Out & About

By Jessica Laskey
December 2021

Make A Difference

Volunteers needed to help kids read

Help local kids learn to read at grade level by volunteering for United Way California Capital Region’s Students & Tutors Achieving Reading Success program. STARS pairs volunteers and students through sixth grade for online literacy tutoring.

Tutors and students work through a variety of games, books and lessons provided in an online portal to build vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills.

“We know that if kids aren’t reading at grade level by fourth grade, they will have a hard time keeping up across multiple subjects for years to come,” says Amber Lovett with United Way California Capital Region.

“Our STARS volunteers make a world of difference in a child’s life by giving just one hour a week,” she adds. “Our tutors not only help them read, they act as positive role models that improve children’s overall confidence in school.”
No prior tutoring experience is needed. Volunteers must commit to at least one hour each week split into two 30-minute sessions for three months. Volunteers are especially needed between 3–5 p.m. For more information or to sign up, visit yourlocalunitedway.org/stars.


Dr. Dawnté Early has been named president/CEO of United Way California Capital Region on the eve of the local chapter’s centennial.

“I am excited to lead this amazing organization of passionate regional leaders committed to reducing poverty and investing in the education of our most vulnerable community members,” Early says.

“As we near the 100th anniversary, I look forward to growing our partnerships to help the region emerge from the pandemic with an even sharper focus on increasing economic security and reducing disparities.”

West Sacramento resident Early previously served as chief of research and evaluation for the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission. She also was a West Sacramento city councilmember and served on the city’s Aging Commission.

“Dr. Early is a proven advocate who is committed to our square-one approach of working to end poverty by tackling difficult issues that impact children and families,” says United Way Board Member Carolyn Mullins. “She has dedicated her life’s work to addressing issues that impact people from low-income and historically marginalized communities. We are proud to bring her on board.”


The Sacramento City Council recently adopted a resolution to recognize part of East Sacramento as the historic Little Italy district.

For much of the late 1900s, the area bounded by 48th Street to 59th Street and J Street to Folsom Boulevard was home to many Italian families and businesses, including Corti Brothers grocery store, Pietro Talini’s Nursery, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the former Español Italian Restaurant and many more. The East Portal Bocce Club at East Portal Park is now home to 65 league teams.

Five years ago, a group of citizens led by William Cerruti, director of the Italian Cultural Society, and Fabrizio Sasso, executive director at the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, approached District 3 City Councilmember Jeff Harris to commemorate the Italian history in the area. “It was time to claim that heritage and recognize it,” Cerruti said at a recent City Council meeting when the resolution was adopted.

“Italian roots run deep in the history of the city of Sacramento from the Gold Rush days forward,” Harris said at the meeting. The resolution will “acknowledge a cultural contribution to the foundation of Sacramento over 100 years.”


The University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law has received a historic gift of $30 million for the school’s advocacy center and scholarships dedicated to first-generation students and students of color.

Trial lawyer and 1988 alumnus Robert T. Eglet and his wife, legal negotiator Tracy A. Eglet, have committed to a $25 million gift to the School of Law, which will then receive an additional $5 million in matching funds from the university’s Powell Match program.

In addition to $5 million to support the school’s advocacy center and $20 million for scholarships for first-generation students and students of color, the gift creates three endowed faculty chairs for the newly renamed Eglet Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution. The gift also includes a fund to cover competition fees and travel costs for every qualified team member of McGeorge’s mock trial, moot court, negotiations and other competition teams.

The gift is the third largest ever given to a California law school and the second largest in the 170-year history of McGeorge.

“My wife and I both strongly believe that it is important to give back when you can,” Robert Eglet says. “We are excited that we have the ability to help students who would not otherwise be able to afford law school.”


The winds of change are blowing at Sacramento Symphonic Winds. After five seasons as music and artistic director, Tim Smith is retiring from the organization.

Smith will continue to serve as a music adjudicator, guest conductor and clinician for local, state and regional music ensembles, and share his knowledge as a music educator.

SSW has selected Dr. Matthew Morse as Smith’s successor. Morse has a varied background as a music educator and conductor, including 25 years of experience with United States Army and other military bands. He is currently the director of bands and assistant professor of conducting in the School of Music at Sacramento State.


A new outdoor fitness space for older adults is now open at the Oak Park Community Center. The new fitness park—a partnership among the city of Sacramento, AARP and FitLot Outdoor Fitness Parks—contains 11 independent exercise machines on a rubberized surface.

The park is one of 53 across the country created by AARP and national nonprofit FitLot, and will be managed by the city’s Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment Department. It’s funded by an AARP grant that also includes no-cost programming for three years.

