People Power

Inspiring Stories from San Diego's Eastern Region

OBÃMANOS! TRAVELS THROUGH AZTLAN WITH RITA AND RICHARD

Obamanos
Richard and Rita with Enrique Morones at a joint Latino
African American press conference on the day they left for the battleground
states. Enrique is the director of Border Angeles, an immigrant rights
group in San Diego that provides water and food to immigrants in the desert.

Kensington residents Richard Griswold and Rita Sanchez are among thousands
of ordinary - or should we say extraordinary - citizens who felt inspired to pull
up stakes and travel to distant states campaigning for Barack Obama.
What’s it like to hit the road and talk to strangers all over the U.S. on behalf
of a presidential candidate? Below is Griswold’s chronicle of this remarkable
saga detailing the memorable places and colorful characters that he and Sanchez
encountered in their journey through the heart of America.

FALLBROOK PARAPLEGIC STUDENT ASPIRES TO JOIN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION

By Miriam Raftery

 

Hermes
Castro with Sir Robert Swan, polar explorer who has invited Castro on his
Antarctic expedition
Antarctica

January 7, 2008 (Fallbrook) — Invited by a famous polar explorer to join
an Antarctic expedition in March, Hermes Castro and his fellow students
at Mesa College are raising funds for transportation and special equipment
to help him fulfill his dream. But Castro has already come a long way
since September 2006, when he was struck head-on by a drunk-driver in Bonsall
while riding his bicycle to work in Fallbrook--tragedy that left him paralyzed
from the waist down.

SOCCER COMMUNITY KICKS OFF FUNDRAISING DRIVE TO HELP COACH HOWIE HAWVER, DIAGNOSED WITH LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE

By Miriam Raftery

January 5, 2008 (San Carlos) — More than 1,500 students,
parents, coaches, referees and soccer players from throughout San Diego County
teamed up to host a fundraiser December 29th for Howie Hawver, the popular
Patrick Henry High School soccer coach recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's
Disease.  Friends
of Howie Hawver raised over $15,000 to help pay his medical costs.  More
events are planned, including an online auction starting January 15th.

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE'S 2008 NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR

By Miriam Raftery

January 1, 2009 (San Diego's East County)--For better or worse, these are the East County people who made headlines in 2008.  Some are famous--elected officials and sports stars.  Others are unsung heroes and ordinary citizens who found themselves in extraordinary situations, battling foes ranging from cancer to large-scale developments in their communities.  Some have aspired to amazing feats, such as a young paraplegic athlete striving to join an Antarctic expedition.  We've included heroes with heartwarming tales--and a few local leaders who made headlines for less-than-heroic deeds. 

2008 NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR: HONORABLE MENTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

Each of these individuals has attained remarkable achievements.  Some have sparked controversy for their views or actions.  Many are working to make our community, our nation, or our world a better place.  Our list includes people who triumphed over disabilities, animal protection advocates, artists and musicians, business leaders, citizen watchdogs, educators, fire heroes, healthcare reformers, humanitarians, social justice leaders, politicians, a police intern, sports stars, tribal leaders, veterans' champions, volunteers and nonprofit leaders.  All are East County newsmakers extraordinaire. Who knew we had so many amazing people in San Diego's eastern region?

PASSAGES: IN MEMORIUM

San Diego's eastern region lost several prominent newsmakers in the past year,
among them:

Jack Hardebeck, M.D.:  Former chief of staff for Grossmont
Hospital and member of the Grossmont Healthcare District board, Hardebeck spent
nearly half a century serving East County.  A family physician and surgeon,
he chaired the Grossmont Hospital Foundation's philanthropy committee in 1998
and 1999.  In recognition of his efforts, Hardebeck received the Foundation's
Heart of Gold Award in 2004 and the Volunteer of Distinction Award in 2008. 

AMERICAN IDOL STAR JOSH GRACIN'S BENEFIT CONCERT AT BARONA HELPED BRIGHTEN HOLIDAYS FOR THOUSANDS OF NEEDY CHILDREN

American Idol's country music star and former U.S. Marine,
Josh Gracin shows his support for Toys for Tots with fellow U.S. Marines.
From left to right: Corporal Timothy C. Lewis, Sergeant Viviene B. Sussman,
Josh Gracin, Sergeant Suzanne A. Thiele and Staff Sergeant Michael G. Miller.

