Category Archives: Community

75 Prom Gowns Donated To The Princess Treatment Dresses Campaign

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Laurie Williams and published in The Press Enterprise on March 25, 2015.)

Martin Luther King High School student Caitlyn Kent holds two of some 75 donated prom dresses she has collected for girls who cant afford to buy new ones. Photo Credit: Laurie Williams
Martin Luther King High School student Caitlyn Kent holds two of some 75 donated prom dresses she has collected for girls who cant afford to buy new ones. Photo Credit: Laurie Williams

Becoming an orthodontist is Caitlyn Kent’s ultimate goal, but at 16 she has another plan for making people smile – with elegant couture rather than metal bands.

An 11th-grader at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Kent said she has been hearing for months about how expensive it is to go to the prom. Some of her friends are saying they might not even go because they can’t afford dresses, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

“With the dress, shoes, accessories and dinner it can add up to nearly $1,000,” she said. “That’s just not possible for a lot of girls.”

So she launched Princess Treatment Dresses, a campaign to find gowns for girls who otherwise would not be able to afford them. She posted online through sites like Craigslist and put up fliers at stores and restaurants in the neighborhood of the school.

She asked people to think about donating gowns they have hanging in their closets and might not ever wear again.

She has had a generous response, she said – about 75 dresses in a wide range of styles and sizes – and she will be accepting donations through the beginning of April. Some people drop off dresses at the school, and sometimes Kent and her mother pick them up.

The original idea was to distribute the gowns among Martin Luther King High students, she said, but there have been inquiries from other schools and now Kent hopes to make prom dresses available regardless of school boundaries. She said she is looking for a place off campus where girls can try the dresses on.

“These are all pretty dresses, and a lot of them are new, with all their tags still on them,” she said.

Kent said she loves dresses with sparkles, and her favorite color is blue. Several in her collection fit that profile, but she won’t be wearing one. These dresses are for other girls. She feels lucky that her family has resources to send her to a prom.

Assistant Principal Gerard Reller said he admires the generous spirit that prompts many Martin Luth King High students to reach out to help others.

“This project is just like Caitlyn,” he said. “She takes care of people.”

When she isn’t adding to her gown collection, Kent enjoys her academic pursuits, especially in the sciences. She played volleyball last year but decided to concentrate on her studies this year.

“It really hit me that I needed to keep my academics up,” she said. “I’m going to be applying to colleges next year.”

She still plays club volleyball, she said.

Born and raised in Riverside, Kent is the daughter of Don and Lena Kent.

“I’m so grateful for all I have,” she said. “And everyone deserves a chance to feel like a princess.”

The generosity and kindness shown by the Kent is a great example of seizing our destiny’s unified city pillar. Makbul Kent demonstrates 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.

For the complete article, click here.

CBU Student Initiates Robotics Program

(This article contains excerpts from the article by Chanthou San and published in CBU Banner on March 6, 2015.)

Photo Credit: CBU Banner
Photo Credit: CBU Banner

After a car accident five years ago caused a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones, Rebecca Trupp, senior mechanical engineering major at California Baptist University, was forced to relearn basic life skills.

Trupp dreamed of designing and working for NASCAR and felt she had to re-evaluate her career when she was no longer able to process mathematical and engineering concepts.

In 2012, Trupp developed an outreach program using NAO robots with guidance from Dr. Anthony Donaldson, dean and professor of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Liya Grace Ni, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The NAO robots were first introduced when the College of Engineering received a W.M. Keck grant of $250,000. The money funds Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) hardware, as well as advanced computing and full-body robots and robotics equipment.

Trupp reached out to local schools to educate students on engineering along with other opportunities available with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree.

With a passion to serve her community, she accepted a challenge proposed by Donaldson to recruit K-12 students with programmed robots. It was then that the NAO Outreach program was implemented.

The NAO Outreach program serves as an example of the possibilities that come from engineering programs. Promoting engineering from CBU is only a portion of a nationwide campaign designed to educate and encourage more students to pursue an education in STEM. Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Encouraging students to pursue an education in STEM is no easy task, but for Rebecca Trupp robotics is her her vehicle to do so. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Couple Collaborates To Better The Lives Of Others

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Melanie C. Johnson and published in The Press Enterprise on March 13, 2015.)

