Accessibility mode is enabled

Skip to Top / Tab to View Menu Options
Skip to Left Navigation / Tab to View Content


Blog about City of Sacramento Volunteer Program, People, Events and More


free tax preparation - vita

americorps nccc team blue 7

AmeriCorps NCCC 7 Group Photo 



By Morgan Greenwade, Emma Murphy, and Rachel Mattica

AmeriCorps NCCC Team Blue 7

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team Blue 7, which is comprised of ten young adults, aged 18-24, from across the United States, is working with the 211 Sacramento call center to schedule tax preparation appointments, along with United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, to then prepare and transmit those tax returns to the IRS. The team is supporting City of Sacramento free tax preparation sites at South Natomas Community Center, Sam and Bonnie Pannell Community Center as well as the Oak Park Community Center.

When people hear “taxes,” they groan, roll their eyes, or itch with anxiety. The concept is scary and confusing, and often alludes to hefty service fees. But taxes shouldn’t feel that way, and with VITA’s help, they don’t. 

Our team never thought we’d talk about tax law this much, or more surprisingly, that we’d enjoy it. However, when we met Debi, Dianna, and Mieko from United Way, who talked about taxes with such enthusiasm, we quickly began to share their passion for it. 

We started our project round with about two weeks of training: both at United Way, and then the 211 Sacramento call center. The training was intense, but we got through it, all of us achieving advanced tax prep certification. 

After training, we spent the next two weeks working in the call center, taking all of the tax related calls. The first couple of days were especially hectic, as the call queue reached over 600 calls at any given moment. The large influx of calls during the tax season makes the full-time employees rather frustrated, because while tax calls are relatively quick and easy, there are other calls in the queue from people who need someone’s attention more immediately, whether they’re struggling with homelessness, trying to receive CalFresh benefits, or any number of other pressing issues. We find immense satisfaction in relieving the burden of tax calls from the employees’ already high-stress job.

AmeriCorps NCCC Blue 7 at Fairytale Town 

At the end of the two weeks, we finally got to prepare some tax returns. Our first taste of tax prep was at a Super Saturday event held at Grant Union High School. The volunteers we met there were especially experienced and exceptionally warm and welcoming. They filled us with bagels and coffee, and then our team was pushed onto the battlefield. We were scared out of our minds. Taking the test was one thing but going out and actually filing a return seemed like a whole different kettle of fish. Thankfully, the site supervisor figured as much, and we got to shadow some experienced volunteers before doing our own. By the end of the day, each of us had filed our first return, and we left the site with a strong sense of accomplishment. 

 As of now, we’ve been preparing and filing tax returns for three weeks. These three weeks have passed in the blink of an eye. We went from being complete novices to becoming near experts. In total, our team has called over 3000 people, filed over 700 returns, and helped to refund over 1.5 million dollars. 

Our team also looks forward to beginning work at the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery - we got a preview of what our time there will be like when we had the opportunity to spend one morning weeding and fertilizing the cemetery’s rose gardens. Having one day each week where we get to spend time doing more physical labor in an outdoor environment will be a nice break from the call center and the tax preparation, and it will make a large impact for the volunteers regularly tasked with the beautification of the cemetery grounds.

Overall, our team will be able to see a direct impact made on the people of Sacramento and the surrounding areas. It has been so fulfilling for us to see people through the entire process, from scheduling their tax appointments at the 211 Sacramento call center to filing and transmitting their tax returns at VITA tax sites. Sure, there are some challenges for each of us along the way, but being able to look into the eyes of a taxpayer and tell him you’ve just helped him save thousands of dollars on his tax return without charging him a dime for your service is so rewarding and makes you forget any difficulties you experienced earlier in the day. The skills we have learned on this project will help us in our life after AmeriCorps in many different ways - from using the social skills we have learned at our time in the call center to helping ourselves and those around us make more informed tax decisions.

Editor's Note: In addition to supporting the City's Free Tax Preparation Program - VITA - the team helped to coordinate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Ninos Community Garden, helped with beautification efforts at Fairytale Town and supported environmental stewardship at the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery.

For more information about the City of Sacramento's free tax program, visit:

For more information about AmeriCorps NCCC visit:  


AmeriCorps NCCC Green 5

Collaborating for Community Change

AmeriCorps NCCC Team Green 5 Group Photo 


By Jake Conner and Abraham Guel

AmeriCorps NCCC, Green 5

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team, Green 5, is spending its first round of service partnering with the City of Sacramento, Lutheran Social Services (LSS), and the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) from November 4th through December 20th. Team Green 5 is comprised of eleven young adults, aged 18-23, coming from across the United States and its territories to partner with communities along the Pacific coast for ten months.

LSS, SFBFS, and the City of Sacramento have all developed programs and strategies with the goal of enhancing the community's quality of life and partnering with its constituents to create a safe, self-sustaining environment for generations to come. Each of the organizations use individualized approaches to help bring the community’s vision to fruition. LSS offers families and individuals a variety of services ranging from transitional and permanent housing to case management to help individuals become independent. SFBFS is committed to ending hunger and food insecurity and strives towards that goal by assisting over 150,000 men, women, and children every month. And the City of Sacramento seeks to preserve and build up its historic sites and community parks to create safe and welcoming conditions to its residents and visitors. Green 5’s mission is to assist these organizations in a variety of ways.

While partnering with LSS, Green 5 has been developing educational workshops to present to their clients on topics such as life skills, professional development, health and nutrition, personal development, and creative expression. The goal of these workshops is to assist clients in their goal of becoming self-sufficient, and also to offer a space that allows them to be themselves through structured, group-based activities focused on self-expression.

SFBFS, Green 5, and numerous community volunteers partnered together to run the annual Turkey Drive. The drive is an event hosted by SFBFS every year, with the goal of collecting turkeys, and other various non-perishable foods, so that every family in Sacramento can have a traditional Thanksgiving meal together. The 2019 drive broke the previous years’ record by raising over 17,000 turkeys, all donated by members of the community. SFBFS also holds an annual Run to Feed the Hungry, a 5 and 10k race with the objective of not only raising money to help fight hunger, but also to raise awareness of the fact that Sacramento has one of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity. Green 5 helped runners register for the race, as well as helped with parking, race management, and setup/cleanup on race day.

 AmeriCorps Team Green 5 Corps Member Working at Sacramento Historic City Cemetery

Green 5 has not only been assisting the people of Sacramento, but also its land. In conjunction with the city’s Department of Youth, Parks and Community Enrichment, Green 5 has worked on beautification projects across the city. While working in the City’s Historic Cemetery, the team was able to lay down over 14,000lbs of mulch on various plots, as well as rake numerous acres in the cemetery to help create a safe and welcoming environment. Green 5 has also worked with various community gardens around the city helping weed and compost alongside numerous individual and team volunteers.

When reflecting on the team’s partnerships with the three organizations, Green 5 Team Leader, Jordanlee Parra had this to say, “Green 5 has begun to seed its roots into Sacramento by unraveling the invisible, underlying community prevalent within it. The City of Sacramento touched on the everlasting beautification projects across various parks - the goodness; LSS explored the gaps within the complex systems aimed at reducing homelessness - the truth; SFBFS revealed the roaring city pride the community shares in helping one another - the unity. Through interactions with our three sponsors, Green 5 aimed to accomplish one goal -  to get things done”. Jordanlee’s words reflect AmeriCorps values and goals. They strive to assist communities with hard work and efficiency by listening to the needs of the people and following their lead. AmeriCorps members would not be able to “get things done” without the leadership of organizations like LSS, SFBFS, and the City of Sacramento staff, who work tirelessly, year-round to serve the great people of Sacramento.

