In Tune Carmichael

By Susan Maxwell Skinner
June 2019

Grand Procession

Barbara Safford shares her earliest July 4 memory: “I was 6 years old and living in Momence, Ill.,” she says. “I wore a red, white and blue dress, and red shoes like Dorothy. As the parade passed, I waved my flag. That night, I waved sparklers.”

Safford, 78, will wave as grand marshal in the upcoming Carmichael Elks 4th of July Parade. She will delight in following the fire truck whose siren annually heralds the Fair Oaks Boulevard pageant. “I love firefighters,” she says. “You can always depend on them to make our lives safer.”

Indeed, firefighters counted on Safford in her 17-year job as administrative assistant to four Sac Metro Fire chiefs. Now retired, she is one of her community’s most dependable volunteers. Her efforts boost the Carmichael Library, Kiwanis Club and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic church. She has also served the Carmichael Recreation and Park District and its Foundation. The Carmichael Chamber of Commerce named her Volunteer of the Year in 2018 and Safford represents community residents as a board director.

“Volunteering keeps me young,” she explains. “It’s a joy to be involved.”

She meanwhile finds time to be an active “nanny” to four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In 40 years of Carmichael residence, she and husband Tom have marshaled family to watch many Independence Day processions on Fair Oaks Boulevard. She recalls parade marshals as important folk in convertibles. Politicians, sheriffs, war heroes, sports icons and media celebrities have marshaled the fray.

Safford never imagined joining their ranks until parade organizer Jim Warrick whispered that the Elks wanted her for 2019.
“Why me,” she asked Warrick. “Who in the world knows me?”

“Everybody,” the Elk replied. “You’re such an asset to the community.”

Safford tearfully accepted the ceremonial gig. “It’s a great honor for any American,” she says.

The great American will be among 800 participants in the 61st Annual Carmichael Elks 4th of July Parade. The procession leaves the corner of Marconi Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard at 10:30 a.m. and ends at the Elks Lodge on Cypress Avenue, where the public may enjoy free swimming, dancing and a barbecue. Pyrotechnics ignite at 9:30 p.m. at the La Sierra Community Center on Engle Road. Sponsorships are welcomed by calling the Carmichael Elks at (916) 489-2103 or Carmichael Park District at (916) 485-5322.


A recent party celebrating Creek Week caused a big splash and reinforced lessons in habitat conservation. Sponsoring agencies sent the unfiltered message that everyone—young and old—must protect water.

The Carmichael Park celebration followed efforts by 2,000-plus volunteers to scour 80 Sacramento County creek locations. Waterways from the Delta to Folsom benefited. Work areas within Rancho Cordova alone yielded more than 1,500 pounds of trash.

In its 29th year, Sacramento County’s Creek Week aimed to refresh waterways by removing garbage and invasive plants. AmeriCorps volunteers partnered with Mira Loma High School students to clear non-native growth from an Arcade Creek tributary. Scaling a logjam near Haggin Oaks Golf Course, the workers also retrieved massive wads of plastic waste.

Youth groups, service clubs and families were joined by the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps, whose members recycle dumped rubber tires. Beyond tires, mattresses and shopping carts, the 2019 junk-hunt gleaned tons of smaller stuff.

Creeks Council President Alta Tura noted that winter rain washed especially high volumes of trash into rivers. “Garbage enters our creeks and is trapped by vegetation,” she explains. “Cigarette butts, plastic straws and fast-food packaging are more damaging to wildlife than big stuff. Animals that ingest plastic can starve to death. Waterfowl can become entangled in old fishing lines. There’s no place in our waterways for plastic in any form, yet many thousands of plastic items were among the tons of junk we bagged. The volunteers did a stellar job.”

At Carmichael Park, rewards for the weary included clean T-shirts and hot dogs. “The party celebrates everyone’s hard work,” Tura says. “It also teaches people about nature, how to save water and be better stewards of our environment.”

To report illegal dumping, call 311.


Tune up the trumpet. The Clubhouse Bar & Grill recently began a third-Tuesday open-mic event for serious jazzers. This entertainment is in addition to monthly big band gigs that trombonist Ron Cunha kicked off at the Carmichael restaurant eight years ago.

To say jazz has taken off in Carmichael is an understatement. A rare opportunity to hear large-ensemble music without a cover charge, Cunha’s first-Tuesday blowout is now an established Sacramento entertainment staple supported by hundreds of fans.

After his recent retirement from teaching Jesuit High School’s jazz program, Cunha, 62, found space on his dance card for a second Clubhouse event. Less formal, the third-Tuesday Jazz Jam Night has the Tim Metz Trio to accompany those experienced jazzers who show up to blow. Cunha hosts and offers occasional trombone solos.

