Category Archives: Community

Eastside To Reap Healthy Eating From Crop Box Program

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Suzanne Hurt and published in The Press Enterprise on September 10, 2015.)

Photo Credit: David Bauman
Photo Credit: David Bauman

Pomegranates, peaches, peppers and tomatoes could be among the fresh-picked local produce that makes its way into local harvest boxes for Eastside residents through a new healthy living program.

Individuals and families living on the Eastside can apply for a pilot program that will deliver weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables from neighboring farms and offer workshops on nutrition, gardening and cooking.

The fledgling Riverside Food Cooperative is managing the Community Supported Agriculture Crop Box program, brought to the neighborhood as part of the Kaiser Permanente-sponsored Eastside HEAL Zone initiative. Kaiser’s effort to improve the health of the communities they serve, is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.

The co-op will launch the program with produce from four farms, most within a few miles of downtown Riverside, and a community garden in Ontario. Unity Farm is certified organic and the others grow food with reduced or no pesticides and other toxins, said co-op member Nick Melquiades.

The program’s educational side is based on participants’ needs and could include workshops about simple cooking on a budget, container gardening and how to find produce at nearby farms.

The city’s Community & Economic Development Department, Riverside County Public Health Department and the Community Health Foundation are administering the three-year initiative to boost healthy living among Eastside residents by encouraging people to eat healthier foods and exercise more.

The neighborhood is among 17 California communities chosen for the Healthy Eating, Active Living initiative because of the neighborhood’s high obesity rate and limited access to affordable healthy food. The initiative ends in March.

To read the full article, click here.

Affordable Housing For Disabled Veterans Coming Soon

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Suzanne Hurt and published in The Press Enterprise on September 20, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Kurt Miller, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Kurt Miller, The Press Enterprise

A World War II officer’s club at a long-shuttered military base is morphing into a new center of hope and healing for veterans in an innovative Riverside housing project expected to open early next year.

The Camp Anza Officers Club, with its huge dance floor, tiki room and paintings of Polynesian beauties, was the site of send-off parties for thousands of officers leaving for combat in the Pacific.

The massive building, which sat at the heart of a vital U.S. Army troop staging area, is undergoing a renovation to make it the centerpiece of the Home Front at Camp Anza.

The $14.1 million project by San Diego-based Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., Mercy House of Santa Ana and Riverside’s housing authority will offer affordable apartments for 29 disabled vets and their families and on-site services to keep them together.

On a tour of the area Wednesday, Riverside City Councilman Jim Perry said the effort to help returning war vets also will revitalize one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods by breathing new life into an important piece of its past.

The historic clubhouse will function as the complex’s community center, offering services tailored to vets and a place for relaxation and meetings. Vets will work with a full-time case manager provided by Mercy House.

Vets will get on-site physical therapy, job coaching and placement, and classes on civilian life skills and financial literacy. They will be connected with Veterans Affairs benefits and vocational training or higher education, said Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes.

For vets and their families, there will be on- and off-site behavioral and mental health support, conflict resolution, financial assistance, tutoring and school supplies for kids.

Riversiders commitment to making one-other’s life a little better is a great example of Riverside acting as a unified city. The actions of all the participating organizations demonstrates that Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full story, click here.

White House Recognizes UCR As A Bright Spot In Hispanic Education

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Skerkat and published in UCR Today on September 15, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside has been recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a Bright Spot in Hispanic education. The announcement was made Sept. 15, 2015 at the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.

As a Bright Spot, UC Riverside is part of a national online catalog that includes over 230 programs that invest in key education priorities for Hispanics. In two separate entries, the university is being honored for its student success efforts with the College of Natural and Agricultural Science’s freshman learning communities, as well as for its ethnic parity in campus graduation rates. It is rare to have very little gap between students of different ethnicities.

UCR is a testament to the diversity of our city which falls within the pillars Unified City and Location of Choice.  People have a desire to meet and communicate with others that are not like themselves, and there are many opportunities for that in Riverside

To read the full article, click here.

The Youth Grantmakers Program Introduces Young People To Philanthropy

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Rebecca K. O’Connor and published in The Press Enterprise on September 11, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Community Foundation
Photo Credit: Community Foundation

The Youth Grantmakers program was created in 2009 and continues to expand, creating opportunities for Inland Southern California youth to receive hands-on experiences and discover the power that philanthropy has to shape their communities for the better.

