Paying it Forward

By Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-08-16

Gary Schwalbach, left, and Sofia Reidel, far right, flank homeowner Debbie Bowen in her yard, where their group, Pay It Foward Yard Crew, is wrapping up its first donated clean up project. Photo by Jacqueline Fox

Neighbors Pulling Together One Weed at a Time

Fair Oaks, CA (MPG) - It began with a complaint delivered via the online app called Nextdoor, which allows residents of specific geographic areas to create online communities where they can trade information, connect and operate their own virtual “neighborhood watch” of sorts.

This complaint was not about crime, or graffiti, or having a speed bump put in.  It was about weeds, weeds growing half a house tall, tree limbs dragging over sidewalks, foxtails smothering flowerbeds, decaying shrubs and unkempt yards that were becoming a drag on the neighborhood and property values.

“It’s an abomination,” part of the initial complaint read.

Debbie Bowen, who has lived in her home on Laurel Oak Way in Fair Oaks for more than two decads, was a regular on the app.  She dug into the thread of complaints growing by the hour about all the overgrown yards in the area and noticed the comments were getting nastier by the second, with several suggestions pouring in about how to file formal complaints about code violations against the homeowners’ in question. 

As the string got longer, it hit her: her house was among those being targeted. Now it was personal.

“It is true,” says Bowen. “My yard was completely overgrown and we were embarrassed about it. But when the nasty comments started growing and there were calls to turn people in, I decided to say something.”

Instead of retaliating with anger, Debbie implored the group to consider what may be behind the issue and informed the group that taking care of her yard had exceeded the scope of her abilities, as she was diagnosed with a brain tumor roughly four months prior and currently undergoing radiation treatment, and suffers from symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. In addition, her husband is also recovering from a stroke and, although her mother has moved in to help the couple, she, too, is incapacitated, overcoming surgery on her left foot.

“We just aren’t capable of getting out there and we are on a budget of about $1,000 a month,” Bowen said.  “I got mad at first, reading those comments, and then I decided to type in and tell them that I was unable to handle the property because of my illness.  I invited the woman who started the conversation to stop complaining about it and maybe offer some help. From there, it all just kind of snowballed.”

The group swelled to roughly 261 users, according to Bowen, and, as they began to get the details of her illness and why her yard was so badly neglected, the tone of the conversation shifted dramatically.  Then, instead of threats came compassion.

“One of the people on the app suggested that we do something to help, to find out what the stories were and go out and see what we could do,” says Sofia Riedel, a Fair Oaks resident and paralegal who was in on the initial online conversation.  “I think someone suggested that we create a list of volunteers who might be interested in forming a group of volunteers.  That went on for a while and, I’m a doer. No one was forming the list, so I just took it over.”

Riedel and group of roughly 15 would-be landscapers met offline, laid out a plan and created a real-time “go-fund me” operation, only the currency is sweat and labor, not cash, and they identified Bowen’s yard as their first beneficiary.

For three of the hottest weekends in late July and August, scores of volunteers, Riedel among them, showed up at Bowen’s house with shovels, weed whackers, limb lobbers, chain saws, wheel barrels and boxes of heavy duty trash bags.  They toiled from early morning until the heat took over, little by little sawing, chopping, raking and bagging away the blight and overgrowth in Bowen’s front and back yards.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Bowen says. “It just blew my mind.”

The group, now officially calling itself the “Pay It Forward Yard Crew,” is wrapping up Bowen’s yard and has already identified its next beneficiary.  In addition to a growing list of volunteers interested in helping out, the Crew also has received donations of mulch and other lawn and yard care items from Home Depot and HD Supply.  In order to expand that avenue of support, they intend to file an application for 501-C3 identification, which would give them full non-profit status, if approved.

“We got some donations for this project, but in order to really make an impact and take this forward, we need a non-profit ID number so that we can solicit donations from businesses for other items,” says Riedel. “It isn’t going to stop here. We are going to keep at it.”

