Spattered in beige-colored paint flecks, Kay Oghoghorie livens up a dull wooden barn for horses that are rescued, rehabilitated and adopted out to new owners. Instead of spending spring break sunning on a tropical beach somewhere, 45 Sacramento State students participated in Alternative Break, a college program designed to help students get involved in different community non-profits during their week off. "It's great to see there are students who want to go out in the community and use their time productively," says Oghoghorie, a student assistant at Sac State's Community Engagement Center who coordinated the program. The 23-year-old senior spent last week working at a community garden for Soil Born Farms; cleaning donated items at the Sacramento Habitat For Humanity ReStore; putting together food packages for Meals on Wheels by ACC; helping maintain 200 trees for the Sacramento Tree Foundation; and painting a barn at the All About Equine Animal Rescue. "It's been a busy week," she says. "I love it."
March 30, 2014
March 24, 2014
Surrounded by a pack of teenaged mountain bikers, Mark Ferry maneuvers around jagged rocks and dusty hills on the Folsom Lake recreational trails. The 44-year-old real estate broker volunteers much of his free time coaching riders from six high-school mountain biking teams in Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties. All the teams practice together four days a week, grouped with other riders of similar speed abilities. They thrive on the spirit of competition, he says, which has been one reason for their high rate of success at league races. He started his first team five years ago at Oak Ridge High School and now along with a posse of assistant coaches, trains over 50 bikers on six area high school teams. Three years ago he started the non-profit organization Cycling Development. "They're all growing in their skill and ability levels," he says, "and the best thing about it is, they're all having a blast."
Visit www.cyclingdev.com for more information.
March 15, 2014
It's 6 a.m. roll call at the William J. Kinney Police Facility on Marysville Boulevard and 87-year-old Lucy Palmer sits quietly, trying her best to keep a low profile. But that doesn't stop Sgt. Paul Freeman from giving her a little "shout out" during his briefing and thanking her for her 18 years of volunteer work for the Sacramento Police Department. In 2007, she was inducted into the Sacramento Police Officers Association as an honorary member. "She is an inspiration to me," says Officer John Tennis, at left below, as the two sit down and talk like old friends. Lucy works diligently on the staffing roster, keeping track of which officers are on light duty or temporarily transferred to other units. She handles duties that have not yet been automated, like stuffing envelopes for mass mailings and reviewing documents to be distributed. In the past, she has worked on projects for crime statistics and reviewed cold cases. North Area commander Capt. James Maccoun says Lucy is "a model of resiliency and work ethic to us all."
March 9, 2014
With a hand drill and color samples on the counter between them, Michael Schleitweiler and Erin Cowles bounce decorating ideas off of each other. Cowles is a volunteer case manager with Next Move's Home at Last program, which provides the permanent supportive housing complex where Schleitweiler has become a resident. Before he found a place with Home at Last - which is for homeless, disabled people age 55 and older - Schleitweiler says he lived in a van for three years and worried where he'd find food and a place to shower. "Now my biggest concern is how I'm going to arrange my pictures on the wall," he says. Cowles came to the area from North Carolina a year ago and became part of the program through the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network. Working 40 hours a week, she checks in often with the 13 residents at the complex, addressing their issues and connecting them with resources in the community. "A lot of folks have been homeless for a significant period before coming here," she says. "That can be a really difficult transition for people."
March 8, 2014
Karen Parsegian approaches a class of fourth-graders at Bannon Creek Elementary School with her white cane outstretched. Blind since 2002, she asks 10-year-old Christopher Hall if she can feel what he looks like and touches his puffy black hair. "It's curly like mine," she exclaims and everyone laughs. Helping kids look past a disability and find common ground is the goal of A Touch of Understanding, a local nonprofit bringing disability awareness to 6,000 area school kids each year. Speakers like Parsegian share insights of the challenges associated with their disabilities while students get first-hand experience of what it's like to be disabled. They do activities like listening to a recording of how a person with autism may hear the world, driving around in wheelchairs, writing in Braille and using mobility canes. "I help kids see with a whole new set of eyes," says Parsegian. "I get them to see with their hearts."