For more information about AmeriCorps NCCC visit:






The Wider Spirit of Volunteering

 Photo of child and word 'ubuntu'


By Dave Wylie

Volunteer Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The word ‘volunteer’ is open to interpretation and can be applied to many human activities.  One could volunteer to fight in a war, or assist in a disaster or do what I do which is to offer my meagre talents to an ‘official’ agency of volunteering such as Volunteer Edinburgh where I help staff the Phoneline to find activities and assistance for the elderly and others.

It used to be the case in this country back in Victorian times and beyond that volunteers were local worthies motivated toward assisting the poor and disadvantaged in society through charities and religious organisations. These organisations still exist with such as The Women’s Institute.

We live in a different world and these days people from all backgrounds take part in volunteering whether this be ‘formal’ through agencies like VE, or ‘informal’ as in offering your help to a neighbour in need or helping with a local activity.

The word ‘volunteer’ goes through the Middle French ‘voluntaire’ and has its root in the Latin ‘voluntarium’ which simply means ‘willing’.  So far, so mundane, you may think, but there are and have been cultures and communities in the world who know no such word or perhaps have different words to denote what we know as the concept of ‘volunteering’.

In Maori culture for example; “Mahi Ahora is defined as work performed out of love, sympathy and caring, rather than for financial or personal reward.  The feeling that each person in the community has a duty of care, and that it is not an obligation”

This philosophy it would appear is borne out of a notion of pure altruism though I wonder if such a thing truly exists.  It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man (sic) can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

It is perhaps a basic human instinct to want to help others but at the same time we are gaining some reward whether this be an emotional satisfaction or having learned something ourselves through the process.


Ayani People of Peru

The notion of ‘Ayni’ shared among the indigenous, Highland population of the Quechua in Peru is about ‘reciprocity’ and ‘balance’ not just between people but shared with nature itself.  Giving and helping others in need creates ‘harmony’ but it is not completely altruistic, there is a ‘mutualism’ involved.  I may need assistance today, but tomorrow it could be you.  This brings to mind the community in St Kilda off the coast of Scotland who survived for many centuries due to this idea of ‘reciprocity’.  A hard, rugged lifestyle bred this necessity for a communal way of living.  And perhaps it is within such communities where life is hard-pressed and urgent that we will find such reciprocal philosophies and practices.

Gotong- royong in Javanese culture sets more primacy in voluntary contribution to the common good than it does on material wealth.  Bayanihan in Philippine culture reflects the spirit of community and mutual aid.  This is seen in practice by literally helping families move house by lifting the entire structure with the aid of bamboo poles and re-locating it as desired.

Closer to home in Ireland there exists the word Meitheal which means ‘work team’.  This is a neighbourly philosophy which derives from rural life and the urgent need to harvest crops.  In poor times, maybe a wife had lost her husband, the farming community would come together to help.  In more modern times, the concept can be used to include help with decorating a house or just any excuse to get together and share.  In this way friendships grow and groups form and these groups may take the idea further and offer help to local community groups or elderly folk.  Communality breeds communality.

Ubuntu among the Nguni Buntu people of Southern Africa has been influential on a national scale as a human ethic and has been seen as key to the formulation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which aimed to provide a peaceful transition from Apartheid to the current system of government. It can simply be translated as ‘humanity towards others’ which is also applied at a more local, community level. I can also be translated as ‘I am because we are’.  Again, this ‘socialisation’ and primacy of community over the individualism is central to agrarian peoples needful of assistance perhaps at harvest time.  Compare this with the more urban and individualistic ‘there is no such thing as society’ as espoused by a British Conservative government in the 1980s which promoted entrepreneurship and a move away from the collective philosophy of previous governments.

The Malagasy culture of Madagascar have a word Fihavanana which is a world-view that can be summed up with the phrase ‘the relationship is more important than the money’.  It is also similar to the popular American phrase ‘pay it forward’ as in a good deed is rewarded.  This is a stark contrast to another saying ‘a good deed never goes unpunished’ which has a far more negative connotation.

The Finnish word talkoot indicates a community coming together to undertake a task whether this be helping repair a neighbours damaged roof or helping with removal.  Similar to Meitheal this can easily just be a worthy excuse to socialise and bond.  A similar concept may be found in rural parts of the USA particularly among Amish communities which have long practised Barn Raising.  The assembling of barns requires a lot of labour so the wider community gets involved in helping with this very necessary task.

In researching this area of human activity it has been heartening to realise the extent of good intentions in the world.  People, it seems, have an instinct and desire to give of themselves freely when left to do so of their own volition.  Perhaps this instinct is stronger in times of tragedy and dire need but it also shows itself as part of ordinary community life and friendship.

As Ubuntu insists ‘a person is a person through other people’ or as John Donne had it ‘No man is an island entire of itself’.  To volunteer is to promote human warmth and kinship and the reward is to both sides of the human equation.





Volunteers are the Heart of Front Street



By Gina Knepp

Front Street Animal Shelter

The Front Street Animal Shelter serves the people and pets who reside within the city limits of Sacramento. Known as the “pound” to some, its primary role is providing a haven to animals that are lost or unwanted. The shelter works feverishly to find lost pet owners. Reuniting a lost pet is our number one goal and frankly, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. For those that are unwanted or cannot be returned home, our hope is to give them whatever it is they might need to prepare them for a new home. Many of the animals we help arrive sick or injured. We do our very best to mend them all.

During my time at Front Street, everything has changed. The culture of the organization had to be flipped on its head. So many people enter this line of work because they “love” animals, however it’s truly about both ends of the leash. Everything we do involves community interaction, so infusing a philosophy of excellence in customer service was a critical change. We also began viewing each animal as an individual case. Developing a plan for each animal versus lumping them all together in categories allows for more positive outcomes. Our entire team has one goal in mind, saving lives. With that as the unifying factor, the organization really gelled.

We became heavily involved in the investigation of animal cruelty. Our field officers routinely prepare cases for the District Attorney. Animal abuse is a gateway crime. The link between those who hurt animals and subsequently hurt people is real. We take this responsibility very seriously and devote an inordinate amount of time and resources into working these cases. Community expectation has changed so much in this regard. We do a very good job in this area.

Our medical team grew exponentially during my tenure. We managed to build a new medical unit, expanding our ability to provide a higher level of veterinary care. Frankly, we spare no expense to save a life when possible. Fortunately, our community has embraced the work we do, and our fundraising efforts make this all possible. The general fund is simply inadequate to provide the level of treatment needed in many cases, so we work feverishly to be able to do so.

