Inside Sacramento November 2019

By Jessica Laskey
November 2019

Away With Weeds

Pops in the Park funds will benefit rose garden restoration project

Councilmember Jeff Harris recently presented a $15,000 gift to the McKinley Rose Garden from the district’s Pops in the Park summer concert series, which raises funds for park-improvement projects in East Sacramento.

“I cannot think of a better use of the Pops funds than supporting the Friends of East Sacramento’s efforts to restore and maintain our beautiful rose garden,” says Harris, who presented the check to FOES co-founders Cecily Hastings and Lisa Schmidt.

“This goes a long way toward funding the cost of the weed-abatement project we have underway,” Schmidt says.

FOES has been working for six years to restore and manage the garden.

“When we inherited the garden in 2013, we had a similar—and probably worse—weed situation,” Schmidt says. “With the disintegration of the landscape fabric we installed in 2013 and the winter rains the past two years, the weed growth was far greater than during the drought.”

“We have a two-part strategy to cope with the situation,” Hastings adds. “On a temporary basis, our hard-working volunteers are using weed whackers to cut down the tall Bermuda grass.”

As a more permanent solution, FOES has selected the same contractor to repeat what it did in 2013 by digging up weed roots, applying landscape fabric and adding a layer of mulch. The project cost is estimated at more than $30,000.

“We just ask our neighbors and visitors to be patient as we work through this challenge,” Schmidt says. “And, of course, we could always use more donations and volunteers!”

To donate, email or visit


The city recently announced that the DIG phase of the McKinley Water Vault, which began July 1, was completed in mid-September. The BUILD phase—during which the contractor will construct the concrete vault—is scheduled to take place over the next year into fall 2020, weather permitting.

The good news is that the McKinley Rose Garden, Tiny Tots center, tennis courts and Clunie Community Center will remain open throughout all phases of construction.

The McKinley Water Vault is an underground storage tank that will hold storm water and wastewater during large storms when the sewer system is at capacity.

The city will issue construction updates throughout the project. To sign up for email updates or for more information, visit


Sacramento city officials and members of the Youssefi family recently dedicated Ali Youssefi Square—formerly St. Rose of Lima Park—at 7th and K streets in honor of the late developer and community champion who died in 2018 of stomach cancer at the age of 35.

Youssefi contributed to some of the city’s newest and most forward-thinking residential and mixed-use development projects in the central city, including the R Street Warehouse Artist Lofts and recently constructed 700 block of K Street known as The Hardin.

At the dedication ceremony, a memorial monument—the first of its kind in a Sacramento city park—was unveiled displaying the phrase “our brightest star” above hundreds of colorful lights symbolizing Youssefi’s life.

“Ali will never be forgotten,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at the dedication. “He represented all good things. He represented possibility. He represented inclusion. He represented the hope that you could turn around areas of town.… He did it with a spirit that everyone who knew him was touched by.”


The Ali Youssefi Project—established by the family of the late Sacramento developer, humanitarian and art lover—recently announced the selection of two artists for the inaugural Artist in Residency Program.
Sacramento artist Jodi Connelly was selected as the local recipient and New York artist Michael Pribich as the national recipient. The Artist in Residency Program creates opportunities for working artists by providing financial support and other benefits.

The two artists will receive free studio space at Verge Center for the Arts, a $500 monthly stipend and a solo exhibition at Verge gallery in December. Pribich will also receive a furnished live-in studio apartment at Warehouse Artist Lofts.

For more information, visit


Nominations are being accepted for the 2019 East Sacramento Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year awards. Nominations must include a minimum 100-word statement of why the person is being nominated and be emailed to Deadline for nominations is Nov. 7.

The award categories are Cecily Hastings Business of the Year, New Business of the Year, Special Place Award and Lisa Schmidt Volunteer of the Year.

The Business of the Year award, named in honor of chamber founder Cecily Hastings, recognizes a business that has contributed in a positive way to the community and demonstrated a considerable track record of positive contributions. In 2018, the award went to East Sacramento Hardware.

The New Business of the Year award recognizes a business that opened in the past year and made a name for itself by providing positive experiences and, therefore, enhancing the neighborhood. In 2018, the award went to SacYard Community Taphouse.

The Special Place Award recognizes a location with architectural or design features that beautify the neighborhood. In 2018, the award went to the McKinley Village Art Walk.

The Volunteer of the Year award, named in honor of longtime chamber volunteer director Lisa Schmidt, recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond in the community by donating his or her time and efforts to make Sacramento a brighter place to live and work. In 2018, the award went to Cindy Leathers for her work on the East Lawn Children’s Park renovation.

Award winners will be announced at the chamber’s Holiday Gala in early December.


Handcrafted items by artisans from all over the world will be available at the annual Christmas Market: Gifts of Hope at Fremont Presbyterian Church at 5770 Carlson Drive in East Sacramento. The market will be held Saturday, Nov. 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Proceeds will help families around the world facing human trafficking, hunger and lack of medical care, education, clean water and more.

Nonprofit vendors will include Heavenly Treasures, One World Fair Trade, Global Good Fair Trade and United Women Alliance. Friends of San Juan de Oriente will be on hand with handmade pottery from the village in Nicaragua.