December 26, 2008 (San Diego) — American Idol favorite
and country music chart topper Josh Gracin recently headlined a benefit concert
for Toys for Tots at Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino. Barona's toy drive collected
more than 6,500 toys for Toys for Tots, a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program
that collects new toys for underprivileged children during the holiday season.

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS FROM EAST COUNTY SHARE STORIES

By Miriam Raftery

Aneesha Silvels

President-elect Barack Obama has called for a major expansion of the Peace
Corps and other public service programs, adding, "This will be a cause of my
presidency."  Obama's plan aims to double the size of the Peace Corps
from 7,800 to 16,000 volunteers by the organization's 50th anniversary in 2012.   "JFK
made their service a bridge to the developing world," Obama said of President
John F. Kennedy, whose administration founded the Peace Corps. 

RAMONA FIREFIGHTERS AND SHERIFF OFFICERS TEAM UP FOR HOLIDAY BIKE GIVEAWAY

December 18, 2008 (Ramona) — Local firefighters and sheriff
officers presented 24 lucky children with bicycles for the holidays at Ramona's
annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on December 13th. "Kelly Marline Crime
Prevention Specialist with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Audine
Morytko with the Ramona Fire Department worked extremely hard coordinating this
extremely important event," Captain Nick Schuler of CAL FIRE reported.

SYNAGOGUE MEMBERS PERFORM "MITZVAH", SAY THANKS TO COMMUNITY SERVICE HEROES

December
16, 2008 (San Carlos) —
On December 24th  at 2 p.m. Tifereth Israel Synagogue
in San Carlos will continue its tradition of holiday season generosity by providing
bags of goodies on Christmas Eve for area Fire and Police Departments, as well
as Hospital Emergency Rooms.  The organization seeks donations to help
local community service heroes and their families serving our community.

COMMUNITY LEADERS FLOCK TO ATTEND EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE'S VIP HOLIDAY PARTY

By Miriam Raftery, Editor

Education leaders at ECM's holiday party (left to
right): Henri Migala, executive dean, Cuyamaca College, Alan Ridley,
Student Services Specialist, Cuyamaca College, Mary Kay Rosinski,
board member, Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District, and Doug Dean, education
chair, East County Chamber of Commerce with musician Gene Warren.

December 15, 2008 (La Mesa) — It was a leap
of faith to host a VIP holiday party as the upstart publisher in town.   Being
a big believer in the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy, however,
we didn't pause to worry about that nagging little fear: what if no VIPs
showed up? Fortunately, the result was quite the opposite! 

More than 70 VIP guests attended our holiday soiree, where dozens of
community leaders mixed and mingled with our writers, editors, webmaster,
donors and supporters.  It's amazing to think how far we've come
in just three months--attracting over 485,000 visits to our website and
now, a party guest list that reads like a Who's Who of East County!

FOUNDER OF STONEY'S KIDS HONORED DURING EAST COUNTY TOY & FOOD DRIVE EVENT AT VIEJAS

By Miriam Raftery

Stoney Stone and his Wife.
Photo Credit: Leon Thompson

December 10, 2008 (Alpine) — Community members from throughout East County
gathered at the Viejas Dreamcatcher Lounge for a holiday party and auction
to help needy families locally.  In addition, community leaders paid tribute
to B.W. "Stoney" Stone, founder of Stoney's Kids and long-time organizer of
the East County Toy & Food Drive.

HOLIDAY TEA TRADITION BREAKS NEW GROUND FOR FRIENDS OF EAST COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS

By Miriam Raftery

December 11, 2008 (El Cajon) — This year's holiday tea, sponsored by Friends
of East County Arts, Inc. served up something new along with the traditional
tea, scones and finger sandwiches.