My journey with Front Street

When I first started working at the shelter, it was supposed to be a three-month assignment. The city was going to outsource the shelter to a local non-profit due to poor performance. Frankly, we were the worst shelter in the region, a place where animals go to die. I quickly realized that with a bit of effort, we could turn that place around. My initial motivator was saving the jobs of the people who worked there. When outsourced, many of them would be unemployed and that just didn’t sit well with me. There were three things that had to change immediately if we were going to be successful: 1) We changed our name and completely rebranded ourselves. The name Front Street is really an alias, but it worked. Quickly, our community adopted this moniker and the rest is history. 2) Volunteers – the relationship staff had with volunteers was challenging. Developing and growing our volunteer base was critical to our future success. We began welcoming people from all aspects of our community, allowing them to help us with nearly every task performed at the shelter. This did not happen instantly but becoming a family of people working together to save lives was transformative for us. Our volunteers are our lifeblood. They sustain us when we don’t think we can take one more step. 3) We developed a great relationship with the local media. This is perhaps one of the most important things we did. Telling our stories, sharing our hardships, along with our successes resulted in a love affair with Sacramento and beyond. Our local media representatives truly care about us and with regularity feature our work. So often you see organizations that fear the media.  We found that through embracing them and allowing them in, their influence could help us save even more lives.

The rest has been a process for me. Coming from having no background whatsoever in animal welfare, a lot of this journey was incredibly hard. My time at Front Street was not free from error, on the contrary. Much of what I did was experimental and somewhat risky, but it worked!

There are so many things about Front Street of which I am incredibly proud. If I had to identify the biggest success, I would say it was transforming the culture of the organization. We are truly a family that cares for one another. Staff and volunteers working together with a common goal, often overcoming  incredible obstacles, we somehow managed to create a place of joy and love.

The most tangible success was the construction of the medical building. Cobbling enough money together to make that happen was challenging. Even more difficult was raising enough money to purchase the surgical equipment. Everything in that building (except the computers and phones) was made possible by the generosity of our community. We do rely heavily on donations, but because our community believes in us, we are able to perform medical miracles every day. It didn’t always used to be that way.

Front Street Volunteers

I always say, volunteers allow us to open our doors every day. Without volunteers, we are nothing. We allow our volunteers the opportunity to perform nearly every single task at the shelter. Offering the ability for people to grow, learn and be part of something bigger makes our volunteer program so very special. Volunteers allow us  to be able to do so much more than would otherwise be possible. For example, we have approximately 150 offsite events annually. None of those community-based programs would occur without them. We have an adoption center at the Petco Arden store. We have the highest adoption numbers in the country out of our store, without volunteers, we would not have achieved that level of success. Volunteers are some of our biggest donors. In addition to giving of their time, they also give monetarily. Perhaps the most valuable gift we get from volunteers is emotional support. Animal welfare is a very emotional business, with high rates of compassion fatigue. Our volunteers hold us up, literally, when we feel we can’t take one more step. There can be lots of critics in this industry, particularly on social media. Our volunteers are the first to speak out in our defense, they truly sustain us in so many beautiful ways.

Recruiting volunteers has been easy. When you do good work and you provide a friendly environment with lots of opportunity, volunteers will flock to you. Most people who are drawn to working with animals have an abundance of love in their hearts. We have tons of long-term volunteers, one gal, Bev, has been with us for at least 15 years I believe. We have over 2000 registered volunteers, but I would say that 400 of those are regulars and visit the shelter multiple times a week. We have a very devoted crew; we’d be nothing without them. We also recognize that volunteerism can be somewhat transient. Not everyone can devote the amount of time some of our volunteers give, but that is okay, every little bit of support is appreciated. We also love to host corporate groups who are only seeking a one-day experience. We often garner a few that keep coming back or subsequently become donors.

The opportunities for volunteers are endless at Front Street. We have something for everyone and welcome people of all ages and walks of life. Our youngest is 12 years old and the oldest is pushing 90! Some volunteers prefer to help with general husbandry, cleaning, feeding, laundry, dishes, etc. Others prefer to support us doing clerical work, greeting the public and special projects. Some volunteers foster animals for us to get them out of the shelter, which is good for the animal and certainly good for us, as this ensures we have ample space for the new animals which arrive daily. There are even volunteers that help us, but never set foot on the property. We have a spay and neuter program, which is completely volunteer managed. Essentially, it’s a schedule hotline but it’s work that can be done from home. We have many community events that require many volunteers for support. Anyone that enjoys marching in parades, visiting local business, pouring beer at our beer gardens would really like the opportunities we offer. We have a program called the SMART team, Sacramento Missing Animal Response Team. These folks post every lost pet on Next Door daily in the hope of finding lost pet owners. They also host microchipping events in the community, with the goal of ensuring every pet has identification. This is only a small sampling of what our volunteers do for us.

Volunteers get back as much as they give. The biggest reward of volunteering in my opinion is a sense of belonging, being part of something bigger and impacting the lives of so many animals in need. Over the years, I have watched close personal relationships develop between volunteers. I personally have made some very dear friends in the process. It’s also an opportunity to learn new skills and job development. There have been many volunteers who go on to work in animal welfare. Dr. Rinaldo, one of our Veterinarians started out as a volunteer. I believe she worked in real estate and after volunteering with us, shifted gears and went to Veterinary school. So, it’s safe to say, volunteering can change the trajectory of your life.

Next Steps
The shelter will always be a big part of my heart. I am so incredibly proud of everyone, staff and volunteers alike. They are amazing people. It is my hope that they continue to find new and creative ways to encourage shelter pet adoption, continue to intensely search for lost pet owners and most of all that we will someday see a brand new 21st Century shelter in our city. Although the Front Street location is quaint, it’s time for Sacramento to get the animal shelter it deserves. I hope that I will have the opportunity to work on that project, I really do believe it will happen! Although I may have retired, I intend on remaining active and relevant in the animal welfare industry. I sit on several boards which will allow me to have a more global influence on sheltering in the United States. Additionally, I have accepted a part-time job with the Found Animals Foundation as their National Shelter Engagement Director, which will allow me to travel across the country teaching and speaking at various animal welfare conferences. Found Animals is known to many as a microchip company, but truly, they are the largest no-cost animal registry. Regardless of what microchip your pet may have; the Found Animals Registry allows a pet owner to register their pet for life with no hidden costs. It’s free and easy, I encourage everyone to do this. With that said, I will be supporting Front Street from the sidelines. If anyone wishes to contact me directly, my email is 




Farm to Fork Festival Recap

Farm to Fork 2019 Volunteers

By:  Jessica Carvajal Castillo

At the end of September Sacramento had the honor of hosting the 7th annual Farm to Fork festival and what a celebration it was!


Although the celebrations begin with the Legends of Wine event on Thursday September 19th,  the street festival was held over three days, beginning the evening of Friday September 27th and culminating on the afternoon of Sunday 29th with the Tower Bridge Dinner. The street festival included live music performances, food truck vendors, wine tastings, live food preparation and more; everything the community has to offer. There were representatives from so many local businesses meaning that there was something on offer for everyone; children were playing basketball at the Kings’ booth, couples were tasting the local wineries’ best and adults and children alike were learning about all the things Sacramento has to offer – a truly family friendly event and free!


The event was wonderful fun and a great success, and a lot of volunteers were involved in making the festival such a triumph. The Legends of Wine, Farm to Fork and Tower Bridge Dinner had numerous dedicated volunteers serving wine, cleaning up trash, making sure people crossed through the festival safely and just lending a helping hand wherever they could.


