McFarland, USA

The MPPA has rated this PG

Disney brings us Kevin Costner in “McFarland, USA”. He plays a coach recently dismissed from a major college football team. He forms a cross-country team at a small non-descript school and makes state champions of them. Set in 1986, Costner, his wife and daughter arrive in small McFarland , California, populated mostly by Mexican-American farm workers. In his early days at the new high school, he manages to irritate the head football coach, and gets a small demotion. Urged by his wife to keep struggling on, he has an inspiration to start a cross-country team.
The students aren’t very impressed with him. From this unlikely beginning, he makes them much better, little by little, but multiple challenges present themselves as they do in life. Will they make it to the state championships? The cultural differences and learning to adapt is much at the basis of this movie all summed up and packaged in a way that is not like life, but more like Disney. The last time they gave us this type of a movie was “Million Dollar Arm” with John Hamm released in April of last year, not even a year from the time of this movie release. For many it will be perfectly entertaining, and there are no examples of bad performances. The production values too, are competent. It all seems familiar and predicable, however. You’ll not have a bad time seeing this, but you may have a sense of Déjà vu.

Sacramento children’s musician releases best album yet

Colonial Heights neighbors raise funds to keep Mister Cooper’s music program at the library

Children's musician Mister Cooper with his fans from Tiny Tots preschool in Land Park. The group of pirates got together to sing some tunes from Pirate Ship, Mister Cooper's latest album. / Photo by Monica Stark
Children's musician Mister Cooper with his fans from Tiny Tots preschool in Land Park. The group of pirates got together to sing some tunes from Pirate Ship, Mister Cooper's latest album. / Photo by Monica Stark

Shown here is a collection of photos showing the crowded Colonial Heights Library Community Room on Thursday, Feb. 26. Everyone was there to participate in the Mister Cooper sing along, which is a weekly event at the local branch. Parents have gathered together to raise funds to keep Mister Cooper's program in the neighborhood. / Photos by Sarah Mertyris
Shown here is a collection of photos showing the crowded Colonial Heights Library Community Room on Thursday, Feb. 26. Everyone was there to participate in the Mister Cooper sing along, which is a weekly event at the local branch. Parents have gathered together to raise funds to keep Mister Cooper's program in the neighborhood. / Photos by Sarah Mertyris