One of the Crew’s biggest needs is for an experienced tree trimmer, as many of the yards identified have large trees that need cutting down or, in some cases, removal. Also, donations of water, coffee, donuts and snacks for the volunteer landscapers is critical and, as part of the agreement for receiving help from the crew, Bowen will take charge of overseeing the refreshments are in place on every project.

“The only thing I have to do is pay it forward to two people,” Bowen said.  “That’s the payment for what they’ve done for me. I have to give back. Obviously I can’t get out there and cut trees down, but I can manage getting the donuts, and the coffee and drinks for volunteers.”

As for the initiator of the string of complaints, Reidel says she left the “room” as soon as the conversation shifted toward solutions for helping out.

“I’d like to thank her for helping bring us all together,” Riedel said. “We are getting to know each other, we’re losing weight with all the hard work we’re doing, and we feel good about not just complaining but actually doing something to help.”

If you’d like to join the Pay It Forward Yard Crew, please contact Sofia Riedel at or call (916) 347-0348. 

Sac Choral Society

Congressman Ami Bera to Hold Town Hall

By Jack Miller  |  2017-08-18

Congressman Ami Bera

Event planned for Cordova High Performing Arts Center

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG) - Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. will hold a town hall tomorrow Saturday, August 19 to discuss health care reform and hear directly from constituents on what matters most to Sacramento County. Bera believes that health care in America should put patients first, and focus on reducing cost while increasing the number of people insured.

As a doctor, Rep. Bera is uniquely qualified to discuss health care reform. Before he was elected to Congress, Bera served as Sacramento’s Chief Medical Officer, directed care management in Mercy Healthcare’s seven-hospital system, and taught medicine at UC Davis.

Media attending should RSVP to Jack Miller at

What: Town Hall with Congressman Ami Bera, M.D.

When: Saturday, August 19 at 10:30 AM

Where: Cordova High Performing Arts Center, 2239 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova 95670

Google Map:

Doors open: 10:00 AM

Press set up: 9:30 AM

...

Volunteers Wanted for Orangevale Woman’s Club

By Kris Cardwell  |  2017-08-16

Many Hands, Many Blessings - The Orangevale Women

Orangevale, CA (MPG) - How does a club that is 104 years old remain relevant in 2017? It does so, successfully, with a merging of long time members whose history tells the story of Orangevale volunteerism, with the enthusiasm and new ideas of incoming participants.

It can be daunting to walk into a room as a stranger but the smiling faces and laughter of a group of like-minded women quickly puts one at ease.

The re-affirming motto of newly elected OVWC president, Marilyn Edwards, “Many Hands Blessing Many Hearts” captures the spirit of the club’s upcoming projects and events. Organizations run on fundraising opportunities and one of the club’s biggest and most fun occurs on Friday October 13. The Fall Bunko happens in conjunction with the Orangevale Grange at the landmark hall on Walnut Avenue. Somehow the rowdy dice rolling parlor game transforms into a well-organized and well attended community activity. One with a delicious spaghetti dinner, raffle prizes galore, and money to the winners!

OVWC members are encouraged to bring ideas to the group and one new member’s idea proved a big hit last year. Sharon McGrath introduced the concept of “pop-up” lunches to the club. So often meetings are busy-ness with reports and work with little time for socializing other than the chatter during the pot-luck style lunches. Sharon’s party planning skills led her to coordinate monthly gatherings at local restaurants where good food and casual conversation builds on the relationships that keep the group glowing and growing.

We look forward to a fun and productive year as we meet Tuesday September 5th at 11:00 at the Orangevale Community Center. We would love to have you join us as we continue our goal of serving the Orangevale community.

For more information find us at Orangevale Woman’s Club on Facebook or contact Marilyn Edwards @ 916-764-6816. 

...