While at the festival, I had the opportunity to interview a few of the volunteers. I spoke to a group of students from Florin High School, River City High School, and Cosumnes Oaks High School. They enjoyed their time - Fatima from Florin High School commented that ‘Volunteering is fun’. Volunteering is a great way to build your skills both in the workplace and socially and what better place to do that than at such a jovial event. Fatima added that she was volunteering because of her ‘high school’s Key Club’. Julian Guevara and Arianna Maxwell from Cosumnes Oaks were also volunteering because of a school club: National Honors Society. They found out about the event from their high school.


The City of Sacramento Volunteer program has many ways to inform you of upcoming events which need volunteers. You can follow us on Twitter (@sacvolunteers), Facebook (@sacvolunteers), and Instagram (@cityofsacvolunteers), as well as check the website. For future events you can also sign up to our monthly newsletter. 


Finally, once again, a big thank you to all of the volunteers and to everyone for making the Farm to Fork festival possible. These events are enjoyed by so many and they wouldn’t be possible without you.


To find out about next year's Farm to Fork Festival visit:





13th Annual Sacramento Hotel Association

Community Service Day

Group Photo 


By:  Jessica Carvajal Castillo

and Hannah Cooke


This September saw the 13th annual Sacramento Hotel Association Community Service Day, where we had the honor of the Sacramento Hotel Association assisting organizations within the community. This included revamping local libraries, painting and gardening at local schools, parks and community centers, as well as donating school supplies to the Meadowview neighborhood. Teresa Stephenson, executive director of the Sacramento Hotel Association, said: ‘Our volunteers look forward to this annual community service event and enjoy assisting our partner organizations’. And this enthusiasm was certainly present with employees and family members from 17 local hotels attending, and over 240 volunteers helping during the day. 


The Saturday morning started off bright and early at the Sam and Bonnie Pannell Community center at 7am where volunteers gathered for breakfast. From here teams were organized and everyone went to their different sites to start the various tasks of the day. Once there, the community organizations and hotel employee volunteers worked to clean up and rebuild the community together.


One of the tasks of the day was filling backpacks with school supplies donated by the hotel employees in order to provide children in the neighborhood with suitable equipment for success in school. Tasks like this allowed people of all ages to get involved and one such volunteer was 7 year old Montse who attended with her family. She enjoyed her first experience of volunteering and understood how valuable it would be for these children to get such support. It was heart-warming to see the families, both parents and children, who donated their time and energy into giving back to the community and helping where they could; people of all ages were coming together in their efforts to support this worthy cause.    


A huge thank you goes out to everyone involved in making the day so successful through their tireless planting, weeding, painting, cleaning and more. ‘On behalf of City Year Sacramento and Fern Bacon Middle School, I wanted to extend a huge thank you,’ Joseph Matty, Impact Manager from Fern Bacon Middle School said. The Hotel Association volunteers from Double Tree made a great impact on campus and were a blast to work with.  I hope that there will be more opportunities for collaboration in the future!’. John Esquivel from Sacramento public Library also wanted to offer his appreciation. The Library Supervisor said ‘A big thank you from the library’, particularly aimed at the Embassy Suites Team whom, he said, ‘had wonderful attitudes, functioned well as a team, and were very professional’, according to him ‘they killed it!’.


Once again, a big thank you to everyone at the Sacramento Hotel Association for all of your donations and the help you brought to our South Sacramento community. To view a photo album of the community service day, click here.


For more information about the Sacramento Hotel Association, please visit:




Youth Volunteering


 Akshaj Mehta reading to children


By Akshaj Mehta


Volunteering is an important part of creating a meaningful bond with our community. And if we start volunteering at a very young age, we learn empathy. Empathy and kindness result in happy individuals with happier communities.

 I started to volunteer with my parents at a very young age (5years.) We were part of various community projects like food drives, blanket drives etc. For the past 5 years my family (my parents and brother) on every Thanksgiving we either volunteer or lead drives for various nonprofits. This has benefited me as an individual as I have gained an insight on the real world and I learned “empathy by being part of these drives and I firmly believe that empathy is an important tool that should be learned at a young age.

 Now, as a reader, you might be wondering “How can a young child volunteer?”

 Well! There are plenty of ways. Small and big!

One can be part of various drives such as book drives for nonprofits such as Reading Partners Sacramento, or Friends of Sacramento Library. Blanket and coat drives for St. Johns shelter, or WEAVE. Food drives for Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services or other food banks. As a young child you can create fliers for the drive you want to be part of and ask for donations from your friends in school or neighbors in the community.

Some other options where an adult will be required to supervise are park cleanups or shelving books in the library.

Usually all districts have community service/volunteer programs for youth. I know personally about the District 1 award winning YAC (Angelique Ashby’s Youth Action Corps) program, which has been engaging community youth in various volunteer opportunities for several years now.

 I strongly believe that everyone has a talent that can be used to help the community to grow and create a more non-judgmental environment. In my case, being an avid reader since a young age connected me to lead and be part of various book drives for nonprofits like Reading Partners Sacramento and Friends of the Library. And as a published author, I donated all proceeds of my books to various children’s charities in Sacramento. This gave me a sense of pride and bonding with my community.

Akshaj Mehta with Award Reduced Size 2

This January, I was invited to a philanthropy breakfast by Ms. Laura Hansen, Compassionate Sacramento Project Lead and Board President of Chill Sacramento.  She stated “Being involved is the only way we create a community where we want to live in. if you think of volunteering as your stewardship then you can build a community of caring where you understand one another”

To end I leave you with my vision of a happier and safer Sacramento community as a 14 year-old to create an “Impact Day” to see young teens and children helping in the community with various projects all catering to their talents or strengths. This is one of my dreams and I hope we all get inspired to get out into the community to volunteer and make this possible.

Akshaj Mehta is the author of Super Mouse, E-Tron, E-Tron2, and The Makeshifts.  For more information visit:






Recognition Given to Parks and Community Enrichment Volunteer Stars


Devin Lavelle Presents Award


By: Montana Greeno


When putting time and energy into a project, there is nothing better than being recognized for everything that has been done. Recognition can not only help individuals feel good about the work they are doing, but they can also help to inspire others to do good in the world. The Parks and Community Enrichment Commission is seeing the hard work being done in the Districts and it is not going unnoticed.

Beginning in September of 2018 the Parks and Community Enrichment Commission, also known as PCEC, held their first ever Volunteer Recognition awards ceremony. PCEC has many duties which include recommending and advising on policies, projects, and programs within the Youth, Parks and Community Enrichment Department, encouraging the community, and so much more. These duties helped create and inspire the awards to become a reality. Ilee Muller, Administrative Analyst – Staff to the Commission, described what the goals/objectives of these awards are:

“One of the Parks and Community Enrichment Commission’s powers and duties is to encourage individuals, businesses and community groups to contribute funds, property, and volunteer services for the development and operation of park and recreation facilities and programs,” she stated. “The Commission has established this program and process to accept and consider nominations for the Parks and Community Enrichment Commission Volunteer Recognition Award as part of its Volunteer Recognition Program. These awards are intended to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses that have made efforts to benefit the community by assisting the City of Sacramento in providing exceptional parks and recreational facilities and programs.”