Hailed by children at Colonial Heights Library’s sing along, “Pirate Ship”, the new album by Sacramento children’s musician Mister Cooper, includes eight Mother Goose rhymes, the title track, and a song about the adventures of a doodle bug.
With many songs kids already know, Mister Cooper mixes in a lot of fun little lines here and there, adding in what he calls, “some new information.” What happens to Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall? Well, he says, that’s for the children to find out.
Mister Cooper created a catchy version of “Hey, Diddle Diddle” that is set to the tune of Hank Williams Sr.’s “Hey, Good Lookin’.” With a steel guitar and a pedal, Mister Cooper’s adaptation of the song invites audience participation with a call back of “Hey, Diddle Diddle,” something, of course children really enjoy.
Playing for little ones at Tiny Tots, Leonardo da Vinci Elementary School, a daycare in the Pocket area and three libraries, Mister Cooper has built up a fan base among kids, their parents and teachers who appreciate that his songs enhance their curricula.
The story behind the song, The More You Read (a song that encourages reading), has a deep Sacramento community connection. “A librarian at (C.K.) McClatchy High School taught (second grade) for one year (2012-13) at Sutterville Elementary, where I sang with the kids. Her name is Donna Vann. And on the door of her room, she put the poster of that song. ‘So the more you read, the more you know.’ It had two lines. I started humming it right as soon as I read it. I didn’t get halfway down before I knew what it was going to be. But it recorded well. I’d sing it at the libraries and with the kids. They seem to go for it and it’s positive.”
Asked to describe what they like about Mister Cooper and his new album, children discussed their love for the musician’s storytelling and invitations to dance along.
Declan, Faylinn, Kate and Molly reported back saying they like the freeze dancing that Mister Cooper encorporates into his program. Aleah loves “pirateship”; Santi likes “Mister Cooper’s guitar”; and Payton likes “his songs.”
While children love the pirate sounds, adults have come to enjoy the line: “My mother’s name is Margaret and the captain called her Peg.”
“Hardly any kids are called Margaret anymore and almost no one is called Peggy, so I have adults come up to me and say, I had an aunt Peggy. Her name is Margaret. That’s hysterical. I love it.”
In an interview with this publication, Ken Cooper, the name behind the moniker, discussed the making of “Pirate Ship” and his long term involvement singing at local libraries and schools.
To Ken, singing children’s songs conjures up memories of his own youth, specifically memories of his mother singing “This Little Piggy.”
“I remember the bathtub, the little portable bathtub she’d pull into the tub – that’s one of the first memories that I have of her singing that song. So then I started working on that song and after I heard it I was telling a couple of my friends that I’m starting to work up songs for Mother Goose rhymes and then people started giving me books and (saying): ‘Here, look at this website or check this out.’ I had never known that ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ had five verses in it.” But it’s the adaptation of the songs, that makes his music so inviting as he often uses the same melody but different chords, as he does in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
And, in the album’s title track, his voice carries like a scary pirate singing to the tunes of a sea shanty.
After 25 drafts and critiques from his most critical listeners – children at his sing-alongs – Ken is proud to say he’s happy with the results. “I just could not get it right. I had all kinds of weird stuff and the kids were going: ‘No, the captains on a ship don’t have dogs. Pirates have parrots. You got to put a parrot in. You got to take the dog out.’ So the dog was out and the parrot was in.” And, in the end,
as far as the recordings go, he said Pirate Ship is the Matilda of his latest album. Those die-hard Mister Cooper fans would recall Matilda is a singing gorilla from the CD Mister Cooper is for the Birds, which was released in 2011. Suffice to say, children love Matilda and they also love Pirate Ship.
Shortly before the interview with this publication, Mister Cooper said kids came up to him, holding their tongues, singing one of the repetitive lines: “I was born on a pirate ship.”
Mister Cooper started recording the CD at the end of June and by August the album was mixed and fixed. In November, it was sent to the manufacturer and he had copies for sale the week before Christmas.
Pirate Ship lists the following musicians as the album’s “singers and players”: Leo and Max Adams, vocal; Marisa Atha, vocals; Eric Bianchi, bass and vocal; Ethan Bianchi, vocal; Keith Cary, steel guitar;
Richie Lawrence, piano, accordion and vocal; Michelle Lewis, vocal; Scott McChane, drums and vocals; John O’Kennedy, dobro; and Mister Cooper, everything else.
In order of release date Mister Cooper’s albums include: Mister Cooper, which was released in 2006;
This World, on Jan. 1, 2009; Mister Cooper’s for the Birds, April 2011; I Like Your Hat, March or April 2013; and Pirate Ship on Jan. 6, 2015.
Asked what he has learned over the last nine years making CDs of his music, Mister Cooper said he learned patience, as it was difficult for him to wait a month between recording sessions. He wanted to say, “Let’s go! But there was scheduling. (He learned to) just let it go and not have an agenda.”
The Friends of the Pocket-Greenhaven Library and the Friends of the Belle Cooledge Library pay for the music program with Mister Cooper, but, for the Colonial Heights Public Library, Mister Cooper said despite best efforts by that branch’s Friends of the Library, there was not enough money from book sales and other fundraisers, so parents formed the Facebook group: “Mr Cooper Funding: Maintain the Weekly Music Program at Colonial Heights!” The following announcement was posted on the page on Feb. 26: “We are funded through May!! I’m so encouraged by how we are doing this together,and how so many parents and loved ones are using their talents to be generous!”
Beaming with gratitude, Mister Cooper said the following regarding parents’ ongoing efforts: “They’re chipping in wherever they can and it seems to be working out alright. So, I’m very thankful.”
One of the mothers, Sarah Mertyris, explained more about the group in a message to the East Sacramento News stating that the entire year of 2014 was covered by a single anonymous donor and there this group of parents came together and are doing all they can to stay ahead of the game and keep Mister Cooper at Colonial Heights. Heather Lavezzo Downey, has stepped up as the group’s leader, organizer, and treasurer.
The group has collected the necessary money, through individual donations, to fund Mister Cooper’s weekly shows through the end of May 2015. The group has shared the PayPal information with friends and families and made the suggestion for donations in lieu of Christmas and birthday presents for their little ones.
Sara Jacobsen is another mom that makes gift tags from recycled materials and has been selling them as a fundraising effort and donating all the sales to Mister Cooper’s fund and Sarah started a fundraising project by making crochet totes out of recycled plastic bags. The group has also done research on possible grants available in the community, but have not found a good match yet, Sarah explained.
Sarah jokes that her 22-month-old daughter is a Super Coopie or a Mister Cooper groupie. “She absolutely loves him and his music. We started going to the weekly shows sporadically when she was 16 months old, but as her interest grew and I could see how much she enjoyed the shows we have been weekly attendants for the past six months. We have four of his CDs for the car and that is pretty much all we listen to if she’s in the car with us.
“She is in that language stage that she is gaining multiple words each day and can mimic like a parrot; the radio no longer felt like an option in the car due to inappropriate lyrics. Mister Cooper’s music is catchy, easy to listen to and enjoy, and teaches her the days of the week, months of the year, colors of the rainbow, good morals to live by, recycling and caring for the Earth, nursery rhymes, and a whole host of great vocabulary. We also play the Mister Cooper Pandora station when we are in the house. She is thrilled to go to the shows and proudly wears her Mister Cooper t-shirt. He has taken the time to learn her name and greets her individually each week. So, as you can see, Mister Cooper is a part of her day, every day in some way or another.
“I think it speaks for itself how much Mister Cooper’s music has become a part of our daily lives. I value his talent and that he shares it with children in such a responsible and enriching way. His music teaches not only content, but also appreciation of music itself. My daughter is very attentive to all kinds of music now and loves dancing to different beats and tempos. She listens to lyrics and learns them very quickly. She has fun! I value above all else the pure joy and excitement I see on her face every Thursday when she knows it’s a Mister Cooper Day.”
It is hard to say for certain what is in store for the future for Mister Cooper’s sing alongs at Colonial Heights, Sara Jacobsen explained. “We have looked into other sources of funding to get a larger sum, but so far we don’t qualify. Our eyes and ears are still pealed for something that will keep him around even longer. I know myself and other parents are trying to come up with different fundraising ideas (enter shameless plug for my handmade gift tags that I sell to try and raise some money). I can only hope that the momentum continues and Mr. Cooper receives enough to keep the program running.”

