Category Archives: Unified City

Program Steers Teen Away From Gang Life

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in the Press Enterprise on March 24, 2016.)

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

As a freshman at John W. North High School in Riverside, Diego Cabrera was looking to be accepted, validated and forge friendships that would last forever.

But Cabrera’s friends that year were leading him down the wrong path.

“Smoking marijuana, skipping class, not doing my schoolwork – it was not a good crowd,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera, now 16, and his father, Andres Cabrera Garcia, eventually turned to the Opportunity With Education program, which includes 14 weeks of classes, community service and character building to help straighten out wayward youth. It is sponsored by the Riverside Police Foundation.

“It was like he lost interest and he was lost,” said Cabrera Garcia, who discovered that some of his son’s new friends were facing expulsion and that others were gang members.

He worried that Cabrera soon might join a gang.

One incident, in particular, prompted action.

During a football game one Friday night when Cabrera was a sophomore, campus security found drugs on some of the boys in the teen’s group.

North High Principal Lynne Sheffield called the family that night and said he would be expelled if he didn’t stay out of trouble.

“We immediately started searching for programs that would help Diego,” Cabrera Garcia said.

The family turned to Riverside police Detective Brian Money, who runs the Riverside Police Foundation’s judo club. Cabrera had been a member of the club in his youth. Money referred the family to Officer Ryan Railsback, coordinator of the Opportunity With Youth program.

The program runs twice a year, February to May and then September to December. The free program is open to ages 12-17.

Participants and their parents spend 14 weeks taking classes, including juvenile law, drugs, alcohol, gangs and social media, and touring hospitals, juvenile detention facilities and coroner’s facilities. Sessions also include community service, physical fitness, character building and counseling.

Each Saturday, parents or legal guardians and their children meet with Railsback and his team at Riverside City College.

“I really appreciated all the experts,” Cabrera Garcia said. “The counseling really helped us to talk to Diego. Now we’re much better.”

Railsback said parental participation is key to participants’ success.

“What that means is they have to be there,” Railsback said.

For adolescents to be accepted into the program, parents or guardians have to commit and participate every Saturday with their children. Parents receive counseling and parenting classes and attend the topic lecture for that class along with their children.

“If the parents aren’t going to commit, then the kids aren’t going to commit,” Railsback said.

The program, which started in 2011, enrolls youth who have never been arrested, who have pending criminal cases or who are on probation.

Started as part of Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz’s initiative to keep youth from becoming negatively impacted by the criminal justice system, the program has helped hundreds of at-risk youth like Cabrera get back on track.

“We started to notice the change little by little,” Cabrera Garcia said. “It’s like he’s the old Diego again. It’s a good program.”

He said his son is doing better in school, his grades are up, he helps more around the house, he helps with his nephews, is back at judo club guiding younger children and challenged athletes and has joined the Riverside Police Explorers since graduating from the Opportunity With Youth program in December.

“His dedication is remarkable,” said Railsback, who remembers the teenager who first showed up to the class in September and has seen the change in Cabrera since. “He wants to make a better life for himself. We just needed to help him make better choices.”

Diaz invited Cabrera on March 17 to speak at the fifth annual Riverside Police Foundation Chiefs breakfast. In front of a crowd of elected officials, the 16-year-old shared his story of overcoming gangs and drugs and choosing the right path.

Diego said that after the speech, members of the audience came up to tell him they were proud of him.

“It feels good,” Cabrera said. “I know I’m on the right track.”

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 and people 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 article, click here.

Riverside Expands Efforts To Tackle Obesity By Helping Residents Eat Healthier And Move More

(This article contains information from a press release distributed by Kaiser Permanente)

IMG_2932Eastside HEAL Zone Collaborative announced plans to expand and strengthen its existing HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) interventions to promote healthier communities and healthier people in the Eastside of Riverside.

The Riverside Community Health Foundation, who serves as the lead agency for the Eastside HEAL Zone Collaborative, is a recipient of a $1 million grant as part of a larger Kaiser Permanente HEAL Zone investment to promote healthy communities across Southern California, in collaboration with community partners. This marks the second phase of the HEAL Zone initiative.