"This is the first year that men have been invited," said Howard Bagley, director
of St. Clair Gallery and a strong supporter of the organization.  "In
24 years, they've raised a half million dollars," he said, adding that the
group has no significant overhead and donates all funds raised for worthy local
causes.  "It's all gone to schools and the arts, including the (East County)
Performing Arts Center."

Cuyamaca College dedicates Wendell Cutting Center in honor of East County humanitarian

From left: nephew L.G. Wayne Cutting; Cuyamaca Interim
President Cristina Chiriboga; brothers Larry and Wayne Cutting; sister
Ruth Anne Cutting; GCCCD Governing Board Trustee Deanna Weeks; TRUSTEE
Bill Garrett; and student trustee Chuck Taylor.

December 12, 2008 (El Cajon)   Former governing board member Wendell
Cutting was remembered Friday for his generosity of spirit and caring for humanity
during a dedication ceremony for a Cuyamaca College science and technology
building that now bears his name.

The naming of Wendell Cutting Center, which houses labs for the life and physical
sciences programs, as well as computer information science, recognizes not
only the depth of his caring for students,  but also the value he placed
on learning. A middle-school teacher and administrator during the 70s and
a governing board trustee from 2002 until his death in 2006, Cutting was a
proponent of advancing science and technology education at Cuyamaca College.

MAKING MIRACLES HAPPEN:  CHALLENGE CENTER TAKES THE "DIS" OUT OF DISABILITES

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery; videos by Leon Thompson and Rob Constantine.

December
21, 2008 (San Diego's East County) —
"When I first had my stroke, I couldn't speak or move my right side. I couldn't
walk," recalled Austin Junkin, 80, of Lemon Grove.  "Now I can do anything.  I
lift 100 pounds with ease," he said, demonstrating his physical prowess by
hoisting weights above his head inside the Challenge Center at Sunset Park
in La Mesa.

Challenge Center isn't any ordinary gym.  The facility specializes in
helping severely disabled patients, including those with spinal cord and traumatic
brain injuries, attain dramatic improvements even after other physical therapy
programs have failed. View
Video
.

La Mesa Rotary Gives Donation to CHIP's Organization

(left to right) Lynn Hamilton, current La Mesa Rotary
President, Joel Tzinberg and Glenn Kellogg.

December 10, 2008 (La Mesa) — The La Mesa Rotary Club donated $500.00 to the Community Health and Improvements
Partners (CHIP's) organization. CHIP is a collaboration of San Diego health
care systems, hospitals, community clinics, insurers, physicians, universities,
community benefit organizations and the County of San Diego that are dedicated
to a common vision. One of their important services is their free flu vaccine
clinics and a flu hotline at (877) FLU-0202 that provides information about
the influenza virus and the importance of being immunized. Glenn Kellogg a
member of CHIP's, and a member and past president of La Mesa Rotary was happy
to accept the donation.

WATER FOR CHILDREN AFRICA PRESENTS THE 12TH AFRICAN TRADE AND BUSINESS CONFERENCE NOV. 22

By Miriam Raftery

November 17, 2008 (San Diego) -- The twelfth Annual Africa
Trade and Business Conference sponsored by Water For Children Africa will be
held November 21-23, 2008. 

Inspired after a visit to Africa with her mother, El Cajon resident
Vickie Butcher founded the nonprofit organization to create infrastructure
for bringing clean, safe water and medical supplies to help children in rural
African villages.

EAST COUNTY FAMILY YMCA `URBAN BRANDING' A SUCCESS RAISING FUNDS TO HELP YOUTH AND FAMILY PROGRAMS

Hundreds of East County residents and YMCA members attended event,
which raised $176,000

Halle Aiken serves food to Branding guest, Phil Conard.
Picture taken by Brian Blue.

November 1, 2008 (Rancho San Diego) - East County
residents shined their belt buckles and donned their best pairs of jeans
for East County Family YMCA’s annual fundraiser, The Urban BRANDING
on September 27. More than 450 attended the event, which raised $176,000
for the East County Family YMCA to make more resources available for programs
that continue to build strong kids, families and communities throughout East
County. This includes the East County YMCA’s 10 childcare sites, more
than 30 specialty day camps, swim lessons, a variety of teen leadership programs,
youth sports, family events and the capital campaign for the new McGrath
Family YMCA, which will begin construction in a few months.

