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Californians mark Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2009 | 10:12 am

In observance of Cesar Chavez Day, a state holiday, today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors kicks off its annual "Cesar Chavez Community Service Week."

Los Angeles County employees will be allowed to take half a day off to volunteer at several county parks, libraries, animal shelters and neighborhood organizations. And the county, in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, begins its two-week food drive. The county collected 23,000 pounds of food and supplies in last year's effort, according to Supervisor Gloria Molina's office.

Other events commemorating the late labor leader are being held around the state. In the Tehachapi Mountain hamlet of Keene, about 300 middle school, high school and college students will spend the day cleaning and fixing up the grounds around Chavez's grave site. They will watch Aztec performers and listen to a speech from Chavez's middle son, Paul Chavez, who heads the Cesar Chavez Foundation. The foundation will host a walk and festival Saturday at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

At the Incredible Edible Park in Irvine, about 20 Cal State Fullerton students will pick cabbage, lettuce and lemons alongside 60 students from Andersen Elementary School in the Newport Beach Unified School District. The students will plant onions and learn about Chavez. They will give the food they pick to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County to distribute to groups serving the hungry. The event was organized by the Volunteer Center of Orange County in conjunction with the two schools.

At 4 p.m. in San Bernardino, the United Warehouse Workers and city officials will hold an outdoor prayer service at St. John's Episcopal Church, 1407 N. Arrowhead Ave., followed by Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, to mark the holiday.

Superior courts, state offices and California state universities are closed today. But federal offices, city halls, public schools and banks are open. Trash pickup, postal service and transit services are operating as usual.

The holiday was signed into law in 2000 by then-Gov. Gray Davis, but the Los Angeles Unified School District and county offices do not recognize it. The L.A. school board passed a resolution last week allowing it to become an official school holiday. But because of the budget crisis, the board has decided to swap Admissions Day, marking California's statehood on Sept. 9, 1850, for Cesar Chavez Day. The superintendent was given 90 days to report back with a plan to replace the holiday.

-- Ruben Vives