HEAL Zones are designed to help make healthy choices accessible to more people in underserved communities — and in turn to prevent diseases such as diabetes and hypertension that often result from obesity. For more than four years, HEAL Zone sites in Southern California have implemented community-based strategies in neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to improve healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices.

“We are excited to receive this funding from Kaiser Permanente and the opportunity to build upon the tremendous work of the Eastside HEAL Zone Collaborative. This grant will help us to continue transforming the Eastside neighborhood into an environment where healthy eating and active living is not only possible but also collectively internalized,” said Ninfa Delgado, Vice President/COO, Riverside Community Health Foundation.

IMG_2935In addition to focusing on healthy eating and active living strategies, the new HEAL Zone grant will empower the collaborative to improve prevention, treatment, and management of obesity and its related conditions by facilitating referrals between clinics and community resources.

“I appreciate all the work that the HEAL Zone Collaborative has done to improve my community,” said Griselda Martinez, Eastside resident. “Now the people are more active and eat better, but we need to continue working together, so more people in our community can live a healthier life.”

Eastside HEAL Zone will also focus on three specific goals over the next three years:
·        Increase consumption of healthy food and beverages, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water, and decrease calorie consumption, especially sugar-sweetened beverages
·        Increase physical activity
·        Improve prevention, treatment, and management of obesity and its related conditions

The vision of the HEAL Zones is that at the end of the three-year initiative, communities will be measurably transformed, so that opportunities for engaging in healthy behaviors – walking and biking on safe routes, buying affordable fresh fruits and vegetables close to home, exercising in parks and participating in active after-school programs — are part of daily life.

“Obesity is one of the most pressing health concerns in our community today,” said Dr. Frank Flowers, Jr., Area Medical Director at Kaiser Permanente Riverside. “Poor diet, inactivity, and obesity contribute to the risk of many health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. We’re especially concerned about the high rate of childhood obesity in Riverside, 25.80%, which is above the state average of 22.32%. That’s why it’s important that we all work together to make it easier to eat healthy and move more in Riverside.”

Interested community residents and leaders are welcome to join the Eastside HEAL Zone Collaborative. The Collaborative invites residents to become a part of the HEAL Zone Collaborative celebration on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Riverside City Hall  in the  Mayor’s Ceremonial Room/Grier Pavilion (7th Floor), 3900 Main Street in Riverside from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. or in the city Council Chambers at 6:15 p.m.

To learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s HEAL Zones and HEAL Zone Initiative, visit and

Kaiser’s effort to improve the health of the communities they serve, is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.

Volunteers Beautify Camp Anza Army Base-Turned-Veterans-Housing

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Laurie Williams and published in the Press Enterprise on April 2, 2016.)

Photo Credit: Laurie Williams, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Laurie Williams, The Press Enterprise

A squad of volunteers reported for duty Wednesday at the site of a former Army training camp in Riverside.

The mission: Help beautify the property that recently had been turned into an apartment community for disabled veterans and their families.

Two years ago, Wakeland Housing and Development Corp. in San Diego was chosen to install affordable housing for disabled veterans at the former Camp Anza in Riverside’s Arlanza area, Wakeland spokeswoman Elaine Camuso said. “The camp was closed at the end of World War II,” Camuso said.

The property was sold, and the former Officers Club was used by a local service club lodge. Later vacant, it got run down.

“Kids used it as a hangout, and it was damaged and vandalized,” Camuso said.

The 30-unit apartment community – Home Front at Camp Anza – was built around the refurbished Officers Club, which now serves as a gathering place and offers services to residents.

Construction is almost finished, Camuso said, and most residents have moved in. Rents range from $381 to $896 per month, she said, depending on income level.

On Wednesday, volunteers from Home Depot in Temecula focused on creating a garden near the Officers Club for kitchen herbs, tomatoes and jalapeños.

Volunteer Thomas Sanders, a Home Depot employee, said it means a lot to him to reach out to veterans, because many of his friends and relatives have served in the military.

“We’re all neighbors,” he said. “All of us work and face challenges. The people here served their country, and I’m glad to serve them.”

Photo Credit: Laurie Williams, The Press Enterprise

Helping veterans is also a priority for Home Depot: 35,000 of its employees have served in the military, and the company added $500,000 to the $14 million in federal low-income housing tax credits that paid for construction.