The nominations are accepted year round and are awarded on a quarterly basis. There are three categories for the awards which include youth, parks, and community enrichment. Some nominees that have been awarded in the past have included the 1st quarter youths: Green Team, Deeunj Stevenson, Hamza Abdul-Wali, Tatiana Payton, Page Yang, River Swanson as well as 2nd quarter parks: Greenhaven Soccer.

The awards have worked to make a big difference within the community and those nominated. Devin Lavelle, District 7 Commission Member, who in the past nominated Pocket Girls Softball as well as Greenhaven Soccer gives us insight into why he chose these nominees.

Both groups are really cornerstones of our community,” he stated. “They go above and beyond providing athletic opportunities for kids and really give back to the parks they call home. They put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time, invest tens of thousands of dollars of their funds into improving the parks and they also actively work to encourage the City to really up its game and match those efforts.”

While there are requirements for who is eligible for the award, it takes some thinking outside of the box to find the right nominees. When trying to find the right group, it is important to know what to look for and what qualities are the most important for a nominee. Devin details what he believes is the most important aspect when choosing a nominee.

“I look for impact, first and foremost. Who are the people and groups that are making a real, tangible difference in our communities?”


Award Winner

The awards themselves are extremely special, showing the volunteers how much they are appreciated. Devin shared what he felt is the best part of the award ceremony.

“Sharing the great work being done in our community and learning (and sometimes being inspired by) the work others are doing around the city,” he stated. “The more inspiring ideas we have and we share, the better we'll all be.”

Each participant gets a certificate which is awarded on an annual recognition night generally held in September. Prizes or gifts may also be received if they were donated by businesses or organizations. These awards can give everyone a warm feeling inside. Devin explained how Pocket Girls Softball and Greenhaven Soccer felt after finding out their hard work was being recognized.

“They were excited to be recognized. They all work so hard to provide great experiences for our kids and to strengthen the community and I think we all appreciate being recognized.”


Parks and Community Enrichment Awardees - Green Team

Being able to give back to the community is something truly special that we all appreciate. If you know a person or organization that you believe has gone above and beyond for their community, feel free to nominate them for the award. More information about the awards as well as the form itself can be found at Recognize those who help make a difference today!







McKinley Park Rose Garden:

Our Movie Star Volunteer Opportunity


McKinley Park Rose Garden Volunteer Pruning Roses

By Montana Greeno

When the movie “Lady Bird” premiered it knocked our socks off with all of the well-known and beautiful scenery from Sacramento. One scene that sticks in our minds due to the beautiful blooms was filmed at McKinley Park Rose Garden. Anyone who walks by will instantly be charmed by this amazing and colorful garden. Behind the scenes, though, it takes a lot of love and care to keep these roses in tip top shape, and that’s where our volunteers come in.

McKinley Park Rose Garden, located at the corners of 33rd and H Street, is a 1.5 acre garden with 1,200 roses and 16 perennial beds. The program is overseen and supported by the non-profit Friends of East Sacramento. With all the roses, there is a lot that needs attending to, and this program gets the job done. When asked about the volunteer opportunities, Lyn Pitts, Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, explains that there are many options.

“We have a few different categories of volunteers. Our regular volunteers have gone through a one hour training orientation from me and can come volunteer on their own schedules, even if I'm not there.” She said. “Depending on the time of year, they could deadhead roses, or prune roses, pull weeds, pick up fallen camellia blossoms (this chore lasts for 3 months over the winter), help me plant flowers and create new flowerbeds, dig up plants, help me pick up trash, help me with large volunteer events by being a greeter or trainer, do some hand watering or just about anything I can think of that needs to be done. Volunteers who participate in volunteer events open to the public, usually get a quick lesson on deadheading or pruning (again depending on the time of year) and can pull weeds or pick up fallen camellia blossoms.  If I can get a large group, for instance from a church group like Bayside Church, or a big group of high school kids like from the McClatchy High School California Scholarship Federation, we may plant 100 flowers!”

Volunteers play a crucial role by making these flowers healthy and happy. Roses are often thought of as a spring or summer flower, but the program is year round and they love help from anyone that is willing to come out. If you’ve ever been interested but aren’t an experienced gardener, that is no problem! Lyn described who can come out and help.

“Anybody and everybody!” She stated. “We don't have an age limit, I get a lot of high school aged kids, college kids, and younger kids who come volunteer with their parents!  I've had volunteers 5 years old and volunteers in their eighties! Because we have paved areas next to some of the rose beds, even volunteers in wheelchairs have come and participated!  We also work with a couple of businesses in town who have customers who are mentally challenged.  Those volunteers come with their care provider and they get to pull spent rose petals off the roses or pick up fallen camellia blossoms. We have something for everybody to do at the McKinley Rose Garden so they can feel they are valued and included!”

Volunteering not only helps McKinley out; it also helps the volunteers gain new opportunities and perspective. The program is often a team effort creating a lot of leadership and participation moments. Volunteers get to be in the fresh outdoors, feel good about committing their time to an amazing place, and get the chance to build amazing memories with the people they meet. Lyn also gets to make memories with all the incredible volunteers she meets.

“It is always fun having the AmeriCorps volunteers come and work at the McKinley Rose Garden.” She explained. “They once helped wheelbarrow and spread over 30 yards of compost (from our order of 65 yards) over the garden in a single visit.  They are used to getting down and getting dirty and are great workers!  Also, one time we had a ‘Weeds and Watermelon’ event opportunity for anyone from the public, in the hot heat of the summer! We pulled weeds for three hours and afterwards sat under our canopy eating ice cold watermelon and chatting it up!  One of the volunteers had some great music playing on his cell phone too. Our weeding event ended up being a really cool little garden party!  I loved it!  At one of our annual events, the Prune-A-Thon on the first Saturday of January, it was hurricane weather, windy, rainy, cold, miserable and I only had 31 volunteers show up. We were getting drenched and they still pruned the remaining half of the rose garden! Talk about dedicated volunteers!  And Ellie has mentored me from day one, when I didn't even know what a hybrid tea rose was!! It’s really all about the volunteers, without them, there wouldn't be a McKinley Rose Garden.  It's a 1 1/2 acre garden with 1,200 roses, a forest of camellia trees and 16 perennial beds to take care of!  They do it all and I'm lucky enough to get to oversee them all as well as work along beside them.”

Something as simple as a day’s work in McKinley can make the ultimate difference. Without the helpful hands, McKinley would not be nearly up to the beautiful standards we see it at every day. Volunteers are what make everything happen, as Lyn points out her in her statement.


McKinley Park Rose Garden Volunteers


“They (the volunteers) are the backbone of the program, without the volunteers there wouldn't be a Rose Garden! The City of Sacramento pulled their Dept of Parks and Recreation workers out of the Rose Garden in 2008 and half of the 600+ roses died.  In 2012 the nonprofit, Friends of East Sacramento, leased the Rose Garden from the City, completed a renovation and put together a work force of volunteers to do all the work to keep it going. I also started out as a volunteer in 2013, was hired by the nonprofit in 2015 to run the Rose Garden and am currently the Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. I could not do my job without our awesome volunteers! We are also sincerely grateful to the Sacramento City's Department of Parks and Recreation workers who give us assistance with dropping off dumpsters for our volunteer events, emptying our garbage cans daily for the volunteers to fill up again with rose clippings and weeds, and making sure our water systems are working!  They are great partners to us!”