Heather keeps track of all the books,making sure the group accomplishes is completed according to the library’s rules. “We want to support Mister Cooper to be here. I was thinking in the next couple of weeks, I’ll put it out on Facebook that we’ll have a more formal fundraiser, like a multifamily spring cleaning. We might organize a concert in the park and charge for people to listen to him. We’re hoping in the next few weeks to talk strategy. I’m just facilitating the group.”
At, you can find a complete calendar listing of upcoming events and you can also buy any of Mister Cooper’s albums.

Know Your Neighbor: World traveler discusses experiences that led to opening a cafe in Elmhurst

Leo Hickman, the owner of The Classy Hippie Cafe, is a world traveler and has moved his business from midtown to the Grange in Elmhurst.  / Photo by Monica Stark
Leo Hickman, the owner of The Classy Hippie Cafe, is a world traveler and has moved his business from midtown to the Grange in Elmhurst. / Photo by Monica Stark

A former biomedical engineer, a post 9/11 soldier, an athlete, and a world traveler, Leo Hickman has created the Classy Hippie Cafe – what he calls a traditional tea room with an urban vibe– out of experience. Now located in Elmhurst inside The Grange Performing Arts Center near Stockton Boulevard at 3823 V St., the Classy Hippie Cafe is a bit hidden from the bustle of traffic, but Leo is making his presence known with outdoor seating and an ongoing gathering called tai chi and tea. With a few tables set out on the grass space around the grange, Leo invites tea drinkers to enjoy the good weather while they sip a cuppa or if they stop by around 9 a.m., Friday through Sunday, they can participate in a drop-in tai chi lesson.
And because of its location inside the theater building, he offers theater patrons the opportunity to purchase tea from the tea room and has invited friends to “VIP Nights” at the theater on Saturdays. Showing now is the sold out Green Valley Theatre Company production of “In the Heights”, a 2008 Tony Award winning musical, which chronicles the lives of the residents of New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
In a Jan. 28 interview with the East Sacramento News, Leo said the cafe is representative of himself and his eclectic love of the world’s cultures. “Before the classy hippie came about, I would brand myself as the culture bandit because I love taking the best out of every culture. I’m huge into auyervedic medicine, which comes from India. I lived in China. A lot of the teas are from China. We also have some macha which comes from Japan. A little bit of everywhere. Also to get back to my roots, there’s also rooibos, a member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa and yerba matte, which is native to South America. The tea will take you all over the world.”
Quite the world traveler himself, Leo, originally from New Jersey, left his hometown which he describes as having a lot of “culture, a lot of b-bop, a lot of music” at the early age of 19 and hasn’t looked back. “I’ve been traveling ever since.”
Hitting 27 countries in 2 and a half years, Leo financed his trip around the world in an unconventional way. “A lot of people get jobs at hotels and things like that so they can speak English, but I taught salsa dancing. And that was my way around.”
With the philosophy of making “your job fun,” Leo is making his job fun today after years of finding himself and eventually landing in Sacramento.
Sacramento was not part of it of his plan. He came to the West Coast racing motorcycles. You see, he fell a few of times without insurance, so he went back to school and became a medical engineer. “I got hired on in Vegas. Well, 2008 hit and a lot of people got laid off. I was pretty good at what I did so they said we don’t want to fire you, but we don’t have a position for you anymore. Do you want to go to California or Colorado? I had no idea what Sacramento was. I cannot lie. When (General Electric) said California, I thought palm trees, beach. Aww. I guess they do most the filming in L.A. and San Diego. When they said, ‘The City of Parks and Trees’ I thought, what part of California is that?”
But still a little restless and “too young for settling” down, Leo decided to quit his stable job for more excitement. He thought his wife was on board, but after losing about $8,000 on a month long poetry competition held at the Elks Tower, she left. Speaking highly of the event, however, Leo said, “It was really cool. It had everything I wanted. People got to speak and open themselves up, but I lost a lot on that event and I lost my wife. She left three weeks later and it was a very difficult time when it happened.”
But what came out of it was the birth of three companies: the Classy Hippie Cafe, Hidden House (which is Leo’s tai chi and wellness business), and Leo Sensations, his event planning company.
Established within the borders of midtown in January 2014; the Hidden House and Classy Hippie Cafe held its first incarnation within the rustic brick of an early 1900s fire house, before moving to the Midtown Collective, which currently houses Firefly, Moonrise Boutique, and Trash Boutique.
When Leo and his ex wife lived inside the old fire house, they resided on the second floor and beneath them was a recording studio, Sound Cap Audio. “They would bring recording artists up and I would send talent down. Because I was open late, I would make food and different things for the artists. So we played off of each other. So that’s where I was when the wife left and I wondered what am I going to do. I went in, I started painting and remodeled the place and turned it into a wellness center where we did tai chi and Asian yoga.”

