Operation Safe House Director Receives Award

(This article contains excerpts from operationsafehouse.org.)

NAACP of Riverside County and the Golden West Region Soroptimist Club has awarded SafeHouse Anti-Human Trafficking Director Jennifer O’Farrell with the NAACP Community Service Freedom Award.  Soroptimist is a global women’s organization whose members volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

Jennifer O'Farrell

Jennifer O’Farrell

O’Farrell spends her time providing intensive case management to victims, and educating, collaborating and creating programs within Operation SafeHouse and the county to treat, prevent, and intervene for victims of labor and sex trafficking.  This award is granted to individuals who have dedicated their lives and legacies to the cause of civil and human rights. The award will be presented Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 5:00pm -9:30pm at the Riverside Convention Center 3637 Fifth Street Riverside, CA 92501. For more information go to the website Freedom Fund Celebration.

Operation SafeHouse, with Community Support, provides Emergency Shelter, Intervention and Outreach Services to Youth in Crisis.

Operation Safe House is an organization that demonstrates Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.   People are brought together around common interests and concerns, while the unique character of Riverside’s neighborhoods and diverse communities are celebrated and valued. 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 learn more about Operation Safe House, click here.

 

Eastside Apartments Set For Long-Awaited Overhaul

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Alicia Robinson, published in the Press-Enterprise on March 27, 2014.)

Built in the mid-1960s, the Grand Prix apartments on Seventh Street in Riverside’s Eastside neighborhood have clearly seen better days.

Shonda Herold, housing project coordinator with the city of Riverside, inspects a hole in the ceiling of one of three city-owned apartment buildings on Seventh Street on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. The city plans to replace the old buildings with new affordable housing units. Photo Credit: David Bauman

Shonda Herold, housing project coordinator with the city of Riverside, inspects a hole in the ceiling of one of three city-owned apartment buildings on Seventh Street on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. The city plans to replace the old buildings with new affordable housing units. Photo Credit: David Bauman

The seafoam-green paint is peeling from the wood trim on the boxy, flat-roofed building, and the kidney-shaped pool was long ago filled with dirt that has sprouted weeds. Now vacant and boarded up, the complex is weeks from being demolished, the first big step in a city plan to improve the neighborhood officials call Chicago/Linden because it’s near that intersection.

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Photo Credit: David Bauman

Within two years, the Grand Prix and two other apartment buildings on the block will be replaced by an affordable housing complex that will have something for the community – a public garden, children’s play area or a child care facility. It’s part of an estimated $16.8 million strategy to make the area safer and more attractive for those who live there.

Fixing up the area, which lies between Chicago and Dwight avenues and West Linden and Seventh streets, has been a priority for city officials since 2006, housing project coordinator Shonda Herold said.

The overall strategy, created by a consultant with community input, includes installing new landscaping and more streetlights, improving driveways and alleys, reopening two cul-de-sacs that have become places for loitering, and building a community center at Patterson Park that could offer library programs, a commercial kitchen for public use, and activities for youths and seniors.

Photo Credit: David Bauman

Photo Credit: David Bauman

Officials expect the process of building community support and involvement to take time, just as finding money and fixing buildings will. Councilman Andy Melendrez, who represents the area, said he’s heard mostly positive feedback and excitement about plans for the neighborhood. He said he knows making the plans a reality is “not anything that’s going to happen from one year to the next.”

Transforming old spaces into new places throughout the city is what makes Riverside a location of choice.  With the mission to improve quality of life in Riverside, our community takes pride on maintaining it’s well defined, welcoming neighborhoods.

To read the full article, click here.

 

Council Votes To Add Sister City In Vietnam

(This article contains excerpts from article by Alicia Robinson, published in the Press-Enterprise on March 18, 2014.)

INTERNATIONAL SISTERS

Riverside will add Can Tho, Vietnam, to its already large collection of sister cities.  Riverside has sister city relationships with Sendai, Japan; Ensenada and Cuautla, Mexico; Obuasi, Ghana; Hyderabad, India; Gangnam, South Korea; Jiangmen, China; and Erlangen, Germany.

The ideas of “people to people” relationships and healing after war won out Tuesday, March 18, when the Riverside City Council narrowly voted to add Can Tho, Vietnam, as its ninth sister city.  The decision came after lengthy and impassioned public comments on the goals of the sister city program and whether having such a relationship in Vietnam would disrespect American veterans.

“The purpose is to promote peace and common understanding,” said Bill Gavitt, a Vietnam veteran. “It’s time to start helping others if we want to change their behavior.”

Vien Doan, a Vietnamese American physician who lives in Riverside, has spearheaded efforts to add Can Tho, Vietnam, to Riverside's sister city program.  Photo Credit:  Alicia Robinson

Vien Doan, a Vietnamese American physician who lives in Riverside, has spearheaded efforts to add Can Tho, Vietnam, to Riverside’s sister city program. Photo Credit: Alicia Robinson

The vote was 4-3. Councilmen Chris Mac Arthur, Steve Adams and Mike Soubirous dissented.