McKinley loves getting new projects as well. The newest changes we are seeing are dedicated to the pollinators and butterflies.

“Something new to the Rose Garden are our just planted Dedicated Native Plant Pollinator Bed, designed and planted by a recent CSUS graduate, Samantha Prado, and a Butterfly Habitat and Sanctuary Bed, designed and planted by Daniel Tran, a college student who won a government grant for his project. We are doing everything we can to bring back the butterflies at the McKinley Rose Garden too!” Lyn stated.

Roses take a lot of time and effort to work with, but the outcome is always worth the wait. If you love being outdoors and want to learn more about McKinley Rose Garden, opportunities in July include the 5th, 7th, 12th, 13th, 19th, and 20th from 9am – 12pm. Once trained, you can make your own schedule and come out whenever you please! Please wear closed toed shoes and hats or visors. If interested or if you need more information, please contact






Angelique Ashby’s Youth Action Corps:

Helping Students and the Community

 Angelique Ashby's Youth Action Corps

By Montana Greeno


With summer just around the corner, many students are filled with excitement and wonder of what is in store for them. Summer gives the promise of sunshine, outdoor play, and lots of free time. This free time can be used many ways and many students in Sacramento choose to use it by volunteering within the community. Volunteering can help the youth network, build resumes, learn responsibility and overall give them a sense of accomplishment.

There are many volunteer programs that welcome youth in Sacramento. One of the biggest and most well-known programs is the Angelique Ashby Youth Action Corps. Established by Councilmember Ashby, Youth Action Corps (or YAC) helps the youth connect with their community and gets them engaged in many different ways. Some of these include park cleanups, financial literacy classes, leadership opportunities, employment preparation workshops and more. 

Andre Favila, who is the District One Parks & Youth Liaison, works with the office of Councilmember Ashby to make sure this program is top notch. Having a program that makes young people feel confident in themselves as well as in their community can make a big difference in their lives. YAC offers a fun environment to get youth connected to others and the city. Andre described how this program has many benefits and how it has helped so many students.

“YAC has helped students become more confident and outgoing, realize that they have potential to effect change in their community, learn the importance of serving, take ownership and pride of their community, standout on college and job applications, gain a sense of purpose, and in all things respect and kindness go a long way.”

YAC has many special events and programs they offer throughout the year. When asked about YAC’s activities, Andre said two stood out.

“Probably our two biggest projects have been our GYSD (Global Youth Service Day) and Earth Week events,” he stated. “We have the community and YAC volunteers out at one of our D1 parks and we mulch, plant flowers/shrubs/trees, pull weeds, trim trees, add sand to the sand box, etc. This is a great opportunity for the community to work side by side with our volunteers as well as meet and work with some of our amazing parks workers. Shout out to all the District 1 Parks workers, they are amazing! We also do events such as the helicopter Easter egg drop, and Creekside fair which have grown every year and are so much fun to be a part of!”

 Angelique Ashby's Youth Action corps

When asked about his favorite part of working with the YAC, Andre gave an answer that really gave a good look into the program itself.

“My favorite part of working with YAC is seeing the youth really enjoying what they are doing,” he said. “On its face YAC is designed to give young people volunteer opportunities but it is so much more than that. When they meet new people, feel good about the work they are contributing to (whether at big or small events), are empowered to lead their community at events; it’s like a spark goes off. The spark is what makes what I do so rewarding and fun!”

With the changing seasons comes some new ideas for the program.

“We have some really great things we are working on,” Andre stated. “We would like to start a program that allows families to participate in volunteering in our parks. The idea is to promote family togetherness, community service, and getting outdoors. We also want to focus on giving youth opportunities to gain skills in social media/marketing and graphic design. The goal is to create an internship that primarily focuses on the branding and marketing of YAC while creating new opportunities for young people to gain new skills or build on skills they already possess.”

 YAC generally works with students in Junior High School through age 25. While this is the case, anyone can reach out to Andre and see if they can help make a difference in the community or with the youth programs. As it is plain to see, YAC has helped the students and the community. This program is a great way to get involved and what better time to do so than over the summer. If interested in the program, orientations are held every month. In June, the orientations will be on the 4th & 13th from 4:00 – 5:00 pm at the North Natomas Library Community Room. For more information, waivers, and other youth opportunities check out If you have questions or need more information contact  Andre Favila at Visit their Instagram page to follow their good work: or @AshbyYAC.


Volunteers Keep Sacramento Parks Green and Beautiful


By Montana Greeno

Take one look around Sacramento and it is no wonder it is called the city of trees.

With thousands of trees and hundreds of tree species, Sacramento is an amazing place to experience the outdoors. The city run parks really make it special by having over 200 parks available to the public. With so many parks needing attention, the Youth, Parks and Community Enrichment department depends on volunteers to help keep the parks green and healthy.

In 2018 the Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment, or YPCE, logged 141,967 volunteer hours showing how passionate the community is about keeping their city beautiful. Everyone from Mayors to councilmembers, city managers, and volunteer groups all proudly came forward to keep the parks healthy and eye-catching for future generations. What else have the volunteers done for the parks over the years? Richard Perez, Program Coordinator for the Parks Division, is delighted by all the volunteer efforts.


Parks Volunteers

“Currently (thru April) Parks OPS volunteers have accumulated over 4000 hours of volunteer time in city parks.  Headlining our volunteer efforts was the annual Creek Week Environmental Clean Up Day where our volunteers worked in tandem with other county-wide community groups and organizations, clearing out non-native invasive plants along the creeks, as well as tons of trash that has accumulated over the winter.” Richard stated. “This year our city Parks OPS volunteers pulled out over 18 trash trailers (measuring tons of garbage) at our city sites alone.   Other typical projects have included:  cleanup of Southside Park pond, various beautification projects performed by a variety of parks groups throughout the city.  Another interesting project involved a local Cub Scout mulching project at Parkway Oaks Park (47 trees mulched).  Also included were various painting projects and tree plantings.”

These efforts not only keep the parks up-to-date now, but they also help to ensure the parks will stay gorgeous for years to come. The amount of labor required simply cannot be done by the Parks Division staff alone and they are always grateful for any volunteers willing to help. No matter how large the effort, parks volunteers are more than happy to dig in and get the job done.



As it is clear to see, volunteers play a huge part in the Parks Division’s upkeep. When asked why volunteers are important to the parks division, Richard was happy to explain.

“Volunteers are an integral part of our city’s commitment to parks stewardship,” he stated. “They provide a much needed boost to the existing parks staff by lending a hand in the care and upkeep of our parks.  I can’t imagine what our parks would be like, without the time and energy investments given by our volunteers.  This is all based on a sustained commitment to our community and parks.” 

No matter the time of the year, the parks always have something that needs to be done. As Richard so thoughtfully put it, “Winter Spring, Summer & Fall seasons are the busy time of year for our volunteer program.  As the old adage goes ‘There is always something to do in the Parks’”.

If you or your group are interested in volunteering for the Parks Division please contact Richard Perez at or call (916) 808-2285.




Tom DiFiore: Service with a Smile

 Tom DeFiore at the Sacramento Zoo


 By Montana Greeno


When walking into the Sacramento Zoo, you are guaranteed to see a warm smiling face greeting you.

