Volunteers gather at the Memorial Tabernacle Church for a lawn party to restore the church's garden on Saturday, May 6, 2017. (Yesica Prado/Oakland North)

On a warm Saturday morning, people began to slowly stroll into the Memorial Tabernacle in Oakland’s Bushrod neighborhood. They were gathered not for a morning service, but for a special kind of lawn party. Trail mix, cookies, apples, and fresh-cut pieces of banana were laid out on colorful bowls on a table, but nothing smelled more fresh than the two 4-foot piles of compost and wood mulch laid out on the road in front of the church.

StopWaste, a public agency dedicated to reducing waste in Alameda County, hosted the lawn party to revitalize the Memorial Tabernacle’s community garden, using this hands-on project to educate volunteers on how to convert a water-thirsty lawn into a fruitful garden.

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Frank Garcia can’t help but start laughing. He’s standing in the middle of the Bushrod Recreation Center gym on a Thursday night, wearing gym shorts and holding a small, red plastic ball that looks like a miniature version of the ones found in schoolyards from coast to coast. Two of his high school buddies are standing next to him, and they’re cracking jokes of the ball-pun variety at each other’s expense. All around the gym, these plastic balls are whizzing by, as dozens of people warm up for a night of dodgeball.

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