DOVIA: Leading the Leaders

By Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-08-16

(L-R) Mariann Eitzman, volunteer coordinator, Bayside Church, Roseville, Rachele Doty, volunteer coordinator for First Call Hospice and vice chair, DOVIA, Sacramento, and Meredith Holkeboer, Volunteer Services Assistant/Pet Therapy Coordinator at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Sacramento, at a recent workshop lead by Eitzman on giving presentations. Photo by Jacqueline Fox

DOVIA Sacramento Supports Non-Profit Volunteer Managers

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - With few exceptions, among the most important individuals behind any successful nonprofit organization, including its return on investment, are its volunteers. But how do you find them, keep them motivated and give them the tools to they need to effectively make an impact?

Enter DOVIA, or Directors of Volunteers in Agencies, which has chapters across the country, including Sacramento.  The Sacramento Chapter is currently celebrating 40 years of service, providing some 100 volunteer managers from a vast range of non-profit agencies, most of whom are members, with the support they need to successfully build and serve their core of volunteers.

DOVIA workshops and trainings offer ideas for learning how to motivate volunteers, as well as avenues for members to connect with other volunteer leadership professionals and collaborate and exchange ideas.

Rachele Doty, is the volunteer coordinator for First Call Hospice in Citrus Heights. She also serves on the board of directors as vice chair for DOVIA, Sacramento.  She views the organization as an indispensable resource, where, through workshops, trainings, networking and annual conferences, she can access an evolving and valuable exchange of information on relevant issues facing professional volunteer managers, no matter the size or scope of their agency’s mission.

“I have just on-boarded 20 new volunteers at First Call Hospice, so I have been utilizing every tool and workshop or training I have under my belt through my membership with and my role on the board of DOVIA,” said Doty. “The agency is absolutely critical for anyone who is working with volunteers. You get the support you need to promote your own growth but also the growth and development of your volunteers, whether you’re part of an executive team or some other administrative department.”

Dues for membership to DOVIA are $55 for one year for those who are signing up as an employee of a non-profit agency, and that fee allows for the bundling of two employees from the same agency.  For individual memberships, the annual fee is $30.00, all nominal fees for access to support for trainings that often non-profits themselves simply don’t have the resources to provide, despite their dependence on volunteers.

Lynne Moore is a member support specialist with the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California Council, one of 112 councils in the nation.  She and several colleagues from her agency recently attended a DOVIA workshop at Bayside Church in midtown, Sacramento focused on delivering effective presentations to volunteers. For her, the workshops and DOVIA membership provide unsurpassed support and education needed to oversee the some 300 volunteers that support her council. 

“I get so much from my membership,” said Moore. “I have a lot of moving parts in my job and a lot of changing faces, so it’s critical that I keep up with new trends in recruitment and retention of volunteers. We depend so much on our volunteers and they deserve the best leadership available to them.”

The biggest challenge many non-profit organizations face with respect to volunteers, says Doty, is finding them.

“That’s an ongoing battle for everyone in the capacity of recruitment,” Doty said. “One of the things we focus on with our workshops and trainings is how to utilize all of the available tools out there to reach potential, new volunteers. That includes social media apps, creating events to attract volunteers and how to effectively get the message out to volunteers in the community about your organization and its mission.”

Meredith Holkeboer is the Volunteer Services Assistant/Pet Therapy Coordinator at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Sacramento.  To say she’s landed her dream job would be an understatement.  She also finds her membership with DOVIA as invaluable. It has provided her with the tools to network with other volunteer coordinators and share ideas for how to keep volunteers engaged and impassioned about their work.

“The unpaid volunteers that support us are critical to our mission, so I am always on the search for new tips and ideas for how to work more effectively with our volunteers at Shriners,” Holkeboer said. “I get a lot out of my membership. I learn new things every time I attend a workshop or a conference and I am reminded that I’m a part of a unique group of leaders out there who are overseeing people who make a choice whether to keep showing up and helping out.”

DOVIA will cap its 40th year with participation at the upcoming annual conference on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Shriners Hospital. The AL!VE Hybrid Conference: Take the Leap | Embrace Change, will feature presentations for DOVIA members by four internationally renowned volunteer leaders with workshops centered on navigating organizational and professional changes.