HUNDREDS FLOCK TO ELKS OKTOBERFEST

By Miriam Raftery

October
20, 2008 (El Cajon) -
Over 800 people flocked to an Oktoberfest celebration
hosted by El Cajon’s Elks Lodge 1812, a tradition that dates back to
1975.

“I started the Oktoberfest,” said Giselle Howard (photo, left),
who was also the festival’s first Oktoberfest Queen.   “This
is why every year, they honor me.”  Still radiant at 86, Howard
wore her original dress and tiara as a fellow Elk pushed her wheelchair in
the Oktoberfest Parade.  The aromas of steak and bratwurst simmering on
a barbecue filled the air, along with scents of potato pancakes and other traditional
German fare.

FUNDRAISER TO HELP HOME OF THE GUIDING HANDS  OCT. 12: CARE FACILITY FOR DISABLED FORCED TO BORROW $1.25 MILLION DOLLARS DUE TO STATE BUDGET GAP

By Miriam Raftery
Residential ServicesOctober
6, 2008 (El Cajon) -
  A wine-tasting event to benefit Home of the Guiding
Hands (HGH) will be held Sunday, October 12th at Mangia Bene Restaurant in
El Cajon.   HGH provides residential, healthcare and training services
for over 160 children and adults with developmental disabilities at 27 facilities
in San Diego County. But now the program faces financial hardship because
all MediCal and MediCare funds were cut off while the Legislature wrangled
to pass a budget that was 83 days past due.

PEOPLE POWER - WORLD'S LAST CASES OF POLIO?

Local Rotary Members Strive to End Global Scourge

By Miriam Raftery
October 1, 2008 (San Diego’s East County) -- Polio,
once the most dreaded childhood disease which killed or paralyzed millions
of people, may soon be eradicated worldwide – and members of local Rotary
chapters are eagerly pitching in to rid the globe of this silent killer.

People Power - On the Trail With the Rock "Doc": Bringing Natural Science to Reservation Children

By Miriam Raftery


October 1, 2008 (Mesa Grande reservation) - Bouncing down a dusty dirt road with hairpin turns so narrow that we have to
honk our horn to warn oncoming drivers, we descend past Lake Sutherland into
a deep gorge.   We emerge in a hidden valley—home of the
lower Mesa Grande Indian reservation.  The most remote tribal village
in East County, Mesa Grande’s American Indians survived 19th century
attacks that decimated more accessible tribes. 

We park in front of the tribal tutoring center, which doubles as a fire station.   A
throng of smiling children quickly surrounds us, eager to greet Eleanora “Norrie” Robbins,
PhD—better known as “Doc.”

People Power - Magic Horse Miracles: Therapeutic Riding Program Benefits Disabled Kids

By Miriam Raftery

 

September 2008 (Lakeside)--Ten-year-old Avery Titus squeals with delight, pressing his face against the sun-warmed backside of Iggy, a quarterhorse at the Magic Horse Therapeutic Riding program in Lakeside.



"Before, he couldn't sit up on his own," recalled Avery's father, Clay. "Now he can sit and not fall over."



Avery has cerebral palsy, brain damage and learning disabilities. But his older brother, Chandler, observed, "That doesn't stop him from being this happy kid."



Magic Horse founder Robin Pawl has Avery demonstrate the exercises he's learned to do on horseback. Motions of the horse beneath him simulate pelvic movement, helping Avery to improve his coordination skills, strengthen his back muscles and improve his sense of balance.

 

"Delana's Dirty Pizza" Wins Charity Cook-Off at New Sammy's in La Mesa

If
you're a fan of Sammy's Wood-fired Pizza,  check out "Delana's Dirty
Pizza" featured on the menu through mid-September. 

The creation concocted by Delana Bennett of Star 94.1 radio’s  “Jeff
and Jer Showgram”  was judged the winner during a charity cook-off
held August 13th to kick off the grand opening of Sammy's newest location in
the La Mesa Trolley Center on Fletcher Parkway. 

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