MORAGA (CBS SF) — Several hundred volunteers rolled up their sleeves to spruce up nearly two-dozen Bay Area schools today as part of a regional day of service launched by Saint Mary’s College of California.

The college’s first “Great Bay Area Service Day for Schools” unfolded today on campuses in Oakland, Richmond, East Palo Alto, Concord and other Bay Area cities, Saint Mary’s spokesman Michael McAlpin said.

Volunteers Saturday morning descended on 22 schools in need to paint buildings and outdoor facilities and to do landscaping, classroom organizing and other projects to clean up campuses.

Jeannette Ramirez, principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood, said about 30 volunteers painted two large maps of the United States in the school’s playground areas today.

“Its great because it gives the kids a positive place to be,” she said of the 710 students who will come to school on Monday to discover their playground’s new facelift.

Ramirez said without the volunteer effort, the economically struggling school would not have been able to complete the project.

Saint Mary’s officials were originally expecting between 500 and750 volunteers to take part in the massive Spring-cleaning service projects, but ended up enlisting nearly 1,000 volunteers by this morning, McAlpin said.

“Service is part of the mission of Saint Mary’s and we’re extremely happy to see such an outpouring of support…from the general community,” said Marshall Welch, who heads the college’s community service center, Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action. The center aims to carry out the Catholic social teachings of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, McAlpin said.

The spokesman said the day of service follows the college’s long tradition of community volunteerism. This year as in years past, those efforts earned Saint Mary’s a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Honor Roll, awarded by the Corporation of National and Community Service.

College officials are hoping to repeat the Bay Area-wide service program on a yearly basis.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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