In that transition from a life of drugs to tea, Leo said it really came down to his roots – his parents. “The thought of letting them down and knowing my own self worth. I mean I finished engineering school. I raced motorcycles. I went to war. And to die from doing too many drugs, really? You’re not Jimi Hendrix, you will die and no one will remember you. So, it really it home that there’s so much more to do with your life.
“Everything I’m doing now, we did growing up. It was mainly my mom. My dad was the quiet guy. Our home – they called us the Huxtables in our neighborhood. We were one of the only Black families with a huge house, but it wasn’t like we were rich. My parents both worked. My grandfather lived with us. We had family chippin’ in. We just had a home that anyone and everyone came to. There were kids that didn’t have a place to go, a coat for the winter. (His parents would tell those children): ‘You have a coat now. You have food. You stay with us.’ So all that flowed over to the business. My father, on the other hand, was the guy who didn’t say a lot, but he had that wisdom about him. And when he spoke, you did listen. So, I picked up a lot from him. My mother is an assembly line worker for General Motors and my father is the manager for the night shift.”
Unfortunately for Leo, he lost the house and had to rewrite the business plan for his future. Hopefully for Leo, the current location – the Grange on V Street off Stockton Boulevard – is able to fulfill the needs for this creative venture.
The Classy Hippie Cafe is located at 3823 V St. The cafe is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 235-3243 or visit

Janey Way Memories #138

The Dalton Children Revisited
Earlier this week, while perusing my Facebook messages, I discovered an eye-opening note. It came from a man named Ray Dalton. Those of you who have followed my column since its inception may remember a story titled: “The Dalton Children.”
That column tells the story of five children, Carolyn, Wayne, Donna, Bonnie and Wiley Dalton, abandoned by their parents and raised by their grandmother.
Unfortunately, their grandmother died suddenly in the early 1960s. When that happened, the Sacramento Department of Social Services looked for foster care for the children and placed the five oldest Dalton kids with their Aunt Mary Kinzel on Janey Way. The two youngest children, Ray and Patrick, went to live with a foster family in Southern California.
Ray is the one who sent me the Facebook message. He said that the story touched him and that he has been trying to reconnect with his siblings. His message made me feel good because I, too, would like to reconnect with the Dalton children.
When I wrote the story about how the kid’s aunt Mary took then into her house on Janey Way and raised them to adulthood, one of my Janey Way friends said that he felt that the Dalton children had a tough time of it in the Kinzel home.
You know, that does not surprise me. It had to be hard in that household. Mary had two children of her own: Richard and Nancy. Then, having five new children thrust into her world could not have been easy.
However, you would never have known it. The children were always neatly dressed and well behaved. They never complained, even though they had to do chores, some of us never had to do.
I think living on Janey Way really made their difficult transition a lot easier.
We accepted them into our gang without question. They became a part of the fabric of our neighborhood.
The one sad thing is, that they each, in turn left the Kinzel house when they turned eighteen years of age. This did not surprise them. Mary had told them well in advance, that it would happen.
However, once they left Janey Way, we lost track of them. The oldest girl, Carolyn, found work and moved on to who knows where. Her brother Wayne went on to study at U.C. Davis, married, and took a job outside of Sacramento. Unfortunately, he died of cancer in his early thirties.
The other kids went their separate ways. I heard that they moved to Oregon to re-unite with their parents.
I would love to see them again someday. They were nice kids.
However, now their story is just another mysterious Janey Way Memory.

Walk4Water event to bring attention to water collection in Africa

A group of young women pumping water from a shallow well in Abaya. Water must be pumped up from deep into the ground in order to make it to their yellow water jugs. (March 2014) / Photos by Natalie Reyes
A group of young women pumping water from a shallow well in Abaya. Water must be pumped up from deep into the ground in order to make it to their yellow water jugs. (March 2014) / Photos by Natalie Reyes

A woman carrying a 5 gallon jerry can filled with water back to her home. Thanks to World Vision projects like the water wells, she will not have to walk miles back to her home to deliver the water. (March 2014)/ Photos by Natalie Reyes
A woman carrying a 5 gallon jerry can filled with water back to her home. Thanks to World Vision projects like the water wells, she will not have to walk miles back to her home to deliver the water. (March 2014)/ Photos by Natalie Reyes

While driving through the Abaya region and Ethiopia in general, you see women and children (of all ages) walking along the road carrying large yellow jerry cans heading to a water pump to collect water. Normally, it is very hot and sunny, making the walk no easy task. Sporadically you will see a large mass of women and children waiting in line at the water pump to fill their cans and return home. Since you are limited to only the water you can carry, many make this trip multiple times a day in order to collect water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. It is heartbreaking to see small children carrying water jugs that when full weigh up to 40 pounds, while also knowing that because they have to walk miles to get their water, they do not have time to attend school and are vulnerable to being attacked and/or raped on their way to fetching water.
-Natalie Reyes, Faith Presbyterian Church parishner

The Faith Presbyterian Church will be holding its Second Annual Walk4Water on Sunday, March 22, 10:30 a.m. Registration begins at 10 a.m. The walk begins at Faith Church, 625 Florin Road, for a 2-mile roundtrip walk to the Cabana Club South private swimming pool, 6615 Gloria Dr.

Walkers will experience what it is like for most people in developing nations around the globe to fetch water every day. They will carry an empty water container one mile and fill it up at the pool and return to the church and empty their load into the courtyard fountain. (Bring a container of any size).