Tom DiFiore is one of the smiling faces that is dedicated to making you feel excited to be at the zoo. With a warm welcome and all the information you could possibly desire, Tom is a passionate volunteer who loves making a difference with the zoo and with its visitors.

 Tom, who has been volunteering with the zoo for about two years, described what drew him to volunteer.

“My sister and I used to walk past the zoo every day,” he said. “One day my sister suggested that I should volunteer. I love animals and animal conservation, both global conservation and more local.”

If one wishes to volunteer at the zoo they must begin in an entry level position, known as the zoo ambassador. After becoming a zoo ambassador, volunteers then have the option to move up to a level two position such as docents, garden volunteers, and keeper-aide volunteers.

When asked about his favorite part of being a volunteer, Tom had a hard time picking just one aspect.

“Being an ambassador is great because you are the director of first impressions. You are the first person people get to see, we get to be helpful, help raise money for conservation and tell people about the events,” he stated. “I do a lot of other things as well.  I am a docent, work in horticulture, and grounds keeping. All of them have their different perks for instance I get to help with a lot of the shows and programs.”

When discussing the program and volunteering with Tom, it is plain to see through the excitement in his eyes and the joy in his smile that he is extremely passionate about volunteering. When asked about how important volunteering is, Tom was proud to share his answer,

“It’s hugely important!” Tom said. “I have been volunteering since I was 12 with a lot of different organizations, many have been social justice programs. When you volunteer you get to meet the best people and it gives you the best feeling. The zoo is fantastic, they treat their volunteers so well -  like we are all part of one big community. Being out here and making a difference is very important work. It is also such an amazing feeling to be around wild animals and hear their sounds, calls, and noises.” 

The zoo always welcomes new volunteers and Tom’s advice is to be proactive.

“Apply!” Tom said “The process can be big, you need to apply, do an interview before-hand, and then of course there is the tier system of entry level and level two positions. Make sure you go into everyday with a positive, helpful attitude and show how excited you are to be at the zoo.”

If you are interested in making a difference like Tom does volunteering at the Sacramento Zoo, check out their multiple opportunities, including teen programs, here




Sacramento Fire Reserves is the New Guided Pathway to Becoming a Firefighter






By Montana Greeno


When it comes to firefighting, the Sacramento Fire Reserves has changed the game.

This volunteer program, which was originally started in 1953 as the Sacramento Fire Auxiliary for Civil Defense, has an intensive training program, shifts and drills, and they often attend public events. So what is the draw to the program? It is the new guided pathway to becoming a firefighter.

“This is the only guided career pathway into the fire service where you do not have to have any training.” Captain Robert Anthony stated, “We are a 15 unit course through American River College, we have priority seating in the American River College's Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic Class. It is the only part-time fire academy allowing reserves to work and/or go to school. It is part of our career pathway, over the last year the City of Sacramento Fire Department has hired six reserves, West Sacramento Fire Department has hired one reserve, and this current recruit academy has eight reserves in it! This a truly a guided career pathway into the fire service.”

 For many of the volunteers they chose the Reserves to fill a lifelong dream and desire to become a firefighter. When asked why he chose to be in the Fire Reserves Juan Cibrian, who has been with the program about a year and a half stated, “Fire services was an interest of mine growing up. For me it was the perfect match. I grew up in Sacramento and this program really helps me get my foot in the door.”

When asked the same question, Kyle Raggio, who has been in the program for about 7 months stated, “I wanted to be a firefighter since I was little so I have always felt very strongly about this program. I have been able to learn so much and I have been able to connect with the City of Sacramento Fire Department which is great.”

Ryan Hetchison, who has been with the program for a few months, had a slightly different answer.“I came from Cal Fire originally. Being able to be here has helped me keep my fire skills sharp.”

The Reserves does have its challenges. A reserve pulls one shift every six days, if the shift falls on a weekday it is 12 hours, 1900-0700 and on a weekend it is a 24 hour shift 0700-0700. In addition, training drills are held every Wednesday night 1900-2300 and every third Sunday 0800-1700. When asked about the challenges, all three agreed that time commitment was one of the more difficult parts of the program.

“You need to have a lot of commitment to the program, with drills on Wednesdays 7 until 11, Sunday drills there is a lot involved.” Juan said, “There are also events that we attend and those are sometimes mandatory as well.”

“I would also like to add that you need to be in charge of different things the farther along you come in the program.” Kyle stated, “This also means you have an added responsibility on top of the time commitment.”

“It’s all about trying to find balance as well.” Ryan said, “Overall, you need to be able to find a balance between work and the time commitment involved volunteering here. It’s important to always keep in mind what the end goal is and that it will all be worth it in the end.”

Despite the challenges, they all agreed that the benefits outweighed any hardships and that the end result was always going to be worth it. When asked about some of the benefits of being in the Reserves they had some amazing things to say.

“The program has grown a lot and actually mirrors a lot of what is done in the fire academy” Juan said, “It used to be you would only have the choice of the academy, but this gives you very similar training without the cost of going to the academy. With all the resources from the fire programs and also learning EMT work, you get a lot of guidance in the right direction.”

“You get the benefit of networking to all the departments” Ryan stated, “You can have some experience or no experience at all, the Reserves will always help get everyone on the same page and get the training we need.”

“You get your face and your name out there.” Kyle stated, “It also helps you build a great work ethic and gives you the drive you need to succeed in the firefighting world.”

Captain Anthony also has some rewarding aspect to his job.  “The best part of my job is seeing a former reserve walk across the stage to get their badge pinned on, as a full time paid firefighter.”

In addition to the benefits they listed, the Reserves also has the pleasure of going out to different community events to lend a helping hand. This helps the community become more aware of the program and helps build a great relationship between the program and the community. When asked what their favorite event was, they all had a different answer.

“Mine was probably the Pig Bowl.” Ryan stated, “It was awesome to talk to the different departments and see the role they play in the community.”

“I liked the Santa Parade.” Kyle said, “You get to drive the antique fire truck with the water guns and hoses attached to the side. Getting to represent the station is always at the top of my list.”

“I always like doing the crab feeds.” Juan said, “Everyone gets to get together serving the food for a good cause. It makes us feel like one big family and it’s always fun to do!”

With all the benefits of training, networking, events, and gaining the work ethic you need, one of the biggest benefits is the impact they make on our community.

“Our number 1 goal is to serve the community.” Ryan stated,“That is why so many people are drawn to it. It is a very rewarding experience. We also get the benefit of attending all the events and seeing what an impact we make. It makes a difference in our work.”

The application for the Reserve Academy is due by April 30th. If you dream of being a firefighter and are interested in volunteering with the Reserves or want to learn more, please visit http://sacramentofirereserves. org/






CERT Responds to Camp Fire


By Montana Greeno


When emergency calls, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) responds.

The Camp Fire in Paradise hit so hard so fast causing hundreds of animals to be displaced from their homes and leaving some in critical condition. Luckily, there has been a huge amount of help from community, including a big helping hand from CERT.

In November, a CERT Task Force consisting of 28 members was deployed to the Camp Fire for 7 days. The Task Force was comprised of members from Sacramento CERT (Sacramento Fire), Folsom CERT (Folsom Fire), Elk Grove/Galt CERT (Cosumnes Fire), and West Sacramento CERT (West Sacramento Fire). These members worked 18 or more hours each day helping at the Chico Airport Animal Shelter. Robert Ross, Chief of operations at CERT, gave us a look into how they managed these long hours.

