The Blog

Making a difference . . .


It's amazing how you come in contact every day with different people.  Some you meet, and some you walk right pass and never know.  In a somewhat strange way, I met someone who has made an impact on my life.  My wife was selling her car, and as the "husband", that seemed to be my job.  After months and months of meeting with strangers, some nice, some odd, some really odd, the car was not selling.  People have various reasons for spending so much of your time and "wasting" it, but it was getting frustrating.   

Then I got an email from Alex.  My first reaction was . . . "oh man, another one"!   Well, this turned out to be the one.   Not only did Alex end up buying my wife's car (for a good deal I might add), but we hit it off immediately.  Maybe it was the extremely complimentary things he was saying about my photograhpy, but I almost didn't want the test drive to end.  Immediately i could tell this guy was different.  Really kind, really "normal", and a real humanitarian.  I was glad that my wife's car, which she LOVED and was hesitant to sell, was going to good hands. 

I learned in our test drive, that Alex was involved in a lot of work to better his community (among all of the other things that he does).  Trying to show that I'm "involved" with doing things for the needy, I mentioned that my family and another family take 2 Sunday's a month to make sandwiches for the homeless.  He immediately said that if I needed any help, he'd love to participate.  I only mention my own "efforts' to show the ridiculous contrast (in the following description) between what we do and what Alex does. 


Months later, Alex's co-worker called to ask if I'd be up for coming out over the weekend and shooting an event they were holding to better the community in Oakland.

This event was cosponsored by WOGI, the West Oakland Green Initiative ( and OPC, the Oakland Parks Coalition ( WETA, the Weekend Training Academy is the a great program that allows kids who are in trouble with the law to remain in school and with their families while doing community service and helping out with projects like this.  Alex has been their West Oakland contact for the past 4 years.



St. Mary's College came out to give them a hand. They worked so hard. St. Mary's college does a lot of work around the bay.


Alex is also the president of the West Oakland Green Initiative as of 2013. The group has been around for about 12 years. Their mission is to improve the air quality in West Oakland, one of the most populated inner city areas in the entire state. They have planted over 1300 street and park trees and are now getting into Pollinator gardens and pathways. The garden that they created in this last weekend's event is going to be the single largest pollinator garden strip in the entire city of Oakland.

(now you see the contrast ) 


 Anyway, I wound up going for a couple of hours to document their efforts to help them continue to spread the word and create awareness and funding for their projects.  While everyone was wielding shovels and pick axes, I was packing two cameras.

Oh yeah, and the hardest working person out there . . Alex. 

Here are a few from the incredibly productive day.  (Check out Alex's facebook page to see some additional photos of the completed project

by Michael Clemens