Youth Grantmakers (YG) was instituted by The Community Foundation with a goal of involving area youth in philanthropy and to hopefully build an interest and passion for community building that will last throughout their lives. The program also strives to address the issues affecting young people by giving them a voice and the opportunity to make change.

The YG program was launched in Riverside and has since grown to include programs in the Coachella Valley, High Desert, San Bernardino and Idyllwild.

Fifteen to 30 students from local schools for each area are recruited and meetings are held monthly throughout the school year. Youth in the programs are tasked with granting an average of $15,000 a year to multiple nonprofit organizations that address youth issues in their communities.

For more information about Youth Grantmakers, call The Community Foundation at 951-241-7777.

The Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.

Programs like this are great examples of the Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar by demonstrating that we are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full article, click here.

Kaiser Permanente Approves $599,464 In Community Benefit Grants In Riverside County In 2015

(This article contains excerpts from the Kaiser Permanente press release published on August 12, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Kaiser Permanente
Photo Credit: Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente, Riverside and Moreno Valley announced that it has approved 31 community benefit grants and donations totaling $599,464 in 2015. The not-for-profit organization is committed to supporting programs that enhance education and strengthen the quality of health care to underserved communities.

Kaiser Permanente’s mission is to improve the health of their members and the communities they serve. It is through our work in Community Benefit that provides community-based organizations with funding through grants, partnerships and dissemination of knowledge. Kaiser’s effort to improve the health of the communities they serve, is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.

Key grants in each of the Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit health priorities include the following.

Improve access to primary health care services
MFI Recovery was awarded a grant for $25,000 for the Women’s Residential program. Designed to meet the specialized needs of at-risk women during pregnacy and for well-baby checks for children in the program.

A $20,000 grant was awarded to Jewish Family Services of the Desert for the Kids First Counseling program. A partnership with Palm Springs Unified School District to provide healthy life substance abuse prevention and counseling services for at-risk youth.

Obesity and overweight
Feeding America was awarded $20,000 for the Senior Nutrition Program. A program that provides fresh, affordable and nutritious produce at targeted senior community settings throughout Riverside County to increase access to healthy eating for residents living in food deserts.

100 Mile Club was awarded $20,000 to increase the physical activity/walking incentive program to students who would otherwise be unable to participate in the following Riverside County school districts: Alvord, Corona, Moreno Valley, Riverside and San Jacinto.

A $30,000 grant was awarded to Riverside Community Health Foundation for the Riverside Community Diabetes Collaborative, a multi-agency collaborative aimed at programs for diabetes prevention, management and support in community settings.

The American Diabetes Association received a grant for $12,000 to conduct Por Tu Familia (For Your Family) programs in Perris, Murrieta and Temecula. A diabetes prevention, education and management program in Spanish.

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Geriatric Care In Underserved Riverside County To Benefit From Major Funding

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kathy Barton and published in UCR Today on August 12, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma

A new partnership between the UC Riverside School of Medicine, UCLA, Riverside County Regional Medical Center and the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services has just received a $2.5 million grant to enhance geriatric education, training and workforce development in Riverside County. The Health Resources and Services Administration gave the three-year grant to the UCLA division of geriatrics.`

Called the Program for Improving Care of Aging adults through Training and Education, or PICATE, the project is a collaboration among primary care clinics, community-based organizations and educational institutions throughout Riverside County.

In addition to UC Riverside School of Medicine, local education partners in this project include the schools of nursing at California Baptist University and Riverside City College.

PICATE will integrate geriatrics into three primary care teaching clinics at Riverside County Regional Medical Center, which serves as the primary teaching hospital of the UC Riverside School of Medicine. The project will track outcomes for patients and their caregivers, including fall frequency and severity and dementia-related behavioral problems in patients, and stress and depression in caregivers.

The program will encourage patient and family engagement through online education and partnerships with community organizations. Caregiver training will be provided through In Home Supportive Services, particularly for people caring for seniors with dementia. In the second and third years, part of the work will be extended to the county’s Indian Health Service.

Caring for the elderly is becoming a great concern as the baby boomers become of age. This grant will help the educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas and research in the field of geriatrics. This effort to provide better care to the elderly is a outstanding example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst of innovation pillar.

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Gets 3-STAR Rating For Sustainability

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Suzanne Hurt and published in the Press Enterprise on August 10, 2015.)

