During the public-comment portion of La Mesa City Council meetings, people may speak for three minutes on any non-agenda item.
At the June 11 meeting, a woman wearing a button with the message, "I [heart] Lemon Grove" identified herself as Brenda Hammond and said, "I grew up in Lemon Grove, but we all hung out together in East County." She praised La Mesa's recycling efforts, as well of those in her hometown.
Hammond then took a papier-mâché bull’s head out of a bag. She held the head up and announced that she's making a piñata for EDCO, the business that operates recycling centers in La Mesa and Lemon Grove. Hammond said she made the head out of the EDCO receipts she's received with the money she was paid for recycled items.
Some people laughed. Hammond said, "I've gotta do the body. Maybe Ernie can give me some ideas."
Councilman Ernest Ewin responded, "I can't be a good model for it, sorry." (In an interview later, Hammond said that she explained her comment to Ewin after the meeting, telling him she knew that people in his church "do crafts.")
Hammond and I talked June 17 in Lemon Grove's Civic Center Park. Now 53, she was 7 years old when her family moved to Lemon Grove. She worked in geriatric health care and is in between jobs. Hammond said she volunteers "a lot." She also walks around town, picking up trash and taking recyclable items to the Lemon Grove EDCO facility.
"I go there every day and turn in cans and bottles," Hammond said. She saved receipts, thinking she might need them for taxes. Hammond learned that she didn't and told the workers, "I'll make a piñata and we'll have a party."
She planned to make the piñata with an inflated balloon, a technique she learned as a third-grader at Mount Vernon Elementary School. "I kind of cheated," she admitted. "I found a cardboard bull head in a trash can."
Hammond recycled the head and covered it with about 40 EDCO receipts. She named it Bully and made a decision about the piñata's body. "I want sitting bull," a seated piñata so that she doesn't have to make legs.
Once the piñata is complete, she said she'll fill it with candy and take it to EDCO. Employees "work really hard" and she wants to "put a smile" on their faces.
June 11 was the first time that Hammond had spoken to the La Mesa council, although she attends the meetings held the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. On the first and third Tuesdays, Hammond goes to Lemon Grove City Council meetings. "I want to stay informed," she said.
Hammond said she jokes with La Mesa mayor Art Madrid about merging the two cities. She even has a name for the hybrid city; "We could call it 'Mesa de Limón,' " she said.