Riverside was among the earliest participants in the sister city program, which was created in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to foster cultural, educational and economic exchange between countries. Riverside formed ties with Sendai, Japan, in 1957 and has since added sister cities in South Korea, China, India, Ghana and Germany, and two in Mexico.

Vien Doan, a Vietnamese American physician who lives in Riverside, helped revive the idea of a sister city in his native country in 2012. He personally met with veterans’ groups in the past year and a half to build support for the plan.  “We have every reason to hate communism,” he said, describing how his family was rescued by American soldiers during the war. “I will never forget the past, but the past will not determine my future.”

Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey has said his office spends about $10,000 on the sister city program annually, but most other costs are borne by the International Relations Council, a private nonprofit group that oversees the friendships and raises money for related events and travel.

Like Riverside, Can Tho is home to a university and a medical college, and it’s an agricultural center producing fruit and rice.

Adding Can Tho to Riverside’s collection of international sister cities is a model of the seizing our destiny pillar, 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.

Riversiders respect and value the cultural heritage, distinct needs and varied input of each of our neighbors, while proactively engaging them across historical dividing lines.  Riversiders are working together everyday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation and world…

To read the full article, click here.

Wells Fargo UrbanLIFT Community Grant Program Awards $486,000 to Strengthen Neighborhoods

(This article contains excerpts from a Wells Fargo News Release dated March 7, 2014)

On March 7, 2014 Wells Fargo, announced its award for $458,600 to Habitat for Humanity Riverside (HFHR) and the Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services (NPHS) as part of the UrbanLIFT Community Grant Program with each organization receiving $229,300. Wells Fargo Grant

With the grant funds received, HFHR and NPHS will support neighborhood revitalization efforts that will include: NHFR’s Neighborhood Revitalizations Initiative helping to engage the community, creating holistic improvements and neighborhood cohesiveness, and further filling its mutual goal of creating safe, decent affordable housing.

NPHS will use grant dollars awarded to install solar panels on homes in Riverside County and to remove several dilapidated properties paving way for the construction of seven new affordable homes. These revitalization efforts fall under NPHS’ Sustainable Communities Catalyst Project, a multi-pronged redevelopment strategy which guides and prioritizes resources to targeted neighborhood clusters throughout the Inland Valley.

The UrbanLIFT community grant program is funded by Wells Fargo and operated by NeighborWorks America. The program is designed to provide support to local nonprofits for neighborhood revitalization projects in 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with diverse populations that are impacted by foreclosures. Since its launch in February 2012, LIFT initiatives which is the parent for programs such as UrbanLIFT including the NeighborhoodLIFT and CityLIFT have helped create more than 5,000 homeowners with the support of down payment assistance and homebuyer education in collaboration with NeighborWorks America, members of the national nonprofit’s network and local city officials.

This is an example of a unified city and of people being brought together around common interests and concerns. Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all. To read the full news release by Wells Fargo click here, or visit their blog at blog.wellsfargo.com for more information.

Mission Inn Ranked In Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

(This article contains excerpts from from an article by Richard K. De Atley, published in the Press-Enterprise on February 28th, 2014.)

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside has scored three times recently with Conde Nast Traveler magazine.  In the publication’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards, with nearly 80,000 taking part in the survey, the historic inn made the Top 25 list in the highly competitive best hotel list for Southern California.

Kimber Licitra, a receptionist, stands in Kelly's Spa at the Mission Inn on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa scores with Conde Nast Traveler magazine's reader poll: No. 25 in the Top 25 list of best hotels in Southern California; No. 10 in the top 50 best spas in the world, according to the November 2013 issue.  Photo Credit: Kurt Miller

Kimber Licitra, a receptionist, stands in Kelly’s Spa at the Mission Inn on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa scores with Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s reader poll: No. 25 in the Top 25 list of best hotels in Southern California; No. 10 in the top 50 best spas in the world, according to the November 2013 issue. Photo Credit: Kurt Miller

 

It’s in the company of Beverly Hills’ The Peninsula (No. 1) and L’Ermitage (No. 7) ; Los Angeles’ Hotel Bel-Air (No. 3); Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas (No. 22) ; and San Diego’s Tower 23 Hotel, which missed matching its name by coming in at No. 24 . The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa was No. 25.  A separate survey for Top 50 Hotel Spas in the United States has Kelly’s Spa at the Mission Inn rated No. 10. The Readers’ Choice Awards were announced in November.

The magazine more recently recommended The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa as a romantic vacation proposal destination, where suitors can arrange for a walk along the inn’s rotunda staircase that winds up at a small table with candles, champagne and roses for popping the question as flowers rain down.  All of the outstanding rankings, and vast selection of sites and activities at the historic Mission Inn, make this destination a true location of choice.  In the heart of Riverside, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is an elegant place where anyone can go relax and have a good time.