DOVIA, Sacramento offers two, two-day trainings each year as a part of its membership focus, as well as monthly workshops, speaker events and other educational sessions.  These are open to both members and non-members.   Next year, the chapter will be taking a deep dive into the world of corporate giving, offering members in-depth trainings centered on how to make and maintain strong relationships with corporate giving managers who oversee employee volunteer pools in the community.

Presentations are planned by the heads of corporate giving departments from various companies who will provide DOVIA members with insights on how to recruit from their employee base and what their companies look for when determining which non-profits to support—something that can shift from year to year, depending on the nature of the economy and community needs.

“We are very excited about our plans for working with corporate giving representatives next year,” said Doty. “Corporate support is very important to every non-profit, regardless of the size or what their particular mission is, so that is one huge part of what we’ll be focusing on next year.”

Other areas of focus for upcoming workshops will include stress management, supporting volunteer managers with tips and tricks of the trade to keep their volunteers from overpowering or, in some cases, de-railing the mission. And, just as importantly, training support will provide members with ideas for keeping their sanity when volunteers drop off, a phenomenon that, unfortunately, “goes hand-in-hand with our profession,” Doty said.

To find out more see

...

Veteran's Appreciation Picnic Coming August 26

By Elise Spleiss  |  2017-08-16

All veterans are welcomed to the resource and appreciation picnic. Photo courtesy American Legion Post 637

Annual Appreciation and Resource Picnic Provides Services

Citrus Heights (MPG) – The Citrus Heights American Legion Post 637 is once again gearing up to host the annual Veteran’s Appreciation and Resource Picnic to honor the area’s active duty servicemen and servicewomen, our retired veterans of past wars and conflicts, and their families. 

This free event will be held Saturday, August 26, at Rusch Park, 7801 Auburn Blvd. at the Gazebo/Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All veterans and their families and friends are welcome.

The day will begin with the Citrus Heights Community Marching Band featuring some of its new repertoire. The Marine Corp Honor Guard will present colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem sung by Air Force Veteran Mary Jerue.  Post 637 Commander Paul Reyes, Mayor Jeff Slowey and Police Chief Ron Lawrence will greet attendees. 

A special ceremony will again be held to honor an outstanding veteran and this year’s Police Officer of the Year.

Lunch will be a hot dog and hamburger barbeque with all the fixings prepared by Wild Wade’s BBQ & Grill of Citrus Heights. GFWC Citrus Heights Women’s Club and the Lion’s club will provide dessert and drinks. Music will be provided by DJ Carlos Verrett.        

Dozens of veteran and non-profit resources including VA representatives will be available to retired and active duty veterans. Be sure to look for the horses and canines; their programs have proven vital in helping our veterans re-enter society.  Scheduled children’s crafts and other activities will be provided by local Pageant ambassadors and princesses.  

Picnic sponsors and members of the community are generously donating gift baskets and other opportunity drawing prizes to show their appreciation to our veterans. Raffles will be held throughout the day.

Covered, accessible picnic tables are available or bring your own chairs, blankets and umbrellas.

...

Free Clinic, Free Fishing Day at Mather Regional Park

By Bruce Forman, CDFW   |  2017-08-15

The entire family can enjoy the free fishing day. Photo courtesy CDFW

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) “Fishing in the City” Program, in partnership with the County of Sacramento, are sponsoring an introductory fishing clinic on Saturday, September 2, 2017 at Mather Regional Park in Rancho Cordova.   The County of Sacramento is waiving the $5 parking fee prior to 1:00 pm. 

The CDFW provides free equipment loan plus tackle and bait, following a 30 minute clinic.  The clinic is scheduled at 8:15 with equipment loan from 9 a.m. to noon.  As this day is CDFW’s statewide free fishing day, anglers are not required to possess a fishing license; however, all fishing regulations are otherwise still in effect.

