Volunteers Give Back

Eaten Alive

The prey lands. A trap is sprung. The prey struggles but is no match for the enzymes that slowly digest it between vibrant green lobes with tooth-like trichomes.

No, this isn’t a scene out of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It’s the daily eating habit of a Venus flytrap, one of hundreds of carnivorous plant species that capture our imagination.

“Carnivory in plants has arisen at least 12 different times in 12 different areas around the world,” says Ron Nies, president of the Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society. “The whole idea of plants absorbing insects makes sense. They grow in areas with nutrient-poor soils, so they catch insects to supplement their needs.”

Beauty Reclaimed

The next time you meander along the American River Parkway and spot volunteers armed with gloves, grabbers and trash bags, give a friendly wave.

They’re probably dedicated members of the recently formed River City Waterway Alliance, a volunteer group that hosts weekly cleanups of local waterways to restore and protect these precious, imperiled resources.

“Water needed a strong focus for trash cleanup efforts,” says Kathleen Ford, who co-founded the alliance with David Ingram, Mark Baker and Lisa Sanchez. “Our rivers, creeks and streams contain a really egregious amount of trash, so we decided to focus our efforts on local waterways.”

Hope For Change

“Any time we can convert an overwhelming, depressing issue into something we can be creative in thinking about, there is hope for change,” Cindy Fowler says.

She could be talking about any number of issues as facilitator of the Sacramento advocacy team for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying organization on Capitol Hill.

But today she’s referring to the Loving Earth Project, a traveling community textile project that encourages people to think creatively about climate change.

100 Years of Solicitude

It might seem hard to imagine working until you’re age 87, but when you meet Mary Ellen Fort, who celebrated her 100th birthday in December, it’s easier to picture.

Though Fort loved her job at American River College, what she enjoyed most was that the work allowed her to help people. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and counseling at Sacramento State, Fort taught psychology at ARC.

Then she went into counseling and eventually helped develop the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement and Minority Engineering Program, which became a national standard for helping minority students get into science, math and tech studies.

A Capitol Mardi Gras

I don’t want to give anything away, but Wes Samms’ outfit for the City of Trees Parade Feb. 18 is amazing. I got a sneak peek of the sequined suit jacket he had custom-made in Thailand. It’s spectacular.

The word “spectacular” comes up a lot during our conversation. It describes the tradition of Mardi Gras as a “showcase of culture, music and art.” It covers Sacramento’s diverse talent pool. It includes Burning Man, which plays a part in this month’s festivities.

Most important, it describes the City of Trees Parade.

“Mardi Gras is such a fantastic event,” says Samms, a veteran of 13 New Orleans Mardi Gras. “The perception that outsiders have is completely wrong. It’s not debaucherous, it’s actually quite family-focused.

The Great Outdoors

Next time you visit Earl J. Koobs Nature Area in Carmichael near La Sierra Community Center, look for groundskeeper Linda Rose Jones.

She’ll be playing in the mud.

“I love going into the area looking for millipedes,” Jones says. “I love following little kids and watching their discovery. That’s what lifts my heart.”

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