But third-Tuesday is not amateur night, Cunha warns. “Top professionals sit in and set a very high standard. These guys usually have Tuesday nights off and they love to play. We’re hoping fans of our big band nights will come along and enjoy a second monthly helping.”

The Clubhouse is located at 5150 Fair Oaks Blvd. The no-cover third-Tuesday Jazz Jam Night begins at 7 p.m. For more information, call (916) 979-1422.


All kids love soft toys. But a child whose life is in crisis really needs something to cuddle.

At accident or domestic crime scenes, terrified children often end up in police cars. Officers know the value of a huggable teddy. “A soft toy gives traumatized children comfort,” Carmichael grandmother Nancy Fellers says. “It also makes police officers seem less frightening.”

From several deputies in her own family, Nancy, 86, learned that cops bought emergency toys with their own money. She decided a stitch in time was needed.

For the past 20 years, the retired schoolteacher and travel agent has collected, cleaned and repaired thousands of what she calls “stuffies.” Used or new, the comfort critters come her way from church friends, fellow Kiwanians and neighbors.

Nancy’s mission makes her Carmichael home a virtual Pooh Corner, but she has the support of 88-year-old husband and retired college professor Bill Fellers.

“When we get used stuffies, we first wash them,” Nancy explains. “Many need to be re-stuffed—you’d be surprised what some manufacturers fill toys with. If a toy has a hole, children could ingest some really awful stuff.”

After revitalizing the critters, she adds new bows to each fluffy neck. She and her husband then deliver the individually bagged stuffies to the sheriff’s headquarters in Rancho Cordova, where cops select monkeys and bears to store in patrol cars for emergencies.

“The officers are always glad to see me,” Nancy says. “They know I come with gifts that help them. A cuddly critter helps children see officers as kind and caring. In these situations, a toy is a necessary part of police work. I don’t see why deputies should have to pay for them.”

Though she loves her vocation, the octogenarian hopes to eventually bag her last bunny and find a successor. “The work hardly costs anything and it takes little time,” she says. “All you need is a washing machine, basic sewing skills and a kind heart.”

To donate new or gently used toys or to learn about Nancy’s comfort-critter project, email


A fifth high school project funded by San Juan Unified School District’s Bond Program made a recent start at Mira Loma High School. The school’s new science wing will open for classes in fall 2020.

The school already provides one of the top-rated science programs in Sacramento. Mira Loma’s 1,800 students are all required to take the subject and the Edison Avenue campus is so overcrowded that teachers currently wheel science equipment on carts between classes.
The new signature facility will have large dedicated rooms and increased education space by 30,000 square feet. State-of-the-art chemistry, physics and earth-science rooms will be augmented by an outdoor learning area.

“This project validates our programs and belief in being the premier science school in our area,” Principal Lynne Tracy affirms.
DPR Construction is building the $27 million wing. A bond measure passed by area voters in 2012 funds the cost and has provided for new facilities in other SJUSD high schools, including performing arts centers for Rio Americano and El Camino, a student union at Casa Roble and a science wing for Bella Vista.


The Carmichael Chamber of Commerce shared 10 percent of the proceeds—$2,500—from its 2019 Person of the Year fundraiser with Shriners Hospitals for Children in Sacramento.

Speaking at the chamber’s recent business luncheon, Shriners Development Director Alan Anderson called the donation “a profound gift.”
“Our hospital provides free care for 10,000 children every year,” he explains. “Some treatments cost millions; some far less. From our budget, the average cost of a child’s treatment is $2,300. Every gift counts. This gift will treat one child. Thank you—for that child.”

For more information on the Shriners hospital, visit


The Carmichael Senior Citizens Club is entering the golden years. One of the community’s oldest social organizations, the club recently marked its 50th anniversary.

Stalwarts have organized five decades of potlucks, bingo and entertainment at the Community Clubhouse in Carmichael Park. Beyond twice-monthly meetings, dining out and casino visits are popular club activities. To aid nondrivers, members carpool for excursions.
Club President Valerie Hobin says the group’s main focus is its meetings, but theater outings are highlights. “Our 2019 objective is to increase membership,” she says. “Attendance is steady. We have good community outreach and often invite retirement-home residents to join us for lunch and bingo.”

The nonprofit donates to local charities and partners with a ladies’ group for spring fashion shows. “We love to welcome couples,” Hobin says. “We also have mother/daughter attendees. Dads are welcome too. Being with a group like this is a great way to spend time with a relative.”

The club meets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month. Bingo follows each session. Annual membership costs $12. For more information, call (916) 487-5525.

Susan Maxwell Skinner can be reached at Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month.

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