Mather Lake will be stocked just prior to this date with catfish. For other information, call (916) 358-1644. The phone is staffed only on Thursdays.

...

August 21 event will cause solar production to dip but with no SMUD grid impact

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The morning forecast for August 21 calls for darker skies in Northern California and across the country. That’s when a near-total solar eclipse will occur—from about 9 about 11:30 a.m. for our region—during which time the sun will be obscured by up to 76 percent.

Given the growing penetration of solar energy in California, the electric utility industry and  other energy stakeholders have considered the potential impacts of  such a significant solar event.

SMUD has secured additional reserve power to ensure it’s able to meet the increased demand when the availability of solar reduces because of the eclipse. SMUD does not anticipate any problems meeting the Sacramento-area community’s demand for electricity.

SMUD, for its part, has almost 300 megawatts (MW) of solar power in its service territory. Approximately 140 MW is utility-connected solar generation and about 150 MW is “behind the meter”, customer-owned solar generation.

The timing of the eclipse is fortuitous for SMUD and for California in general as demand on the grid during those hours can be considerably lower than in the late afternoon hours.

Typically, solar production can be impacted by everyday weather events like cloud cover, which is why SMUD’s energy portfolio, including its renewable generation resources, is very diverse. By going the extra step and securing additional reserves, SMUD has the flexibility to manage the increased demand on the grid during the eclipse and the drop off in demand during the transition out of the eclipse.

For more information about SMUD and its award-winning renewable and energy efficiency programs, visit

Source: SMUD Media

...

One Family’s Journey Out of Homelessness

Sacramento County Media  |  2017-08-15

Jessica Hodges smiles in front of her place of employment. Photo courtesy Sacramento County Media

​​Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - The path to self-s​ufficiency was not an easy or quick road. B​​ut today, Jessica Hodges, her husband, and their three children (ages six, eight and 10) are living the life they dreamed of, thanks to the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, the Mustard Seed School and Mary House​.

Three years ago, their youngest child developed a cough that required two surgeries and resulted in scarred lungs.  Upon discovering that the cause was mold inside the walls, the family moved out of their apartment in a hurry.  This sudden move impacted their credit, which ultimately prevented them from finding permanent housing.  And, because the mold had contaminated all of their belongings—including clothes, photos and furniture—everything had to be abandoned.    

Around the same time, Jessica graduated from Kaplan College but was laid off from her job as a medical assistant for a local doctor.  

Jessica expressed her dismay at her living conditions and at the circular challenges—securing a job without a permanent address was an uphill battle, while finding a home without a job and with damaged credit was nearly impossible.

County Director of the Department of Human Assistance (DHA) Ann Edwards, confirmed the currently rental housing landscape is bleak for struggling families. Low vacancy rates and escalating rents - far above what many residents can afford, make finding housing difficult.

In November, County DHA Social Worker Samantha Sween partnered with Mustard Seed School Director Casey Knittel to stabilize the Hodges and to develop a plan. 

As the children attended the Mustard Seed School, County DHA staff and Mary House staff were assisting the family with services and supplies. 

The group effort paid off a few days before Christmas.  After three long years of sleeping on couches, in hotels and in their van, the Hodges—with only sleeping bags and pillows—finally moved into an apartment where they could start over. 

Much to their surprise, staff from the Mustard Seed School brought gifts for the children, ranging from clothes to iPads.  

“We didn’t have any furniture,” Jessica expressed with a smile, “But it was the most touching Christmas ever because I did not have anything to give them [until these gifts arrived]. They even brought a Christmas tree.” 

In March, bolstered by her degree, Jessica was hired by SMPP Rehab as a Medical Office Specialist. Her husband is attending school to develop new skills while caring for their children.  

Their three children miss their teachers and friends at Mustard Seed School, but are grateful they no longer need the assistance and for the first time in years, the family is doing great.​

Find out more about assistance programs available through the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance.