Cost is $25 for adults and $10 for children accompanied by an adult. All donations benefit the Faith Church sponsored World Vision Abaya Ethiopia Area Development Program clean water projects. The goal is $10,000 and Faith Church will match $5,000, which will provide one clean water source for a village in remote Abaya, Ethiopia.
This will also be a time to learn about water awareness and the hardships most people globally are challenged with each day in acquiring safe, clean water. In light of our current drought and water shortage in California, this will bring a greater appreciation for every drop of water we use.

David Nash, communications elder at Faith Presbyterian Church, explained this is being done in many places such as college campuses and churches as a fundraiser and awareness campaign to build new clean water projects with their partnership with World Vision and their sponsorship of the Abaya Ethiopia Area Development Program. Abaya is a small area in a remote area about 250 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and this gives people the opportunity to experience the hardship of what people there have to do to acquire clean water (or in some cases dirty water) each day walking long distances.

Parishner Natalie Reyes explained the church has sent three small teams of people to the Abaya region every two years since 2010 to see first-hand the work that World Vision is doing to improve the quality of life in the community through the partnership. “David and I were both lucky enough to attend this two-week trip twice, both in 2012 and 2014 to see what progress has been made in the community. On both of our trips there were seven church members of varying ages, genders, and demographics on our team to represent in order to fully represent our church community and to provide a better-rounded group to share their experiences upon return.
“World Vision does a great job of empowering local community members to make important decision regarding what improvements need to be made and implementing leadership to execute plans. Abaya community leaders decided early on that providing clean water to the Abaya Region was a high priority and have been working hard to ensure that everyone has access to at least one clean water well. While in the Abaya region, we noticed many village ‘neighborhoods’ with a community water pump very close by. These local clean water access points cut down on the time needed to walk for water, allowing more girls to attend school and complete their education, lowering their risk of marrying early and becoming pregnant.”
The group visited schools, medical outposts, veterinarian outposts, and other important landmarks where clean water played a role, Natalie explained. Clean water needed to be provided at schools in order to keep children hydrated and in school, rather than at home sick from water-borne diseases. Health post visitors need to be sure that they are getting clean water there in order to get better. Animals also need access to clean water to ensure that they live longer and are a viable food or money item for a family.

Another concern they were not completely aware of until being on the ground was the need for sanitation and hygiene, something taken for granted in the developed world. Explaining further what that amounts to, Natalie said: “Without latrines, similar to a make-shift port-a-pottie, and proper hygiene education, sewage and waste ends up in the streets which ultimately makes it into drinking water sources in the community. Educating the community on the need to drink from clean water sources and how to properly use a latrine significantly cuts down on the number of sick children and adults in the community, allowing people to go to work, school, and tend to their farms, leading to more economic success in the long run.”
Nash explained many of those in the group visited their sponsored children. “I visited Zinabua Moroma and her family in both 2012 and 2014. Our church sponsors nearly 100 children through World Vision. I have been sponsoring Zinabua since 2010. It costs about $1.15 a day which helps both her, her family and her local community through sustaining clean water, schools, sanitation, health and hygiene projects. In 2014, I walked one mile with her to their families clean water capped spring and back with water, and I drank from the spring which was pristine.”

“Just below the spring was a filthy creek which is where her family and local community got their water until 2010. Zinabua’s mother told me through an interpreter the family was always sick drinking that water, but once they received the gift of the capped spring the family regained it’s health and were able to lead productive lives increasing their farms yeilds.

“Primarily it is the women and children who walk for water while the men and boys are farming the fields. Long walks for water increases the risk of rape, and keeps girls from going to school because they are too busy acquiring water for their families. Reducing the distance, provides greater opportunity for them to go to school.”
Asked what an event like Walk4Water is meant to accomplish, Nash said it increases awareness among those who walk, and those who don’t walk witness the presentations and better understand the hardships locals endure. A special donation envelope in the worship bulletin is included at service on Sunday, March 22 for those who want to make a philanthropic donation for a clean water project. The average cost for a clean water source is about $10,000 which is the church’s goal. In 2010, Faith Presbyterian sponsored a 5,000-gallon resevoir and distribution system that cost $19,000 that provides clean water for about 2,000 people in the community. In 2010, the church sponsored building a school in the amount of $33,000. And, in 2012, an $8,000 contribution was made to the World Vision Famine relief fund. Faith Presbetyrian is hoping to surpass the goal to provide one clean water project from this awareness/fundraising event that would change the lives of a whole village.

Sponsoring the local church is Presbyterian Church (USA) which has had missionaries, Michael and Rachel Weller, in Ethiopia for 22 years.
Additionally, Faith Presbetyrian Church allows the local Ethiopian Orthodox Church to use their old sanctuary for their Sunday morning worship from 6-10 a.m. each week. “There are several members of the congregation who are from Ethiopia and are engaged with this special partnership with our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I have developed close friends in Ethiopia from my trips there and regularly Skype, Facetime and talk via a phone app called Viber free!” David said.

At the Walk4Water event, there will also be samples of authentic Ethiopian food provided by the Ethiopian Church congregation, which will be involved with the event. And, there will also be authentic imported goods for sale to benefit ministries in Ethiopia.

Fast facts:

Faith Church to Cabana Club South and back.
Registration 10 a.m., Walk4Water 10:30 a.m.
$25 Adults $10 Children accompanied by an adult.
All donations benefit clean water projects.
$5,000 matched by Faith Church.
Goal with match: $15,000= One clean water source in Abaya, Ethiopia.
World Vision Child Sponsorships will be available at the event.
If you can’t walk you can make a donation.

