Day holiday, which Congress in 1994 designated as a day of national service.
The effort, organized by the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, brought dozens of volunteers ranging from preteens to senior citizens.
"My daughter saw me looking at a flyer for this last night and wanted to come out," said Carlos Cota, business manager for Local 122 of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees. "So here we are."
Among the 'community servants' was Shelia Jackson, a trustee of the San Diego Unified School District.
"Together, we can make our city better and our nation better," Jackson said in a sidewalk interview.
" And it takes us coming out on a day like today to really send that message to President Obama as he goes into office that the people are with him."
Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama was with the people volunteering at a homeless shelter for teenagers in Washington, D.C., climbing a ladder to take down curtains before roller-brush painting an entire wall himself.
That tone of volunteerism echoed off the bulkheads of the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, where 'giving back' was the spirit of a Day of Service rally honoring military veterans.
"We don't have the luxury of not engaging volunteers in our country," said Sue Carter, director of Volunteer San Diego. "I think that's going to be part of our solution, and that's what we need to do together."
The cleanup volunteers in City Heights were finding that task to be its own reward.
"It feels so good to give back to the community," said Devon Howard, a student at San Diego State University. "And it starts a sort of cycle of ... good, well-being. It's really important. It's what we need right now."