December 23, 2012
I Care: Bell ringer enjoys holiday giving

20121220_AOC_ICareBell_273w.jpg Bundled up in red outside of Sam's Club in Arden Arcade, Carl Virgin (right) is a Salvation Army bell ringer. He bobs his head to jingle the six bells sewn atop his corkscrew mistletoe hat, enthusiastically luring donations from holiday shoppers. Virgin, 59, has spastic quadriplegia, a severe form of cerebral palsy. He communicates though head motions, eye movements and a large smile. His personal attendant gives out candy canes from his apron pocket to those who donate. It's his favorite thing.
Gail Johnson says her brother loves giving to others. "If he has money in his pocket he'll give it to someone." He and his roommate, Eugogio Lizarraga (below at left) agreed to ring the bell after learning The Salvation Army needed volunteers. "They are both happy, outgoing guys," Johnson says. "By doing this, they're giving back - and they really like that."

December 16, 2012
I Care: Supporting the Taylor House

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 20121212_AOC_ICareTaylorHouse_097w.jpg"Dig in girls!" Lisa Peat hollers as she fills drinks. She's made lasagna for the three residents of her non-profit called The Taylor House, a transitional home for newly emancipated foster youth and homeless young women. Every week she checks in personally to share bubbling conversation and a home-cooked meal. Tonight they talked about a new resident soon to arrive and debated the merits of the Twilight series. (Few, they decided.)
"I can relate to them because I was a teen girl once," Peat says. With tears budding, she adds, "I relied on my parents so much and it hurts me that they don't have parents to rely on. I just want to fill in the blanks."
Peat said just showing up consistently is important to the young women, who are used to being let down by adults. "They're the blood of our future and they're more than their past."
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December 9, 2012
I Care: Photographer creates portraits with a purpose

2012130_AOC_ICarePhotog_159w.jpgBob Jensen plays with three children as he makes candid photographs of them at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services Clothing Program. "You've got such an amazing face. Do you know that?" he says in a gentle voice to Yhamani Jordon, 7. He looks into her eyes. She grins at him between bites of a donut. The shutter clicks as they commune in mutual respect and friendship. Jensen, a volunteer at the Clothing Program, began creating portraits of the clients in May, after realizing that many could not afford pictures of themselves or their families. His photographs grace the walls of the Clothing Program, and he gives prints to those whose glowing faces he has captured. He believes this work serves an important purpose. "These are members of our community who are unacknowledged - ignored," he says. "The first step is to make them visible."

December 2, 2012
I Care: Death of son inspires heart to help others

Jess Chairez volunteers to promote organ donation. As a Red Cross volunteer, he travels near and far to help disaster victims. He also makes quilts covered with police patches that people send from around the country.
For 30 years, Chairez, 62, was a West Sacramento roofer. His life path changed dramatically after the death of his son in 2000. "I didn't go that extra mile until my son died. He planted the seed. He's my hero," he says.
Joe Chairez, a Sacramento Police Officer, died at age 24 of a brain aneurism after handcuffing a suspect.
Afterwards, Chairez found himself bitter. Then, he said God spoke to him in a dream: "He didn't want me in man's shadows. He wanted me in His light." He obeyed. Now he shares his son's legacy by helping others.
He's currently working on a quilt for the widow of a Richmond Police officer, who died in the line of duty. "They're healing my heart," he says, "and I'm healing theirs."