The inn’s largest draw has been the annual Festival of Lights, a Thanksgiving week-through-New Year’s celebration. The 21st edition featured 4 million lights decorating the inn along with holiday-motif characters on its balconies. An estimated 50,000 people attended the fireworks opening, and the festival attracted shoulder-to-shoulder crowds during its run.

Duane Roberts, co-owner and CEO, also moved to add restaurants to the inn’s standing lineup of the Mission Inn Restaurant and the Presidential Lounge. Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood just earned its 18th consecutive AAA four-diamond rating, which Roberts believes is unmatched.

The inn “is not a chain operation, so we are able to do special things, and we are able to do things the way we want to,” Duane Roberts said.

To read the full article, click here.

Remodeled Convention Center Brings High Hopes

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Alicia Robinson, published in The Press-Enterprise on February 14th, 2014)

Riverside’s renovated convention center hasn’t yet opened but is already eliciting the “wows” city leaders hoped for in 2012 when they ponied up an extra $4.6 million dollars for a more attractive design.  A large scale renovation of the Riverside convention center has been long overdue, and on March 1st, 2014 the new convention center is scheduled to open it’s doors.  Loaded with state of the art technology and high end capabilities, the convention center will become a choice for new markets such as biomedical and pharmaceutical conventions, financial services events and corporate meetings. We will have the opportunity to showcase the City as a location of choice to many new visitors.

Now it sports a custom chandelier hanging in the 66-foot-high glass entry tower, a 40 percent larger exhibit hall, building-wide Wi-Fi and hundreds of smart phone charging stations, giving city and tourism officials hope that the center has everything a 21st century convention needs.

Photo credit: Kurt Miller/ staff photographer

Photo credit: Kurt Miller/ Staff Photographer

Riverside officials had been planning for nearly a decade to update the convention center, which opened in 1976 and had its last major touch-up in the late 1990s.  “It was a little worn before,” said Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown.

Officials have said they got complaints about inadequate restrooms and a lack of “breakout rooms” for smaller sessions, and the center didn’t meet current earthquake standards. It also had a boxy, nearly windowless, dated design that didn’t command attention.

The redesigned center has a larger exhibit hall, two ballrooms, more small meeting rooms, a modern kitchen, a glass-walled entry tower, and the first escalator in a Riverside city building. Officials with the city and Raincross Hospitality Corp. said the furnishings – cherry wood paneling and a variety of carpet patterns in brown, beige and colonial blue – are meant to evoke a boutique hotel.

Photo Credit: Kurt Miller/ Staff Photograpgher

Photo Credit: Kurt Miller/ Staff Photographer

Riverside officials are banking on the kind of results Palm Springs has seen, after a $34 million upgrade completed in 2005.  Business has come back stronger than ever after dipping in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession, said James Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Convention Center and the city’s bureau of tourism.

Riverside Convention Center officials expect the upgrade puts them in a better position to compete with convention centers in Ontario and Pasadena and the Pechanga Resort & Casino near Temecula. They also say it enables them to go after a higher caliber of events.

To read the full article, click here.

Volunteers Place Nearly 200,000 Flags on Graves in Honor of Veterans Day

(This article contains excerpts from an article written by Stephen Wall, Correspondent, and published in The Press Enterprise on November 9, 2013.)

They still hope to make history.  An army of about 1,000 volunteers on Saturday, Nov. 9, embarked on a mission to place American flags for every one of Riverside National Cemetery’s 200,000 graves in time for Veterans Day. Riverside is truly a unified city as demonstrated by these volunteers.

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About two hours after they started, organizers determined they had fallen 300 to 400 flags short. However, a short time later, they found additional flags and plan to cover the remaining graves on Sunday, Nov. 10.

“Honoring every single one of our veterans is what’s important to us,” said Mary Ellen Gruendyke, 75, of Riverside, one of the organizers. “We don’t want to leave any grave uncovered if at all possible.”

The effort far surpasses any previous year’s number, she said. In 2007, her first year, she and a handful of volunteers placed 1,000 flags in the ground at Memorial Day.

Gruendyke said she had 105,000 flags and another group brought 110,000.

Click here for the full article.

Creative Video Gives New View of UC Riverside

University of California, Riverside released a new YouTube video on July 15, 2013 that provides a rarely seen tour of the campus.

The article posted on UCR Today by Kris Lovekin introducing the video states:

“See UC Riverside from a little higher up — the bird’s eye view of the campus. This video of the campus and its surroundings will be used in efforts to recruit students, staff and faculty. Filmed by Birds Eye Productions on a Canon 5D Mark II, using a custom built Octocopter. The song is “Freedom Journey” by Tom Rice and available from OmniMusic.”

Click to watch the video.

The combination of artistry and technology that went into the production of this video truly captures the heart of UC Riverside and showcases why Riverside is a ‘Location of Choice‘.

(If your browser is having difficulty playing the video above; click on the image to the right to watch on YouTube.)