To apply for medical, food and cash assistance programs online please visit CalWIN.

Source: Sacramento County Media

...

Student Exchange Seeks Host Families for School Year

By Sheryl Longsworth  |  2017-08-08

You can host an Exchange Student! Photo courtesy NorthWest Student Exchange

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Responsible parents looking for ways to supplement the educational and personal growth opportunities for their children should consider hosting a teenage exchange student for an academic semester or year.  Children and adults alike, by interacting on a daily basis with a new, international family member, broaden their perspective on the world and discover new facts and ideas.  

NorthWest Student Exchange places international high school students with families all over the country, including here in our community.  Exchange students add a dimension to the family dynamic that cannot be achieved in any other way.  The benefits to the exchange student are perhaps obvious:  honing their English language skills; learning about the educational system in this country; understanding U.S. social, political, and cultural values; establishing international friendships.  Benefits to the hosts are similar:  Not only can host families learn about another culture and its values; they can view the U.S. through another’s eyes, and thereby gain a broader understanding of our own country.

And families do not need to have children at home to host!  Many childless couples, empty nesters, and single-parent families have enjoyed exchange students. NWSE places students from dozens of countries who have varied interests. I will do my best to match a student to your family’s lifestyle and interests.

Those who cannot host can earn financial incentives for referring to us families who do host. While host families are not compensated for hosting, tax deductions may be available. Check with your tax preparer.

NWSE exchange students are closely screened for appropriate motivation, academic and language skills; our students have solid emotional and practical support from NWSE professional partners abroad, and from the students’ natural parents in their own countries.  Our students come with their own spending money and health and accident insurance.  NWSE local Academic Coordinators recruit, screen and orient local host families and provide close support throughout the program.

My family has personally hosted students from France and China and we keep in touch with every student even years later! While they stayed with us, they shared games they play with us and cooked their favorite meals for my family. We also have been invited to stay at their family’s homes when we go to their country. One of our French students even calls me his “American Mom.”

It’s easy to get more information about hosting. Potential hosts can call me, Sheryl Longsworth, Area Coordinator at 916-833-1218 or; or by contacting NWSE at 877-850-3312 or  Or, you can visit the NWSE web page at and click on Host an Exchange Student.  Student placements for the fall must be made before 8/31/17. Spring semester-only placements will be available towards the end of this year.

...

Robinson’s Announces National Champions

By Rick Reed  |  2017-08-08

Sacramento’s Black Belt Gold Medalist Phillip El Chemali on the mat in Detroit at the USAT Nationals.  Photo courtesy Robinson’s Taekwondo.

Five National Champions Bring Gold, Silver and Bronze to Sacramento TKD Glory

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - They are outstanding young students in school and their local Taekwondo training ‘dojang’ or gym. In mat competitions with Black Belts from across the USA Sacramento’s Phillip El Chemali was triumphant in winning the Gold Medal at the USAT Nationals in Detroit, MI this July. The win places him on the United States Association of Taekwondo National Team for a second consecutive year!

Elk Grove’s Cassie Berger also won Gold in the USAT Women’s Division, as this CA State Champion won another top honor in the Korean-based martial art. Women’s Bronze came home with Black Belt student Maria Lopez from the world’s largest TKD tournament held in Detroit, MI.  Less than one week later, at the Amateur Athletic Association TKD National competition in Broward Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Maria Lopez fought again, again winning the AAU Bronze Medal this July.  

At this same Florida tournament event Robinson’s Taekwondo Black Belt student Lorenzo Ortega battled thru top national TKD fighters to win the AAU Gold Medal. The Women’s Silver Medal came back to Northern California as North Highland’s Natalie Velasquez stepped up to the podium as winner.

Rarely in history has one American city claimed so many top TKD medals and five US National Champions in its ranks.

Founded in 1975 in Sacramento, Robinson’s Taekwondo has locations throughout the region training athletes of all ages in the world’s most taught martial art – Taekwondo! To find out more visit

...Read More!