February 25, 2014
Jason Burlingame, 24, a United Natural Foods Inc. employee, joins other volunteers to install solar panels with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit aimed at bringing low-cost renewable energy solutions to families in need. Funded in part through a partnership with the city of Roseville Housing Division, the effort helps families struggling to pay high utility bills. Among those benefiting was the Vallejo-Herrera family, which needs affordable electricity to power medical devices for a 3-year-old daughter, Tamara Herrera, who was born prematurely and suffers from chronic lung disease. "Knowing that we're able to help cut down their cost is really nice," says Burlingame.
For more information go to: http://www.gridalternatives.org/
February 20, 2014
Sitting snugly under a warm air blanket, Heidi Jamieson shows little to no apprehension about the bone marrow harvest procedure she's about to undergo at Sutter General Hospital early Tuesday morning. The 34-year-old Rocklin mother worries more about her four children at home with their grandmother and whether her 3-month old baby is accepting a bottle. It's because of her love for children that she and her husband Jeff signed up for a national bone marrow registry after their son Jake was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Luckily, one of his siblings was a tissue match and the transplant was successful, but she says it broke her heart to watch other families whose children passed away because they couldn't find a donor match. Now she hopes her donation will help save another. "Going through it with our own child, ... it's been very interesting to be on this end of it," she says. "We feel like it's kind of come full circle."
February 10, 2014
On a stormy night Saturday, two homeless men huddle under a bridge to stay dry and warm. Woodie Denning and other volunteers from the Abundant Life Ministry's Hope for Homeless, appear like angels, bringing warm soup and hot chocolate. He prays with them and shares his testimony. At age 15, he became homeless and addicted to drugs. He turned his life around in jail 20 years ago when a cellmate told him of God's love. Now he hopes to plant the seed of change in others. Every Saturday, the ministry serves area homeless, bringing them food, clothing, and the message of unconditional love. On Sundays, they send a bus for those who want to go to church. As one of the men reaches out to Denning, he tells him, "Hey, God has a plan for your life man. This isn't it. This isn't it."
For more information, go to: www.alfchurch.org
February 10, 2014
Fourth grader Isabella Yan comes into the office at Peregrine Elementary School in Davis with a book of poetry. She's on a mission to make copies for her teacher and Mary Lee Fisher shows her how so she can get back to class. A kindergartner walks in protesting injury by another student. Fisher gives her an icepack and consoles her wounded dignity. She quickly recovers and returns to class. The 61-year-old grandma figure not only spurs the confidence of the 35 kids at the project-based learning school, her three hours a day of unpaid office work is a huge relief to teachers and staff. After 34 years as a CalPERS executive, she took an early departure to help out the community school where her daughter works as the administrative director and her two grandsons attend. Fisher said she was looking to add structure to her retirement while spending more time with family and doing something meaningful. "So I'm thinking this fits all the bills," she says.
January 20, 2014
In the final stages of Alzheimer's, Donald Sanderson is unable to communicate verbally. But Monica Pleinis connects with him through the power of human touch. As a certified touch therapist with Healing Hands, Healing Hearts, she pays weekly visits to the Army veteran who fought in two wars and now fights for his life at his West Sacramento home. She caresses his frail body and tells him softly that she loves him. His face lights up and he gently squeezes her hand. The nonprofit has branches in Sacramento and Kern counties as well as in Puerto Rico. Their goal is to ease the mind, body and spirit of the terminally ill and those suffering with chronic or critical illness. Pleinis says her journey began as a way to find peace while mourning the death of her infant daughter. "I'm healing their soul so I can hand them over to God again, pure and clean," she says.
For more information call (916) 968-0091 or go to healinghandshealinghearts.org