“Love Fullerton,” a citywide service day that brings together local churches, businesses, schools, police, firefighters and residents, is one of Dan Hughes’ favorite days.
Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, a city native, considers giving back to the place that has given him so much not just a duty but also an honor.
On Saturday, April 30, Hughes will join nearly 3,000 people at the third-annual Love Fullerton. That morning, volunteers will take part in any number of 75 city projects, ranging from feeding the homeless to cleaning up trash in parks, from planting shrubs on the Brea Boulevard median to painting schools. Up to 60 members of the Fullerton Police Department, Hughes said, are expected to volunteer their time.
“I get a tremendous amount of joy seeing a broad cross-section of people coming together to really try to improve our community, to support one another and to inspire one another,” said Hughes, who co-organized Love Fullerton with Jay Williams, a former pastor at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton who now heads the OCUnited nonprofit.
“I think this day shows the very best of our community. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
For the first time, neighboring cities will participate.
On April 30, Brea, Buena Park, La Habra, Placentia and the west district of Anaheim will hold similar events at the same time. Across northern Orange County, up to 10,000 people are expected to volunteer their time.
Leaders from other area cities are also expected to attend to watch and learn in the hope of adding the special day to their municipalities in the future.
“The goal was always not just to have this just in our city but to expand to elsewhere,” said Hughes, who met with area police chiefs and officials to encourage them to create their own “Love city” days. “Our goal is that this will move from North County to all of Orange County and beyond.”
The Central Valley city of Modesto began Love Modesto in 2009, becoming the first municipality in the state to hold such a massive all-city volunteer day. Hughes and Williams, both deeply committed to civic engagement and improvement, trekked to Modesto to learn more about its successful service day.
In 2014, the two organized Love Fullerton, the first city in Orange County to hold a “Love” city event. About 2,000 people came out to donate blood, remove park graffiti and spruce up area schools, among many other projects. The following year, 3,000 volunteers showed up.
Hughes said he feels a special pride in the role members of the Fullerton PD play in Love Fullerton. On April 30, they will oversee several improvement projects as well as work side-by-side with local residents on others.
“We really want to reach out to our neighbors and let them know who the police are who patrol their neighborhoods,” he said. “This is just another way for us to demonstrate our efforts to make our city better. And we want to do that not only when we’re getting paid to do so.”
In Fullerton, volunteers who have signed up online can meet for breakfast between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Fullerton’s downtown plaza at 129 E. Wilshire Ave. Participants will also receive complimentary “I Love Fullerton” T-shirts. At 9:15, they will go to different locations throughout the city to work on various projects.
Fullerton volunteers, as well as those from most North County participating cities, will gather around noon at Fullerton College for a celebratory lunch, replete with music and good vibrations. Heroes, Matador Cantina and Taqueria de Anda are donating the food.
As always, Chief Hughes looks forward to “Love Fullerton.”
“This is one day. But we hope that it really provides inspiration for the 364 other days of the year,” he said. “There are always opportunities to give back to your community and to be a part of it.”