Damien and Jenn O'Farrell with one-year-old daughter Marleigh. The couple, dedicated to community service, won a Riverside Heroes Award late last year. Photo Credit: Melanie Johnson, Contributing Photographer
Damien and Jenn O’Farrell with one-year-old daughter Marleigh. The couple, dedicated to community service, won a Riverside Heroes Award late last year. Photo Credit: Melanie Johnson, Contributing Photographer

Riverside residents Damien and Jennifer “Jenn” O’Farrell see their desire to serve their community as just a part of who they are.

For Damien, a former church youth pastor, it’s his calling. Jenn traces it back to her childhood, when she would go with her mom to visit her great grandfather at a senior-living facility. They would cap the day by going to the rooms of other residents to offer greetings.

Besides their jobs and their respective leadership roles for other nonprofits, such as Operation SafeHouse and Today’s Urban Renewal Network, the couple also volunteers for community organizations and initiatives. Jenn serves on the Riverside Community Health Foundation’s board and is a three-term past board president of the YWCA. While involved in Riverside’s leadership program, she and others in her class created an annual bike ride that benefits the Riverside and Alvord Unified school districts. The event, the Riverside Citrus City Classic, is in its fourth year.

Damien serves on the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership and both he and Jenn worked with others to co-found Pick Group, an organization that brings young professionals together to socialize and find ways to impact the community socially.

Damien has been at the helm of Path of Life Ministries in Riverside for seven years. His organization has three shelter programs for homeless individuals and families with children. Most of the 1,500 people the nonprofit serves in its shelters are children under the age of 10, he said.

Other nonprofits Path of Life has launched include Health to Hope Clinics, which offers medical services to people in need, and Path of Life Enterprises, a transitional employment program. The first business opened under that program is Angel Wings Bakery, which sells its goods online, he said.

Jenn has been with the newly formed Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire chapter for a year. The program serves at-risk children and youth ages 6 to 18, providing them with a one-on-one mentor. Before this post, she previously co-facilitated a task force on human trafficking.

In working with victims of human trafficking, she said she learned from the teen girls she served that if they had positive role models and mentors earlier in life, their lives might have taken a different path.

“Seventy-five percent of those we serve come from single-family homes and are at risk for homelessness or gang violence, so mentors are needed at the tipping point to point them in another direction,” she said. “All of us have had a mentor at some point. While our mentors happen naturally, it’s not happening for the children we serve.”

Damien said while some may see problems such as homelessness or human trafficking as impenetrable, he feels efforts to make the community better do have an impact.

“It’s important for all of us to do what we can to better the lives of other people,” he said. “There’s a tangible cost to homelessness, and there is also an opportunity cost. Bringing families stability is what opens them up to generations of opportunity and following dreams instead of generations of poverty.”

Damien and Jenn exemplify Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders such as Damien and Jenn are working together everyday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and the world.

To read the full article, click here.

Film Camp Offers Hope For Pediatric Cancer Patients

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Bettye Miller and published in UCR Today on March 12, 2015.)

Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Brain cancer. Not the diagnosis Cassie Nguyen was expecting as a sophomore at Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School. Neither was the debilitating surgery that saved her life.

Today, Nguyen is an honor student and School of Public Policy ambassador at the University of California, Riverside, where she will graduate in June. She is a 10-year cancer survivor, American Cancer Society advocate, and the creator of Spotlight On Hope Film Camp, a free film making program for pediatric cancer patients that until now has been held only in Los Angeles.

Nguyen hopes to bring the film camp to UC Riverside and the Inland Empire, and is screening short films written and produced by pediatric cancer patients in the program on Thursday, April 2, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Highlander Union Building 367. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free in Lot 1; pick up parking permits at the Kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus. Reservations are requested as seating is limited and may be made online. The screening is co-sponsored by University Honors and the Women’s Resource Center.

The Riverside resident said she hopes the screening will generate support to expand the program to the Inland Empire. She hopes eventually to establish a nonprofit foundation and offer film camps across the country.

Approximately 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S., and about 25 percent of them die, Nguyen said. Although Spotlight On Hope Film Camp does not reduce the death rate, it does provide a therapeutic outlet for pediatric cancer patients, she explained.

