A Beautiful Day in San Jose


In the midst of the darkness of San Jose’s fiscal state of emergency as declared by Mayor Chuck Reed, a bright day dawned last week for more than a dozen neighborhoods and thousands of the city’s residents thanks to a coalition of public, private, nonprofit and faith-based interests.

Approximately 2,400 volunteers from the coalition Beautiful Day went to work from May 16-22 doing everything from donating blood to hosting a prom for disabled youth, to fixing up schools and dozens of homes throughout the city.

It’s a massive operation that takes several months of organizing and coordinating by a team of volunteers led by Beautiful Day’s executive director, Jon Talbert, who also serves as Compassion Pastor at Westgate Church in San Jose.

The group partners with the City of San Jose, other churches, nonprofits and businesses to come up with not only the volunteers necessary to tackle dozens of projects, but also money and materials.

“We’re at a place where we don’t have a choice but to collaborate,” Talbert said on Sunday at an Alviso home where volunteers were busily rolling on new paint.

A group of Beautiful Day volunteers refresh a mural at George Mayne Elementary School in Alviso.

Beautiful Day got its start in 2004, and has annually sponsored clean-up and fix-up events, gathering other churches, nonprofits, the city, and school districts into the coalition along the way.

This year the May event was taken to “a whole new level” Talbert said, when the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to make it a city-wide effort.  That paved the way to allowing the use of city resources, such as vehicles, supplies and funding.

The collaboration between a faith-based group, secular organizations, and government is a model that Talbert said is gaining more attention from government officials, including the Obama Administration.

“The faith based community becomes an integral part in answering the problems of the city, so it not only survives, it thrives,” Talbert said.

The work done over the weekend in Alviso, a small low-income enclave of 2,200 residents off of Highway 237 near Milpitas, was a prime example. About 600 volunteers fixed up dilapidated homes using donated lumber and paint from private companies with the blessing of the city. Many of the homes the volunteers helped fix belonged to elderly and disabled people who didn’t have the money or ability to refurbish their homes, some of which were literally falling apart.

At George Mayne Elementary School, a group of art students from Leigh High School from across the city refreshed fading school murals, while other volunteers led a sports camp on the school’s playing fields. On Sunday afternoon Beautiful Day volunteers sponsored a fiesta for the residents, 75 percent of which are Hispanic.

Beautiful Day volunteer Sharon Berg greets drivers as she directs volunteers to a check-in site on Sunday in Alviso.

All together the volunteers spruced up 41 sites in Alviso alone on Saturday and Sunday. Another nearly 2,000 volunteers were working throughout the rest of the city at shelters, a homeless encampment, schools, and other locations. One group of volunteers even put on a prom for disabled teenagers on Friday night.

Talbert believes the economic downturn is the launch of something positive for both churches and government agencies moving forward.

“What I think is cool is that this crisis we’re in forces us to do one of two things. We either circle the wagons and hide in our churches, or we pick up a towel and link arms with other agencies and serve.”

Next: How a short-term volunteer event inspires long-term collaboration.



  1. […] With all the precision of a major police operation, the two marshaled the forces of 600 volunteers last weekend for the “Awaken Alviso” project, one of 17 projects worked on May 16-22 by a San Jose coalition of churches, nonprofits, businesses a…. […]

  2. […] Director Jon Talbert told Good Neighbor Stories last year that the 2011 event jumped “to a whole new level” after the San Jose City Council voted […]

  3. […] for the playground’s blacktop. Beautiful Day oversaw a similar map painting project during last year’s event at George Mayne Elementary in Aliviso. Dabak said it takes at least 20 people to paint the […]

  4. […] Many volunteers worked multiple shifts from Friday to Saturday, helping to fill up to 4,600 positions at 26 sites from Milpitas to Morgan Hill, with most of the work centered in San Jose. Last year the event attracted approximately 2,400 volunteers. […]

  5. […] The faith-based Beautiful Day collaborates annually with dozens of churches, agencies, nonprofits, companies, and individuals, for one week in April to fix up schools, homes, centers, parks, neighborhoods, and other public spaces. Last year an estimated 3,500 people volunteered during Beautiful Day week; 2,400 volunteered the year before. […]