The park is open to the public during regular hours except during programmed classes. Free classes include low-impact workouts and walking groups. For information and class schedules, visit fitlot.org/parks/sacramento or call (916) 808-6151.


The WELL, Sacramento State’s recreation and health facility, recently underwent a $34 million expansion and renovation, and has reopened to serve Sac State’s 31,500 students.

The expansion added 18,000 square feet for fitness and recreation, and another 11,000 for student health services, bringing The WELL’s footprint to more than 260,000 square feet.

Improvements include additional fitness studios, a dedicated spin studio and lounge, an additional 750 individual lockers, group counseling rooms and offices, an expanded healthy cooking demonstration kitchen, expanded athletic training facility, expanded and renovated urgent-care facility, and additional showers, restrooms and dressing rooms.
Accessibility and inclusion were also considered, resulting in wider doorways, larger benches, door-automation features and elimination of barriers on all pathways.

“The expansion project is the product of listening to our members and taking their feedback to heart,” says Bill Olmsted, The WELL executive director. “It definitely was worth the time and resources to make this project happen. There is no better investment than the health and well-being of our students.”


Three Los Rios Community College District schools—American River College, Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College—have been awarded multi-year federal grants to support child care and family services on campus as part of the Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School program.

American River College was granted $283,000 per year for the next four years to fund improvements to the college’s infant toddler program, including increased staff to allow for younger children (starting at 6 months of age), teacher training, Early Childhood Education student training, and advancement and family workshops.

Cosumnes River College was granted $150,000 a year for the next four years to fund development of the college’s family resource and engagement center.

Sacramento City College was granted $224,000, which is renewable each year for five years. The grant will help fund comprehensive services for students with children under the age of 2 starting in spring 2022.


Now that construction is complete on the McKinley Water Vault, visitors to McKinley Park can enjoy new amenities, as well as peace of mind. The 6-million-gallon storage vault for storm water and wastewater was installed under McKinley Park to reduce flooding in the neighborhood.

New amenities in the historic park include a multi-use field, horseshoe pits, a volleyball area, jogging paths, restrooms, picnic areas, BBQ pits, benches, shade structures, landscaping and 60 new trees.
Construction on the vault project began in 2019 and cost approximately $25 million.


The Saint John’s Program for Real Change annual fundraiser, Party for Change, recently raised a record-breaking $1 million to support formerly homeless women and children.

“I am so grateful to the incredible group of people who made this event possible and to the Sacramento community for its continued support of Saint John’s,” CEO Julie Hirota says.

The black-tie gala’s more than 650 attendees enjoyed performances by Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre, led by Artistic Director Jacob Gutierrez Montoya, as well as Sabrina, a classically trained opera singer and current resident of Saint John’s.

Funds raised will help house and provide comprehensive supportive services for more than 66 women and children for one year. For more information, visit saintjohnsprogram.org.


The California Department of Public Health recently updated its COVID-19 safety guidelines involving mega-events to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for events with 1,000 or more attendees. Many regional arts organizations are also adopting these protocols regardless of audience size.

“The priority must be to protect the community and provide assurances that our guests will be safe while enjoying all that local arts have to offer,” says Liv Moe, board president of the Sacramento Alliance for Regional Arts, a group of artists and 65 arts organizations throughout the region.

“While the majority of Sacramento’s cultural venues don’t produce mega-events of this size, we believe that voluntarily adopting such safety measures is another critical step to limiting the spread of the virus,” Moe says.

Organizations that have adopted mega-event protocols include Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center, Golden 1 Center, Memorial Auditorium, Celebration Arts, Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento Ballet, Images Theater Company, Sacramento Theatre Company, Capital Stage, NorCal School of the Arts, The Sofia, Sierra 2, Mondavi Center, Faith J. McKinnie Gallery, Harris Center and more.


The city of Sacramento has launched six new curbside high-powered chargers for electric vehicles at 14th and E streets, and 22nd and J streets. The charging stations are a partnership between the city and EVgo, an electric vehicle charging station operator.

“As we move toward a more sustainable future and shift away from fossil fuels as a city, we must remain focused on ensuring everyone has access to new technologies,” City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela says.

Depending on the vehicle, customers can expect to charge their cars up to 80% in 45 minutes to an hour. Each charging station serves all EV models and both locations will be equipped with integrated Tesla connectors.

“These community charging stations will make it easier for people who cannot access charging at home to choose electric vehicles, including folks like me who live in a multifamily building,” Valenzuela added.

The charging stations also feature vinyl art wraps produced by local artists Melissa Uroff and Yoly Petra Stoeve. For more information, visit cityofsacramento.org/public-works/electric-vehicle-initiatives/curbside-charging or call (916) 808-1859.