“I know how boring the hospital scene is,” Nguyen said, recalling the surgery to remove the tumor from her brain, a year of radiation and chemotherapy, and physical therapy to learn to write with her left hand and regain mobility to address on-going balance and difficult vision issues. “I wanted to do something to help kids take their minds off what was happening to them and give them something to look forward to.”

Nguyen suggested the film camp for young cancer patients while working as an intern for Think Ten Media Group, a production company based in Castaic that aims to use the power of media to create change and spread awareness of key issues.

She raised $700 to cover production costs of the first camp, held in September 2013, by selling plastic cancer bracelets to UCR faculty and students, family and friends in her junior year. She dedicated the first film camp to a younger cousin who died of sarcoma cancer at age 14.

Think Ten Media Group co-founders and filmmakers Ramon Hamilton and Jennifer Fischer helped Nguyen develop the Spotlight On Hope Film Camp for pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as part of their company’s arts education program. The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television hosts the camp in Los Angeles.

When the film camp proved to be successful, Nguyen applied for and won a $10,000 scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation in 2014, which funded 10 more film camps at UCLA. The foundation awards $10,000 scholarships to as many as 15 California college juniors annually to support public-service projects that the students carry out during their senior year.

Spotlight On Hope Film Camp allows patients to explore the art of green screen and special effects film-making while working in groups to create a short, green screen and special effects film. The participants, who range in age from 8 to 22, also learn about story/character development, camera technique, video and FX editing during three days of weekend classes.

“Being a pediatric patient myself, I understand how valuable a creative therapeutic outlet can be in the midst of your long, dreadful and difficult journey battling cancer,” Nguyen explained. “Spotlight On Hope Film Camp can help children live in a fantasy world that allows them to get away from all their troubles and create lasting memories.”

Nguyen efforts to put smiles on pediatric cancer patients faces is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, she demonstrates that we’re a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

For the full article, click here.

Homeless Families To Benefit From 3rd Annual Fundraiser

(This article contains excerpts from and retrieved on March 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Path of Life Ministries
Photo Credit: Path of Life Ministries

Sheltering Hearts benefiting Path of Life Ministries will be holding it’s 3rd annual fundraising event on March 21, 2015.

Path of Life Ministries is a dynamic group of community-minded individuals serving our city since 1998. They’ve become a premier non-profit service agency committed to serving the greater Riverside homeless, challenged youth and family population with the goal to rescue, restore and rebuild lives in our community. One of their core guiding principles is grounded in partnering with the community. They accomplish this by extending their services with their local collaborative partners, other providers and support agencies. This contributes to a holistic, community based solution that improves the social, economic and spiritual health and vitality of the poor, homeless, at risk youth and families.

Path of Life Ministries addresses significant barriers of dysfunction with people in crisis including children and families. Families are met first at their place of largest need with food, shelter and stabilization services; the rescue point. Next, the process of restoring and rebuilding begins through compassionate case management, housing, health care services, community resources and wrap around services that are provided to promote self-sufficiency and family restoration.

Path of Life Ministries’ current capacity is 373 beds per night and serves the community in the areas of:

  • Homelessness – two Emergency Shelters and one Transitional Housing Program with supportive services through a comprehensive case management plan that sets goals to attain an independent life and prevent the cycle of homelessness
  • Recovery Services –  of people with alcohol/substance abuse or other dysfunctional behaviors that prevent self sufficiency in three Christian-based congregate living homes
  • Youth Services  – for challenged,  at-risk children and youth population
  • Health Care Services – ‘Health in Motion’, offered through our partner organization Health to Hope, provides mobile medical vehicle and two fixed sites that deliver primary care healthcare services to the homeless.

Path of Life Ministries is an outstanding example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar- people coming together for common goals and interests for the betterment of all.

To purchase your tickets or find out more information about the Sheltering Hearts event, click here.

For more information on Path of Life Ministries, contact their main office at (951) 275-8755 or visit their website.

Rivera Conference To Look At Health Issues

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Suzanne Hurt and published in The Press Enterprise on Feb 16, 2015.)

The 27th annual Tomás Rivera Conference at UC Riverside will explore healthcare for some of society’s most vexing concerns – mental health, addiction and aging – and Latino medical workers and artists who use film, theater, music and comedy to spotlight health challenges and promote healing.

The conference, whose theme is “Community and Wellness: Latinas/os, Medicine and the New Health Humanities,” will be on Friday, Feb. 20, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in UC Riverside’s Highlander Union Building 302, according to a UCR news release.