JFK celebrated Chinese New Year with festivities and delicious lunches

Shown here is a selection of photographs taken on Friday, Feb. 20 during special lunchtime Chinese New Year celebrations which were held in the quad at John F. Kennedy High School.  / Photos by Stephen Crowley
Shown here is a selection of photographs taken on Friday, Feb. 20 during special lunchtime Chinese New Year celebrations which were held in the quad at John F. Kennedy High School. / Photos by Stephen Crowley

On Feb. 19-20, John F. Kennedy High School celebrated the Chinese New Year with festive campus decorations, a school-wide Chinese New Year tea party during lunch, and exciting Chinese cultural performances in the quad the day after.
John F. Kennedy Chinese National Honor Society member Annie Mo displayed her beautiful Chinese calligraphy that were sayings for the new year of the ram. Her calligraphy, posters of rams, and the excellent work of the Chinese Mandarin Department students were displayed in the school library. On the day of Chinese New Year, Kennedy students were greeted with “Xin Nian Kuai Le!” over the intercom which means “Happy New Year!”
Kennedy students got a brief 60-second crash course on how Chinese families all over the world celebrate this very special holiday. They learned that traditional Chinese New Year traditions include cleaning the house, decorating the house with lots of red, wearing red, huge feasting with family, watching Chinese dragon and lion dancing, setting off fireworks, and the best part to students, giving and receiving red envelopes filled with money.
Later on that day, during lunch, all Kennedy students and staff were invited to come for the Chinese New Year “Tea Party”, which was a huge success thanks to Mr. Campos, the school librarian for supplying the tea and many other necessities and Chinese NHS adviser, Mrs. Hatamiya, who supplied the party with other delicious treats. All Kennedy students were able to participate in the celebration of the new year with fresh tea, dumplings, nian gao, pineapple buns, almond cookies, fortune cookies, mango pudding, and many other Chinese pastries and refreshments. Eating is a huge part of Chinese culture so Kennedy students and staff were able to immerse themselves in 5000-year-old Chinese culture and participate in this very special and important Chinese holiday through the enjoyment of these Chinese foods.
The next day, there were exciting Chinese New Year performances in the quad during lunch MCed by Chinese NHS students Alex Collard, Kevin Chan, and Tristan Fong. Students got to eat their lunches while enjoying beautiful Chinese instrument Guzheng demonstrations by Zimei, graceful display of Chinese Martial Arts Taichi by Chinese NHS member Eddy Yu, powerful Chinese Martial Arts Wushu Kung Fu routines, an amazing Chinese Yo-Yo performance by Chinese NHS member Julie Remen, and an intense lion dance performed by Spencer Tsang. Overall, John F. Kennedy students were able to join in lavish school-wide celebrations to help ring in the Chinese New Year.”


The following are statements from JFK students who participated in the Chinese New Year festivities on campus.

Kevin Chen: “I thought it was pretty cool because most other holidays are celebrated. Certain cultural holidays get days off. Chinese holidays are overlooked in american schools, and so to have this happen at our school. Not chinese dominent. But good chinese population. It’s good to remind students that there are cultures that deviate from mainstream.”

Katrina Jiang: “I did the announcements over the intercom. (I talked about) what Chinese families do during Chinese New Year. In my family, we clean the house, decorate in red, and we wear red. Kids receive envelopes with money in it. We have family feasts.

Tristan Fong: “The Chinese New Year celebration was a big success. Our school is pretty diverse and the (students) enjoyed the celebration.”

Chase Suwa: “We (have been selling) boba every Friday for half an hour. We are raising money to give seniors scholarships for college. We started earlier this year. At first it was mostly just Asian students who were familiar (with boba). As soon as non-Asian students figured it was pretty good, the lines started getting longer. At first, (we started selling) just regular milk tea, but soon we are going to have some Thai tea. We got recommendations to sell different types of flavors. We sell $4 for about 16 ounces and we buy from Boba Cafe on Freeport Boulevard. One of our seniors, Quinten, doesn’t have a sixth period, so he goes and gets them and brings them back to Kennedy. We sell right between the front office and the quad. We’ve had teachers also buy some.”


Neighborhood Emergency Training discused at Pocket neighborhood meeting

“It was a dark and stormy night” …actually afternoon.
Ominous heavy rains drenched the neighborhood and dark clouds provided the perfect gloomy atmosphere for emergency training. In spite of the weather though, of the more than 78 people who signed up, about 50 showed for a recent Sacramento Police Department emergency training at Didion Elementary School gym. The Pocket/Greenhaven neighborhood is surrounded by the Sacramento River levee that has a history of flooding.

The Sacramento Neighborhood Watch program offers a number of community and business safety training and events in the area. The successful program was started by Police Chief Samuel D. Somers, Jr. to help prepare communities to respond to disasters to which Sacramento is susceptible. A Homeland Security grant funds the program.

Sacramento Police Department co-instructors Barbara Falcon and Jena Swafford led the training. After a number of years volunteering in the police community program, Falcon was offered a paid position as Reserve Community Service Officer.

Swafford has been a Public Safety Dispatcher at the Sacramento Police Department for the past 17 years, speaking nationwide because of her experience.