Each nonprofit raises money for countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Namibia, Peru, Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia, Nepal, Tibet and Nicaragua. Funds also assist Fremont mission trips to Haiti, Jamaica and Dominican Republic that provide medicine, water, housing, education and food. Locally, proceeds support the Central Downtown Food Basket, Mustard Seed School, Greenhouse Ministries, Earl Warren Elementary School and Francis House.


Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen will give a progress report on the university’s involvement in the community at the next General Membership Meeting of the East Sacramento Improvement Association. The meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Clunie Community Center in McKinley Park.
City Councilmember Jeff Harris will present his state of the district message, and a city planner will discuss the process of updating the Sacramento General Plan, specifically as it affects East Sacramento.
For more information, visit


Local residents ages 50 and older are needed this fall to help kids in kindergarten through third grade improve their reading through AARP Experience Corps, managed locally by the United Way California Capital Region.

“Kids who are not reading at grade level by fourth grade are more likely to fall behind in all subjects, including math and science, making them less likely to graduate from high school,” says Stephanie Bray, president/CEO of United Way California Capital Region. “This corps of volunteers is essential to ensuring our community’s kids are successful.”

Volunteers serve at local schools approximately two days per week for two to three hours a day, tutoring and tracking progress of groups of two to three students throughout the school year. Volunteers meet monthly to share best practices, and obtain literacy and classroom management experience. They receive training to become mentors and role models, and to hone their skills to help students reach their reading goals.

Last year, United Way’s AARP Experience Corps helped 415 students with reading—62 percent of those reading below grade level improved their reading and literary performance.

For more information or to sign up, visit


A new hospice house for the terminally ill homeless—the first of its kind on the West Coast—is scheduled to open in early 2020 in the Dos Rios Triangle by Loaves & Fishes.

To help raise funds to complete the project, Sip, Savor & Sway—an evening of dining, dancing and fellowship—will be held Saturday, Dec. 7, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Sacramento Masonic Temple at 1131 J St.
Joshua’s House Hospice will be located at 1501 North C St. and will house 20 residents at a time. The facility will provide art, music and writing therapy, shelter, meals, clothing and compassionate hospice care from local partners Sutter Health, UC Davis Health, Dignity Health and Kaiser Permanente.

Last year, the nonprofit organization Health Communication Research Institute, Inc. formed a partnership with Goodwill Industries, Inc. to collaborate with local hospitals, other nonprofit organizations and government agencies to create Joshua’s House Hospice. The hospice home is named in memory of Joshua Lee Nielson (1980-2014) who had a vision of preventing homeless men and women suffering from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infections, liver disorders, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C from dying alone on the street.

HCRI and Goodwill have raised the $3.5 million for construction. Goodwill will cover all operating costs, but the project is still 23 percent away from its total goal with $880,000 left to raise.

For tickets to Sip, Savor & Sway or for more information, visit


The Wildlife Care Association’s fifth annual Fall Photo Contest is now underway and accepting entries through Dec. 31.

Take your best shot of a bird in a backyard, local park or wilderness area and submit your picture as a message with a photo attachment on the WCA Facebook page (@wildlifecareassociation). Submissions will be entered to win a special prize, including a guided tour of WCA’s facility at McClellan Park.

Children younger than 12 may enter for free. Entries from those 12 and older are asked to include a minimum $5 donation to WCA on the Facebook donate link. Donations help the nonprofit volunteer-based association save thousands of injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife every year.

Submissions should include your email address, location where the photo was taken and best guess of the type of bird in the photo.

For more information, call (916) 965-WILD (9453) or visit


By year’s end, the Sacramento SPCA’s Adoptable Goods Thrift Store on E Street will close.

“Unfortunately, the sharp decline in the overall retail environment coupled with rising operating costs and an aging building has made it increasingly challenging to operate a profitable store,” explains SSPCA CEO Kenn Altine.

“The closing of the store is an emotional event for all of us—more so for the hardworking store staff and fiercely dedicated volunteers who made it possible for the store to give so much to the animals for so many years.”

Since 1977, the Adoptable Goods Thrift Store has contributed more than $3.2 million toward shelter programs, building improvements and the SSPCA Spay/Neuter Clinic, which performs more than 18,000 surgeries every year.

Altine says the organization will continue to explore other opportunities to benefit the animals, such as an online auction recently hosted by Witherell’s that raised more than $10,000 from 62 donated collectibles. The store will remain open for the rest of the year, but it will no longer accept goods.

Books and items needed at the shelter may still be donated at the SSPCA at 6201 Florin Perkins Road. The SSPCA Fall Book Sale will be held Nov. 9–17 at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights.

For a complete list of ongoing shelter needs and other ways to give, visit


Two Sacramento residents—Jennifer Basye Sander of East Sacramento and Megan Smith of Midtown—recently walked away with first-place blue ribbons from the California State Fair’s annual California Canning & Baking competition.

Sander won for her Caramel Toffee Swoons. Smith won for her Rolled Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

“I call them ‘swoons’ because these are the flavors that make me swoon,” Sander explains. “I developed the recipe almost 20 years ago. I’ve been perfecting it ever since.”

The competition was emceed by Food Network’s 2015 Chopped Jr. champion Elisabeth Watkins from Linden. The entries were judged using a numerical scorecard.

“I encourage anyone who has ever baked a cookie to enter the competition,” Sander says. “It gives you an excuse dream up new recipes.”

For more information, visit

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.
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