Builders uncovered a wealth of history as they refurbished the Officers Club, which will be used as a community building, said 6th Ward City Councilman Jim Perry, who was among the volunteers Wednesday.

“You should have seen it before,” he said, gesturing toward the edifice. “It was all stuccoed over, the windows were boarded up and it had been painted white. Now it looks like it did in World War II.”

Builders found that they could repair and reuse most of the building’s wood siding and paneling, Perry said, and the wood floors inside, now shining, are all original. The interior features a kitchen and a computer lab for residents’ use.

“One of my favorite things about this development is how it’s been embraced by the neighbors,” Perry said. “A lot have offered help. There was no water to the site at first, and a family north of here let the contractor use their water. The contractor offered to pay their water bills, but they turned it down.”

Air Force veteran Benny de la Rosa, 59, said he lived on the street for years before his application to move into Home Front at Camp Anza was accepted.

“Those were hard times,” he said. “I was using a lot of drugs and got addicted.”

Clean and sober now after rehab though the Veterans Administration, he lives with his girlfriend, Ronnie Trevino, 68, in a two-bedroom apartment filled with art and plants.

“It’s a lot different for me now,” de la Rosa said. “I actually have money in the bank.”

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 article, click here.

Farmer Boys Donates Over $100,000 To Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in PR Newswire on February 16, 2016.)

Farmer Boys President/COO Karen Eadon and CEO Demetris Havadjias. Photo Credit: PR Newswire
Farmer Boys President/COO Karen Eadon and CEO Demetris Havadjias. Photo Credit: PR Newswire

Farmer Boys® Restaurants, the brand known for cooked-to-order breakfasts, burgers and more, today announced it presented a check to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital in the amount of $100,001.  (Yes – that’s correct – $100,001!!)Funds were collected during the 15th Annual Farmer Boys Fundraiser,Oct. 12Nov. 8, 2015.

For a donation of $1 or more, guests were recognized as Champions for Childrenwith a Heart of Champion donation slip displayed at Farmer Boys restaurants during the fundraiser. Farmer Boys recognized the generosity of its guests with a variety of special fundraiser vouchers.

“Farmer Boys is committed to helping Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital,” said Karen Eadon, Farmer Boys president and COO. “For 15 years we’ve been privileged to contribute to this amazing medical facility. With the help of our generous patrons, franchisees and employees, we are able to make a huge impact on the lives of children and their families in this region.”

Since 2000, Farmer Boys has donated $540,657 to Loma Linda UniversityChildren’s Hospital. Donations collected over the past 15 years have been used to purchase heart monitors for the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, vein viewers for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and fund the hospital’s annual Children’s Day celebration.

Companies such as Farmer Boys are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders are working together everyday to not only to address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and world.

About Farmer Boys
Headquartered in Riverside, California, Farmer Boys is a fast casual restaurant chain founded in 1981 serving award-winning burgers, specialty sandwiches, crisp salads, signature sides, and all-day breakfast. Farmer Boys currently operates 86 restaurants in California and Nevada. For more information, visit

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Firefighter Gives His Shoes To Barefoot Homeless Man

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Katie Kindelan and published in Yahoo/ABC News on January 19, 2016.)

Photo Credit: ABC News
Photo Credit: City of Riverside Fire Department/Facebook

A California firefighter and his captain are being praised for pulling their fire truck over to give a pair of shoes to a homeless man walking barefoot on a highway.

The firefighters, from Riverside, California, were driving back to the fire station last week from a physical fitness test when they saw an elderly homeless man walking on the side of the freeway, Bruce Vanderhorst, the battalion’s Chief Public Information Officer, told ABC News.

The firefighters turned their fire truck around to help the man and then noticed he was barefoot.

One of the firefighters aboard the engine, David Gilstrap, donated his own pair of sneakers to the homeless man, while the engine’s captain, Rob Gabler, walked over and helped the homeless man put on his shoes.

The moment was captured on camera and shared on the fire department’s Facebook page last Thursday.

Vanderhorst told ABC News the firefighters also offered the homeless man water and access to the city’s homeless services.

“Services are always offered and we tell them, ‘We can get help to you,’” he said. “We’re very proud of the work we do building our community relations and we’re here to help in any way we can whenever those opportunities present themselves.”