Pocket Nextdoor website in partnership with the Police Department. sponsored the Neighbor Emergency Training (N.E.T.) in the South Area.

Leader Kathi Windheim says, “ Nextdoor is a social medium based on people connecting to neighbors. The Pocket Nextdoor site is the largest in the Sacramento area with 1,999 members to date.”

Pocket resident Rene Roman who attended the N.E.T. training has lived in the area for about 13 years. He talked about his Army experiences as a first responder. He says in large disasters such as the hurricane Katrina floods, neither the landline phones nor cells will work. He carries a handheld portable ham receiver.

The portable ham receiver has a range of 5 miles and is battery powered, whereas the mobile ham receiver has a range of 200 miles and is powered by a car’s electrical system.

Charlotte Dompier, also an attendee at the training has lived in the Pocket neighborhood since 2000. She is retired from CalTrans and says her work included the Marysville floods of 1997.

She says her home is right behind the Sacramento River levee, “I’m not sure I’d get out if a major flood occurred.” Of course, hopefully those in imminent danger will have warnings so they can evacuate the area.

Sacramento Police Department Barbara Falcon and Jenna Swafford began the training by asking, “Are you prepared?” Highlights of the emergency training program cover three steps in preparing for a disaster:

1) Be Informed: Learn what disaster might occur in your area. The benefits of being prepared are it reduces fear/anxiety, it reduces the impact of disasters, and helps you and your community survive.

2) Make a Plan: Experts recommend collecting supplies for at least 72 hours. Plan for services (ie. phones) to be out. Plan escape routes, and identify
two places for family to meet. Inventory home possessions by photos or video tape along with putting together a water-proof pack with important documents such as insurance papers, passport, will, etc.

Plan for pet needs: ID shelters and pet-friendly hotels/motels, include in your important documents vet records with pet photo, how you’ll transport when you evacuate, and prepare pet carrier, food, meds, & leash.

Before you leave home, turn off water, electricity and gas. Although if you turn off the gas, PG&E must turn it on again. Do you know where to locate these in your home? Training includes how to shelter-in-place whether you are at home, work, school, or in a car. Learn how to use first aid and CPR and how to use a fire extinguisher.

3) Build a Disaster Supplies Kit: Examples to include are water, unsalty portable foods, medications, glasses, hearing aids, and hygene products such as toothbrushes and soap. Include paper towels, plastic garbage bags, extra clothing, rain gear, blankets, work gloves, duct tape, flashlights, and tools such as pliers, knives and can opener. The instructors also advised keeping coins and paper money in the escape kit because ATM’s may not work.

Types of Disaster Sacramento is subject to:
*Because Sacramento residents live in a flood plain flooding is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of emergencies.
*But Sacramento has a number of earthquake faults to the east and west of the city.
*Other potential disaster sources are trains running through mid-town carrying oil and other dangerous materials. In Roseville in 1973, 18 boxcars
carrying munitions exploded injuring 48 people.
* Potential also are fires, tornados/thunderstorms, and vehicles carrying chemicals crashing on highways.
*Airplanes in and out of Executive Airport present a potential danger. In 1972, an airplane on takeoff from the airport at 150 MPH crashed into a chain link fence, hurled across Freeport Boulevard and demolished Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, killing 22 people and injuring 28. At that time it was the worst U.S. aircraft disaster involving victims on the ground.
* The recent measles outbreak evidences pandemic disease spread throughout populations. Others in this category are influenza and whooping cough both of which can be controlled by serums taken by shots.
*The emergency training also covers terriorist attacks. In 1999, two men were arrested for planning to attack the Elk Grove propane storage facility. Sacramento has been added to the Homeland Security list of cities that are possible terriorist targets. Bombs could wipe out the Capitol, Raley Field, the new Arena, etc.

None of us want to think of the worst happening, but 9/11 demonstrated what happens when we are not prepared. Every Sacramento community should offer the Neighborhood Emergency Training by the Police Department. Barbara Falcon (808-0813) has a schedule of the workshops held throughout Sacramento. For more information, go online to the FEMA and Red Cross websites.

Leigh Stephens is a retired professor from the CSUS Journalism and Communications Department and the author of Covering the Community.

Wings and Wine event to benefit wildlife care in Sacramento Valley

Nala B Horned Owl
Nala B Horned Owl
Ivory While Crow
Ivory While Crow

Wildlife, wine, nature, hawks, falcons, and owls, oh my! On Saturday, March 7 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., spend an evening with magnificent birds of prey. Mingle with owls, hawks and one beautiful eagle while enjoying a complimentary glass of wine and light hors d’oeuvres. Other beverages will be available for purchase. Enter to win fabulous raffle prizes with the proceeds to go to the Wildlife Care Association. Tickets are $25 in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door. Purchase online at or in person at High Hand Nursery, which is located at 3750 Taylor Road, Loomis. For more information, call 652-2065.
The Wildlife Care Association assists Mother Nature all through private donations. The Wildlife Care Association is a non-profit group that helps heal the birds that fall from nests, critters hit by cars or wildlife that needs a little human help to survive in our world. Help keep the mission active and wildlife alive by attending this special benefit at the High Hand Nursery. The “Wings and Wine 2015” event offers a taste of the “wild life” in wineglasses and keeps “wildlife” alive by assisting the nonprofit group.
For more information on helping support wildlife care or to become a volunteer, call the Wildlife Care Association at 965-WILD or visit

El Camino Fundamental High School Theater Arts Department announces its up-coming production of Kiss Me, Kate!