Photo Credit: STAR Communities
Photo Credit: STAR Communities

A nonprofit that measures U.S. city sustainability has recognized Riverside as a 3-STAR community, city officials have announced.

STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities) Communities assesses environmental, economic and social sustainability as part of an effort to make cities more liveable. Riverside entered the rating system in November 2012, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The group rates a community’s built environment, climate and energy, natural systems, health and safety, equity and empowerment and other factors. The rating system uses data provided by cities and provides local officials with a way to set targets and appraise their own progress toward increased sustainability.

The STAR Community Rating System was created by ICLEI USA, the U.S. Green Building Council, National League of Cities and the Center for American Progress.

This rating is yet just another reason why Riverside is a location of choice for people seeking the most out of their city. Riverside provides welcoming neighborhoods, well-paying jobs, and a great education.

School Districts Aim To Better Identify Homeless Students

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Bo Kovitz and published in The Press Enterprise on Aug 10, 2015.)

Waudier "Woody" Rucker-Hughes
Waudier “Woody” Rucker-Hughes

Local school districts are on a mission to find homeless youths, described by many experts as hidden in plain sight.

The Riverside Unified School District and Moreno Valley Unified School District each plan to increase the number of counselors they send to individual schools to better identify homeless youths.

Waudieur "Woodie" Rucker-Hughes, a child welfare and attendance manager for the Riverside Unified School District, works in her office on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Woodie is also the president of the Riverside NAACP. Photo Credit: Stan Lim
Waudieur “Woodie” Rucker-Hughes, a child welfare and attendance manager for the Riverside Unified School District, works in her office on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Woodie is also the president of the Riverside NAACP. Photo Credit: Stan Lim

RUSD will hire 14 counselors to work with at-risk youth, which includes those who are homeless. They’ll be paid with state Local Control and Accountability Plan funding.

Both districts also received federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act funds for homeless youth services. RUSD plans to use that money to help pay for specific homeless-youth services such as bus passes and hosting outreach events. The funding also may help pay for more nutritional services, books and backpacks, tutoring, homework assistance at homeless shelters and access to field trips.

There are thousands of homeless youths throughout the Inland area.

In 2014, Riverside County identified and worked with 25,731 homeless public school students at some point in the year, and San Bernardino County identified as many as 36,866 homeless students, according to data from the California Department of Education.

In the city of Riverside, there were 3,826 homeless students identified, and 3,352 were identified in Moreno Valley, according to the state data.

Those numbers reflect only those students that school districts were able to identify as homeless. But many remain uncounted because they don’t share their housing situation with school officials.

Woodie Rucker-Hughes, homeless-student coordinator for RUSD said there are likely hundreds that may be uncounted — those still on the streets or sleeping in the living rooms of friends and relatives.

Rucker-Hughes, who works to find homeless youths and connects them to student services, now has $128,140 in McKinney-Vento funds to help homeless youth. Moreno Valley Unified School District received $157,979.

The San Bernardino County Office of Education was granted $225,684 in McKinney-Vento funds for the 2015-2016 school year. The Ontario-Montclair School District received $157,979 and San Bernardino City Unified School District got $142,462.

The Riverside and Moreno Valley districts both will use the funds to increase educational services for homeless youths, and Riverside will also use LCAP money to hire more counselors.

“Additional counselors are something sorely needed in the district,” Rucker-Hughes said. “These folks will come in and help lighten the load, and counselors will be given more meaningful time to be spent with the kids who need it.”

Currently RUSD uses two to three full-time counselors to work with homeless students. In the Moreno Valley school district, as many as 10 counselors are paired with homeless youth, but those counselors also have other duties.

To Rucker-Hughes, having more counselors will help schools find more of the hidden homeless.

Efforts like this truly show why Riverside is such a unified city. Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full article, click here.

UCR Receives Grant Aimed At Improving The Health Of Local Latinos

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in the The Press Enterprise on July 30, 2015.)

Dr. Greer Sullivan, director of the Center for Healthy Communities, speaks to guests at the Latino Health Riverside Project Reception July 22 at UC Riverside. Photo Credit: Ross French
Dr. Greer Sullivan, director of the Center for Healthy Communities, speaks to guests at the Latino Health Riverside Project Reception July 22 at UC Riverside. Photo Credit: Ross French

UC Riverside School of Medicine’s Center for Healthy Communities has received a $250,000 grant for a community engagement project aimed at improving the health of Latino residents of the city of Riverside through partnered research.