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 this Riverside firefighter 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 article, click here.

EXCEED: Creating Choices And Opportunities For Adults With Disabilities

(This blogs contains information pulled from on December 28, 2015.)

Photo Credit: EXCEED
Photo Credit: EXCEED


On May 4, 1981, Valley Resource Center opened in Hemet, California with 17 clients and by year end was serving 29 persons. In 1983, Valley Resource Center received a grant that helped to establish a facility in San Jacinto. In 1985, a second facility in Perris was opened. At present, EXCEED is serving over 480 clients in its Perris, Hemet, Riverside and La Quinta locations; and over 150 others in individual or enclave community placements throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

What  they do:

Life Skills Training- EXCEED’s Adult Developmental Centers (ADC) provide basic living skills training, which assists clients in reaching their maximum level of independence and access into the community. Their curriculum includes self-advocacy, mobility training, money management, functional reading and writing, pre-vocational and daily living skills training.

Senior Component- Their Senior Program is designed for clients who are older and wish to focus on retirement and leisure skills. The program includes hobbies, recreational activities, and other appropriate activities and living skills geared to older adults.

Healthy Living- Their Casa del Valle Residential Program provides long-term housing, care and training to 14 adults with developmental disabilities in a 4,400 square foot, 8-bedroom facility on approximately 0.9 acres.

Vocational Training and Job Placement- EXCEED’s Supported Employment program offers job matching and individual placements within the community. When an individual enters the program, a match of the client’s skills to the appropriate work environment is made. Initially, a Job Coach is assigned to the individual to provide training. Clients receive on-going support as needed in order to maintain or enhance employment. Clients usually work 20 or more hours per week and earn competitive wages.

Supervised Work Teams (enclaves) are an extension of the Supported Employment program. Clients are placed in industry, in small groups with an on-site supervisor. These clients learn and perform various jobs within Industry in a competitive employment environment. Clients enhance work and social skills to go on to Individual Placement or competitive employment. Clients are referred to enclaves from other EXCEED programs, or from outside referral sources.

Teaching Marketable Work Skills- EXCEED’s Work Activity Centers (WAC) provide vocational training for persons that wish to acquire marketable work skills. Clients have the opportunity to work on a variety of contracts including packaging, assembly, labeling, light manufacturing, and mailers. A Maintenance Training Program provides instruction in janitorial and lawn maintenance.

Our crews work at various residences and businesses in the community, and State Highway Rest Areas. In addition to specific work skills, the Work Activity Center program stresses the development of appropriate work habits and attitudes. Some of our contract companies include: Cal Trans, California Highway Patrol, Riverside County municipalities, nationwide and worldwide retailers and distributors. Clients in this program spend their time in paid work and vocational skills training. Over the past year, more than 25 clients have transitioned from WAC to community placement.

EXCEED can also provide a well-trained crew to perform janitorial and grounds keeping work. A contract agreement is made and services are billed monthly.

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

To find out more about EXCEED, click here.

RPD Is Giving Back This Holiday Season

(This article contains excerpts from the Riverside Police Department’s Facebook page posted on December 22, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Riverside Police Department
Photo Credit: Riverside Police Department

About a week ago the Riverside Police Department was contacted by a family on Facebook looking for information on car seats for their two daughters. The mother explained that her daughters had outgrown her old car seats but she did not have the money for new ones. After contacting the family and discussing their needs the Riverside Police Department decided to pay a visit to the family on Tuesday, December 22nd. In addition to installing two brand new car seats, officers presented Christmas gifts for the family.

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 the Riverside Police Department 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 follow RPD, click here.

School Raises $3,000 In A Week For Foster Children

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Anne Marie Walker and published in The Press Enterprise on December 14, 2015.)

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

On Dec. 4, Terrace Elementary School presented a check for $3,000 to Together We Rise, a charity dedicated to aiding foster children. The elementary school students raised the money by bringing in coins to class and met their goal within a week.

The elementary school is part of No Excuses University, a national network of schools that prepares students for college. During its annual No Excuses National Convention they announce the Charity of the Year. At this year’s convention, Together We Rise was chosen as the charity.