El Camino Fundamental High School (ECFHS) Theater Arts Department will present Cole Porter’s
musical “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Eagle Theater located on the ECFHS campus.
The play runs March 4-7 and 11-14. Show time is 7 p.m.
“Kiss Me, Kate,” is a play within a play that follows an acting company opening in Baltimore in a
musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. The company’s actor-director has
cast his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, as Kate opposite his Petruchio, with all its
attendant baggage and conflicting emotions.
The show features Adam Severeid as Fred Graham; Natalie Meagher as Lilli Vanessi; Chris Harley as Bill Calhoun; and Jessica Padilla as Lois Lane. Musical Direction is under Kevin Glaser; vocal direction by David Vanderbout; choreography by Sarah Souther and Sam Williams; and Production Direction by Ed Santillanes.
“Kiss Me, Kate combines great energy, musical exuberance, and superb wit making it one of the
most admired musicals of all time,” states show producer, Ed Santillanes.
“Let’s not forget to mention the music,” interjects musical director, Kevin Glaser. The audience
will enjoy some of musical theatre’s most famous songs and Cole Porter at his very best, like:
“So in Love,” “Another Op’nin’ Another Show,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Brush Up Your
Shakespeare,” to name a few.
Because of the story’s widespread appeal, organizers anticipate large crowds for “Kiss Me,
Kate” and encourage the community to get their tickets early.
“The students (both on stage and off) have worked many long hours to put on a great show. It
means so much to see the entire community support us in such a huge way. Our cast and crew
can’t wait to share this production with them,” says Santillanes.
Parents spoke with a few of the actors who had the following to share for the purpose of this article.

Samantha Cullifer:

“I love the people that I am working with, the music, and all of the dancing! I have done 37 roles in 20 ballet productions. I am planning on perusing a career in musical theater and other types of acting.”

Alyse Simmons-Batholome:

“I love the people that I get to work with and all the new techniques that I learn and can use in the future. This is the second show I have performed in and the sixth show I have worked on. I am planning on performing arts career.”

Chris Harley:

“Besides attending several professional musicals and theatrical productions, I have never personally performed or studied theater arts before. After working back-stage last season, I got to know many of the cast members and liked everyone so well I decided to give the front side of the curtain a try! They are all a very supportive group. Although I do not expect to go into the performing arts as a career, I am really glad to have this opportunity to participate and now have a much greater appreciation of what it takes to put together a production.”
Tickets available at the door on show nights or can be purchased through Brown Paper
Tickets (bpt) at The El Camino Fundamental High School Eagle Theater is located at 4300 El Camino Ave. Additional questions regarding the performance can be emailed to or call 971-7453.

Gym class gets new digs at Arden Middle School

Students at Arden Middle School have a new gym, which they celebrated with various rallies and fun activities on Jan. 22.  /All photos by Stephen Crowley
Students at Arden Middle School have a new gym, which they celebrated with various rallies and fun activities on Jan. 22. /All photos by Stephen Crowley

Thanks to the school’s new $5.5 million multi-purpose room, all 950 of the students at Arden Middle School can now eat lunch together, and without having to deflect errant basket balls, among other benefits.
“For events, we couldn’t fit all the kids in at one time,” principal Jeff Banks said. “When we had an assembly we had to split the students in half, and people were packed in and had to sit on the floor.”
Before the grand opening on Jan. 21, the school had to break students up into two groups for rallies and had two different lunch periods. Each lunch period also shared the space with a P.E. class. One student who took the stage – also a feature of the new gym – at the grand opening celebration said the new gym meant she could eat lunch with her friends.
The smaller gym had a capacity of just fewer than 450, while the new one can accommodate more than 1,000 people, according to Banks.
The new gym is not only a high school size basketball and volleyball court (complete with six basketball hoops), but also features a stage with lighting and a sound system, 10 rows of bleacher seating and an outdoor stage.
“This is more than what (the San Juan Unified School District students) are used to seeing in this area,” Banks said.
The gym was funded by Measure J, a $350 million bond measure voters approved in 2002.
Banks says that, among other things, the new space means the students will see performing arts classes phased in over the next few years, including expanded theater and arts programs, and hopefully a choir class next year. The new space “more than doubles” the school’s existing arts and performing arts classes, according to Banks – a proposition he hopes will keep students engaged and looking forward to school.
“The more students you can have coming to school, the greater chance you have for student success,” he said.
Banks also expects to make the space available to the community as a venue, and specifically to youth recreational leagues and drama clubs, potentially generating revenue for the school district.
The long-awaited project comes with a parking lot expansion, a new kitchen and cafeteria tables as well.
“I think it’s great,” said Bonnie Reynolds, the school’s retired secretary of 36 years, who was among the onlookers at the students vs. faculty basketball at the grand opening. “It’s beautiful, and this has been a dream since I started here in 1974.”
Back then, she said, there was no gym. Then the school’s enrollment eventually grew too big for the one that was built, and the school couldn’t even host its own graduation ceremonies.
“For this school to be able to have a facility like this has been many people’s dreams,” said Reynolds, whose tenure spanned five principals’ times at the school.