The 27th annual Tomás Rivera Conference is set for Friday, Feb. 20, in honor of Rivera, who died in 1984, five years after becoming UC Riverside's chancellor. Photo Credit: UC Riverside
The 27th annual Tomás Rivera Conference is set for Friday, Feb. 20, in honor of Rivera, who died in 1984, five years after becoming UC Riverside’s chancellor. Photo Credit: UC Riverside

Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside; and conference Director Tiffany Ana López, a UCR theatre professor and the university’s Tomás Rivera endowed chair, will make opening remarks.

Playwright/actor Luis Alfaro will perform his solo play “St. Jude,” about his experience taking care of his father at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main St. in Riverside.

The conference will include theater and music performances, a screening of the documentary “Code Black,” workshops, discussions and a roundtable. The workshops will be led by health professionals, artists, activists and scholars.

The conference is free, but reservations are required by the morning of the conference to reserve lunch and a place in an afternoon workshop, where space is limited. Parking costs $6 to $8.

As a community, we promote health and wellness in all forms. This attention to health and wellness makes Riverside a Location of Choice for people seeking a healthy lifestyle.

For the complete article, click here.

Health Foundation Announces Clinic Expansion

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in The Press Enterprise on February 11, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Riverside Community Health Foundation

The Riverside Community Health Foundation announced this week that it is planning a $3.5 million expansion of its Eastside Health Center that will nearly double the number of patients that can be seen, a news release said.

The clinic on University Avenue in Riverside sees about 6,500 patients per year and is at maximum capacity. The expansion will increase annual patient visits to over 12,000.

With a convenient location, dedicated medical and dental staff, and partnership with the community, Eastside Health Center has and continues to have a huge impact on the City of Riverside residents.

The Eastside Health Center  stands as a core anchor of quality and low cost medical and dental care for the underserved and uninsured throughout Riverside’s eastside neighborhoods. These eastside neighborhoods have in the past been plagued by high crime and poverty rates; however, they have been the focal point of the city’s recent efforts of improvement and renovation. The renovation is an example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.

The nonprofit foundation has purchased land directly across from the health clinic and plans to break ground on an expansion in late 2015, the news release said.

The foundation also provided more than $3 million in programs and grants in 2014 to organizations providing services to residents living in Riverside and Jurupa Valley.

Organizations that received funding included Loma Linda Children’s Hospital Foundation, Parkview Community Hospital, Riverside Community College District and the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District.

The $3.5 million expansion of the Eastside Health Center is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s intelligent growth pillar. Riverside embraces economic growth and directs it so it maintains and improves our already outstanding quality of life. This includes growing the economy, raising the standard of living and managing a growing population.

For the complete article, click here.

UCR Launches Initiative To Deal With Inland Poverty

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Fielding Buck and published in The Press Enterprise on February 10, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema
Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema

A strategy to study, teach about and deal with Inland poverty was announced Tuesday at UC Riverside.

The UCR School of Public Policy will launch the Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty this fall.

The announcement was made during an appearance by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who was on campus to talk to public policy students and attend the screening of a documentary about him.

Reich praised Riverside as a “roll-up-your-sleeves” kind of community and UCR as a school that provides opportunities for students with financial needs. Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, Riverside and UCR both demonstrate that we’re a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

“There’s probably no place that I know of that better exemplifies what higher education ought to be doing,” Reich said.

Reich is a senior fellow of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, which is working with UCR on the intiative.

Richard Blum, Photo Credit: UCR Today
Richard Blum, Photo Credit: UCR Today

It was launched by a gift of $250,000 from the center’s founder, UC regent Richard C. Blum, who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

UCR chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and UC President Janet Napolitano both matched the gift out of their budgets, according to a UCR press release.

The initiative will be interdisciplinary and results oriented, according to Anil Deolalikar, founding dean of the school. It will include partnerships with local non-governmental organizations.

“Poverty is not unique, right?” he said in an interview before the announcement. “Every place in the work has poverty and there are many places in the world that have tackled the problem of poverty with good results. We will be trying to glean lessons from around the world so that we can use some of those lessons to solve poverty problems here in the Inland Empire.”

Plans include to establish an undergraduate minor in poverty and a focus area in public policy master degree program.

For the complete article, click here.