Together We Rise, which is based in Brea, is a nationwide charity that promotes welfare of foster children – even after they have aged out of the adoption system. Children who move to a new home are typically given trash bags to put their belongings in, but this charity provides what are called Sweet Cases, which are bags with a blanket, a book, and a teddy bear. Together We Rise also provides clothing for back-to-school season, bicycles and care packages for college students.

Last year, the students of Terrace Elementary raised $2,500 for the Friends of Jacqueline Foundation, a charity that supports children with brain tumors. This year, Principal Emily M. Devor wanted to meet the goal of $3,000. They met that goal within a week.

The school began a Coin Drive to raise the funds. On Monday, the students brought in pennies, Tuesdays they brought in nickels, Wednesday were dimes, Thursday for quarters, and finally on Friday they brought in dollar bills.

Although donations had been made before and after the Coin Drive, the students raised the majority of the funds.

“We try to teach them that we all have challenges, we all have variables, but there’s always someone who has it worse than we do,” Devor said. “We need to help others even when it seems like we’re struggling ourselves.”

According to Devor, the students were excited to be able to contribute and gleefully brought in bags of coins. Together We Rise’s mascot is a teddy bear and paper cut outs of the mascot were distributed for children to color in and later hang in the administrative office. At the school’s Gateway to College Pep Rally, where students learn college words, have an adopted school, and celebrate the year they will potentially graduate from college, the youth leadership group, PAW PALS, presented the check for $3,000 to Together We Rise.

Gianna Dahlia, executive director of Together We Rise is thankful for the school’s efforts in promoting the cause. The money raised will directly fund the Sweet Cases program and care packages for college students.

“We are really humbled that people are getting involved with foster kids,” she said. “I think we’re showing that anyone can help and it’s humbling that people are starting to get that concept.”

Damen Lopez, founder of No Excuses University, praised the students of Terrace Elementary.

“We have so many kids who live in poverty, [and] those kids have such great hearts. They know that there are other people who need them,” he said.

Efforts like this truly demonstrate why Riverside is such a unified city. Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants and beyond.

To volunteer or donate to Together We Rise, visit

For more information on No Excuses University, go to

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Families Go On Shopping Spree With Firefighters

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Rob McMillan and published in ABC7 on December 16, 2015.)

For several Riverside families, Christmas got a little merrier as they spent Wednesday morning shopping for gifts with city firefighters.

“It’s very rewarding and very honorable to be able to give back to people that aren’t as fortunate as others,” firefighter Jennifer McDowell said.

Among the families selected this year was the Fields family. Amelia Fields was picked after writing an essay at school on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The family shopped and got some comfy boots, toys, books, slippers, a coffee cup for dad, and even something for their puppy.

Amelia thought of everyone.

“She obviously is thinking about the entire family, not just herself, which is probably one of the reasons why she is so special,” McDowell said.

The $300 shopping spree was donated by the Riverside Fire Department. In all, four families were selected to partake in the event.

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 the Riverside Fire Department 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 original article, click here.

Hundreds Gathered AT UCR To Honor Victims Of The San Bernardino Shooting

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on December 9, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

About 400 people attended a candlelight vigil near the Highlander Union Building Dec. 4  to honor the victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino Dec 2, that killed 14 and injured 21, including four UCR alumni.

Among the dead were Sierra Clayborn, 27, who graduated from UCR  in 2010 in biochemistry, and 58-year-old Damian Meins, who graduated in Economics in 1978. Meins spent his career in environmental safety. His two daughters are also UCR graduates.

Jennifer Stevens, 22, who graduated this past June in environmental science, was hospitalized, as was Denise Peraza, 27, who earned her master’s degree in Environmental Science at UCR in 2013.

Wilcox reminded the crowd that “we are becoming more closely connected as human beings, more tightly knit. When we talk about changing the world, when we talk about making the world a better place, we are empowered in ways that humans have never been to do that, through our connectedness.” Coming together in these times of sorrow is a true demonstration of what makes us a unified city.  We are a caring community that has compassion for all people and we stand with San Bernardino in their time of need.

A lone bagpipe played by Mike Terry, head of UCR’s Pipe Band, closed the somber event as the attendees quietly held their electric candles.

To read the full article, click here.