The Sacramento Public Library is hosting weekly in-person Outdoor Family Storytime events at parks throughout the region. The live 30-minute program includes songs, rhymes and stories designed for infants to children age 6. Siblings and caregivers are also welcome.

“Storytimes are a fun way for the entire family to encourage early learning and help build the foundation for pre-reading skills,” says the library’s Early Learning and Development Manager Donna Zick.

Outdoor Family Storytimes are scheduled at Brock Park, Carmichael Park, Elk Grove Regional Park, Howe Community Park, Kunsting Family Park, Robla Community Park and Woody Hampton Park.

Weekly events will also take place in the green spaces adjacent to local libraries, including Belle Cooledge Library, Colonial Heights Library, Fair Oaks Library, McKinley Library and Rio Linda Library. For more information, visit saclibrary.org/outdoorstorytime.


CLARA recently announced the newest participants in its Catalyst program, a nine-month professional apprenticeship, in partnership with Sacramento City Unified School District. The program helps emerging artists in their late teens define their professional and educational paths by being paired with professional artists.

“There is an energy of determination, support and hope for our future that is palpable amongst the young artists,” says Emili Danz, CLARA’s education outreach director who facilitates monthly group workshops on leadership development and goal setting for the program. “I could not be more honored or excited to work with this cohort of artists.”

Ten high school students have been paired with artist mentors and personal coaches to further develop their artistic skills, explore career paths and work toward showcasing their work.

This year’s student/mentor pairings are Luis Dias, a senior at Luther Burbank High School, with digital artist and cartoonist Kriss Dempsey; Jocelyn Elizarraras, a junior at Met Sacramento High School, with Ana Maria Perales, a company member with Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre; Laila Gaeta, a junior at the Met, with mixed-media artist and photographer Melissa Uroff; Ian Nagel, a junior at the Met, with Lauren Wolf, an artist and scenic painter; Jocelyn Sagastume, a junior at West Campus High School, with cartoonist and graphic novelist Eben Burgoon; Vivian Pahos, a junior at CK McClatchy High School, with Franceska Gamez, a muralist and sculptor; Israel Tellez, a senior at West Campus High School, with Eben Burgoon; Angel White, a senior at KCIA, with visual artist, writer and activist Delgreta Brown; and Emma Archer, Monica Barajas-Zamora and Mone De La Cruz, seniors at CK McClatchy (Archer) and the Met (Barajas-Zamora and De La Cruz), who are forming a musical trio and will work with folk/jazz fusion band Dear Darling.


Women’s Empowerment recently received a $20,000 grant from Arata Brothers Trust to continue its programming to provide job readiness and empowerment skills, child care and support services to women breaking the cycle of homelessness and their children.

Eighty-two percent of Women’s Empowerment graduates secure a job or enroll in school. Despite the housing crisis, 75% regain a safe home for themselves and their children. Now in its 20th year, the organization has graduated 1,719 women and their 3,842 children.

“For the trustees of the Arata Brothers Trust, 2020 and 2021 revealed the most nimble and effective nonprofits in the Sacramento region,” says Matson Sewell, co-trustee of Arata Brothers Trust. “Women’s Empowerment led the way in this landscape, continuing to deliver highly impactful programs to such an under-resourced population, adapting to public health requirements for both mothers and children, and moving forward despite the new challenges.”


The Sacramento Perennial Plant Club’s annual Saul Wiseman Grants are now open for applications from nonprofits, community groups and schools within Sacramento County for projects that promote gardening and horticultural activities with an emphasis on education, service and community enhancement.

The Saul Wiseman Grants focus on activities that provide greater access to healthy soil and open spaces, increase the supply of food for the hungry and create places of beauty in our neighborhoods. Educators are dedicated to making gardening experiences available in schools and public places through hands-on curriculum and job skills training.
Past grant recipients include a butterfly garden at Garden Valley School in Natomas, new compost centers at Midtown Community Gardens with ReSoil Sacramento, a children’s garden pathway at the Elk Grove Community Garden & Learning Center and new raised beds in the vegetable garden at Aldar Academy.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 15, 2022. For more information or to apply, visit sacramentoperennialplantclub.org/grants.


Deer poaching around Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Ancil Hoffman Park has become a serious problem, reports longtime American River Natural History Association member Tim McGinn. Between mid-October and late January, poachers target big bucks for their antlers.

McGinn is working with law enforcement at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to address the problem. A public awareness team has been formed to educate the community on how to help stop poaching.

Poaching takes place during the night hours by individuals using cross-bows and night-vision optics. The public can assist by recognizing suspicious activities day or night. If you see suspicious activity, record vehicle license numbers, write down descriptions of what you saw and take photos with your phone. Do not confront poachers.

Report this information by calling the CalTip line at (888) 334-CALTIP, available 24 hours a day seven days a week, or text 847411.

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

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