The grant was awarded by Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a non-profit, non-governmental organization created by Congress in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. It funds projects that encourage patients and other stakeholders to become integral members of the research process.

UCR’s project, “Latino Health Riverside,” will be conducted in partnership with community stakeholders in the Riverside neighborhoods of Arlanza, Casa Blanca and the Eastside. The expertise of residents in these communities will be tapped to learn more about health-related problems of greatest concern and ideas for solutions.

This community engagement project is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders are working together everday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and world.

Jeanette Marantos contributed to this story.

To read the complete article, click here.

Athletes Get Warm Welcome And Hone Their Skills At Inland Venues

(This Article contains excerpts from the article written by Stephen Wall and published in the Press Enterprise on July 22, 2015.)

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

Dakota bucked a bit, but Milagro was smooth in the saddle.

Changing horses was no big deal to Special Olympian Robert Seignious, who was fine-tuning his equestrian skills Wednesday, July 22, in Norco.

“It’s fun and I like to win medals,” he said with a smile.

The South Carolina resident was among the 10-member Special Olympics USA Equestrian team practicing for the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which begin Saturday, July 25, in Los Angeles.

Nearly 350 athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the country are training for 16 sports at Inland venues through Friday and are staying at the UC Riverside dorms for four days before leaving for Los Angeles..

After the morning workouts, competitors headed to downtown Riverside for an afternoon “Parade of Champions.”

Enthusiastic crowds lined Main Street to cheer on athletes who wore red shirts, waved American flags and chanted “U.S.A,” “U.S.A.” as they walked toward City Hall. About 100 athletes, coaches and trainers from Team Sweden preceded the Americans. The parade included the Martin Luther King High School band and cheerleaders from Poly High School in Riverside.

Riverside residents Holly Fajardo and her daughter Emily, 17, slapped high-fives with athletes as they walked in front of the Mission Inn.

“It’s important that they see the community supports them just like professional athletes,” Holly Fajardo said. “They don’t get the same recognition and they should.“

The care and compassion that Riverside showed towards our guests, truly demonstrated what makes us such a ‘unified city‘.  We are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

Emily Fajardo, who graduated from King High in June, was part of a campus club that works to integrate special needs kids with the rest of the student population.

“You get to know how wonderful and unique they are,” she said. “You are drawn to them.”

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

Grand Marshal Lauren Potter, an actress featured in the TV show “Glee,” was part of the procession. Potter is a Poly High graduate and has Down syndrome.

“I’m so excited to be with all these amazing athletes,” Potter, 25, said before the parade started.


Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

Earlier in the day, Seignious, 21, talked about riding horses at the No Drama Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Norco, which is hosting one of the practices.

The horse named Dakota was challenging to ride because it was the first time the animal had a male rider, said Marissa Brzescinski, the equestrian team’s head coach.

“He was getting a little out of control, so I got a replacement,” explained Seignious.

He returned to the arena and hopped on Milagro, practicing proper form and posture with coach Tom Walmsley.

“I feel like I’m on a jet,” is how he later described the experience.

Horses at the ranch are trained for competitive events and are “as safe as can be,” said Walmsley, who lives in Illinois.

The athletes who were honing their equestrian skills hail from nine states — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri and Arizona.

Team captain Jeremiah Schedlock looked forward to showcasing his talents in front of big crowds in Los Angeles. He also wants to meet and socialize with people from other countries.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Schedlock, 24, who lives in Prescott, Arizona.


After Wednesday afternoon’s parade, athletes mingled in front of City Hall, dancing as they listened to recorded music blaring over loudspeakers.

Basketball players from Minnesota expressed gratitude for the support.

“It feels good to be recognized,” said Joseph Ajayi, 24. “It feels good to be part of something this big and this successful.”

Hearing the cheers was heartwarming, added Abel Mehari, 22.

“It’s a really rewarding experience that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life,” he said.

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

As a gesture of friendship, Amy Norton, a triathlete from New Jersey, gave her American flag to a Swedish athlete and got a flag from that country in return.

Describing what it’s like to be in the world games, Norton, 27, said, “It’s just incredible.“

Her sentiment was shared by teammate Courtney Dreyfus.

“You‘re surrounded by so many new people,” said Dreyfus, 18, also of New Jersey. “You get to be in one of the biggest competitions in the world. It’s such an honor.”