Volunteering & Giving
May 19, 2015

Once an abandoned lot, walking trail revives a community

The community of West Modesto, California, raised more than $1 million to transform an abandoned, hazardous strip of land used by children as a shortcut to get to school into a much-loved and much-used walking trail.

For years, Cleopathia Moore-Bell and her community on the west side of Modesto, California, had tried to find a way to transform a half-mile strip of abandoned land marred by litter and junk into a walking trail that would make residents proud.

Today, after a lot of hard work that raised more than $1 million, Cleopathia beams at the result: The Helen White Memorial Walking Trail — a paved, well-lit, handsomely landscaped walkway used by local residents and their children.

“It was a blight to the neighborhood and now . . . it’s a beautiful something to see every day,” says the executive director of the West Modesto/King Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative, a nonprofit that coordinates funding for community programs.

Boosted by a grant worth more than $229,000 from Well Fargo’s UrbanLIFT program, the community met its fundraising goal and completed renovation of the walkway last fall, says Cindy Hill, senior housing specialist for Self Help Enterprises, a nonprofit that applied for the UrbanLIFT funding.

After receiving the UrbanLIFT grant, “We were able to put the final piece of the funding puzzle together,” Cindy says.

Wells Fargo team members in the Modesto area have extended the company’s involvement by participating in regular cleanup days at the trail.

Since its inception in 2013, UrbanLIFT has contributed $11.5 million to 59 nonprofits in 25 communities across the U.S., says Karen Bonds Lee, UrbanLIFT program manager and community outreach manager with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which teams with NeighborWorks America to lead the program.

The West Modesto project focused on transforming a patch of dirt road overrun with weeds and other harmful debris, yet routinely used by children from the surrounding low-income neighborhood as a shortcut to their schools.

Once the West Modesto community realized the threat the area posed to the children, people came together to do something about it, says Modesto’s Mayor Garrad Marsh.

“It warms my heart to see the outpouring of care, affection, and volunteerism,” he says. “Now this is one gem, really, for the west side of our city.”