“It really was a group effort.” He said “We would need to be up and ready for the shelter morning briefing at 7 am and we often weren’t done for the day until the shelter closed at 9 pm.  Staffing was provided for the shelter 24X7 and animal transport was provided 24X7 as well.  Sometimes that meant working until 11 pm or sometimes even 2 am. We would take shifts and wake the person up if a car ever drove up because then we knew we needed to get ready in any way they needed us.”

The team spent time working in the Annex building and also helped run the 24x7 transport operations which recovered burned or injured animals out of the burn zones and transported them back into the vet offices in Chico and UCD Vet Center in Davis.

When rescuing animals, especially household pets, one thing you wouldn’t expect to see is exotic animals. Ross got to see his fair share of unusual animals.

 “My most exotic recoveries were a ball python in a pillowcase and a bearded dragon.” He said “We all got a kick out of a pygmy goat that was brought down as well.”

CERT members weren’t the only ones to encounter an animal they didn’t expect.

I think my favorite was a CHP officer that stopped us at a checkpoint for ID.  When he heard what we were doing, he says ‘oh, so you are here for the tortoise!’  Our team says ‘no, we are here for 3 chickens and 6 cats...’.  He says ‘no, you don't understand, you -are- here for the tortoise - I've had him for 6 hours and I have no idea what to do with him - you aren't leaving here without him!’” No matter what the animal, CERT was proud to do their part and help the community and animals in need.


When asked how he felt knowing he helped the community in such a large way Ross said, “It’s a really rewarding feeling. We would have some people at the shelter right when we opened looking for their pets every day. We went some days seeing 20-30 people not being reunited. I was lucky enough to witness 3 or 4 pets being reunited with their owners and just to see those few reunions really made it all worth it.”

If you are interested in finding out how CERT does its part when emergencies hit or you'd like to train to become a member, you can check out their website at or for any additional questions about CERT  you can contact Robert Ross at




AmeriCorps NCCC Gold 4 Gets Things Done For Sacramento


AmeriCorps NCCC Group Photo 


By Rebecca Case


AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team, Gold 4, is serving with the City of Sacramento and Lutheran Social Services (LSS) from November 6th until December 19th. Gold 4 consists of eleven young adults from across the United States who will serve together for ten months.


The City of Sacramento’s mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance the quality of life for present and future generations in the community. The city government works to maintain public parks, host events for its residents, and create gardens for community use. LSS of Northern California has served homeless people and emancipating foster youth in Sacramento County for over 50 years. Their mission is to care for, support, and strengthen individuals, families, and communities. LSS operates nine housing programs in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties, providing transitional housing for homeless families, individuals, and youth; permanent supportive housing for disabled individuals, families, and youth emerging from foster care; and case management for individuals and families who are permanently housed.


To help the City of Sacramento achieve their mission, Gold 4 will remove 10 acres of overgrown brush, clean 7 zoo habitats for animals, and trim 100 trees to help beautify parks. In serving with LSS, the team will also assist 200 people experiencing homelessness with the resources they need, paint 5 apartments for youth to move into, and wrap 50 Christmas presents for children.


AmeriCorps NCCC Members painting at Lutheran Social Services


Team leader Yoshi Reyes says of the team’s efforts, “I'm proud of the efforts put in by Gold 4 to beautify parks for the City of Sacramento and help Lutheran Social Services with their continued efforts to end homelessness. We have received positive response from patrons and we all look forward to continuing the beautification of parks around the city, and helping people experiencing homelessness with anything they need.”


In addition to their service with City of Sacramento and LSS, members of Gold 4 also assist in various volunteer opportunities around the area. Other organizations they have worked with include the McKinley Rose Garden and Fairytale Town.


Gold 4 at McKinley Park Garden


AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, residential, national service program in which 2,800 young adults serve nationwide each year. During their 10-month term, Corps Members – all 18 to 24-year-olds – work on teams of eight to twelve on projects that address critical needs. Traditional NCCC members work on a variety of different six to eight week-long projects related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, energy conservation, and urban and rural development. The Pacific Region campus in Sacramento is one of four regional hubs in the nation and serves ten states in the western part of the country. For more information, go to



Volunteer Stars at Oak Park Community CenteR


 Photo of Janice Bailey


By Michael Lingberg


The key to a life of volunteerism is a solid foundation. 

Several volunteers at the Oak Park Community Center in South Sacramento have just that: a strong foundation.

Josephine Atkins, Janice Bailey and Ollie Watson are all important figures in the Oak Park community, and each has a history of being taught from an early age that volunteerism is a civic duty. 

Bailey, who retired in 2007 from the VA hospital, started her volunteer career at 16 years old with the Red Cross. Her father, William, was a constant presence in the community and his efforts rubbed off on his daughter. 

"It's something that was instilled in me," she said. "It excites me to see people smiling. If you help someone else, it helps you get away from your own stuff."

The Oak Park Community Center hosts many events including a children's movie night, September's Sacramento Hotel Association Community Service Day and a monthly food giveaway aimed at needy families. Atkins helps with the food giveaway, which serves 40 people with food donated by local food banks.

As someone with 13 brothers and sisters and two children of her own, Atkins said she can't seem to get away from the caretaker role she's had her whole life. 

"Something within me," she said. "I think it's my purpose."

Atkins is a jack of all trades sort of person. If she sees something that needs to be done, she jumps into action. The drive to volunteer is constantly there, even if the reason why isn't exactly clear. Perhaps it's become part of her routine. 

"It's become habit," she said. "I don't know how; I just do it."

When she retired in 2001 from a career in education, Watson said her older friends at the time informed her that she needed to be taught about how to be a senior citizen. She saw how many programs there were for seniors in the area and opportunities to help others in the community. 

"I was hooked in," she said. 

She started by donating her time, money and effort to senior activities, and that spread to events geared towards academia, health, voter registration, youth workshops. She's also involved with her church, St. Paul's Baptist. Originally from Louisiana and part of a family with six other siblings, Watson and the rest of her brothers and sisters were instilled with this duty by their father, Emile Washington who, like Bailey's father, William, was heavily involved in the local community. 

"It's our passion," Watson said. "It's in our blood."

Bailey said the duty to help others and volunteer falls on everyone because that's what it means to be a citizen of a city.

"It takes a village to help people," she said.

To volunteer with the community center, give the office a call at (916) 808-6151 or email City of Sacramento Volunteer Coordinator Mary Lynn Perry at


Danielle Ferroni - Dedicated to Excellence

 Danielle Ferroni


By Michael Lingberg

As the old saying goes, "fake it 'till you make it."

Visit Sacramento's Danielle Ferroni can say just that because she was selected Volunteer Coordinator of the Year, and Sac Event Crew, the volunteer program she leads, earned the title of Sacramento’s Best Place to Volunteer, by Sacramento Magazine, the third year in a row. 

Five years ago, Ferroni joined Visit Sacramento after the position was created specifically for her. From that point on, she learned by jumping into the deep end of the pool, so to say. 

Her first event was the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. Most of the volunteers were needed in downtown Sacramento, but the check-in booth for volunteers was placed at Sacramento State University instead. It was a decision that leaves her flummoxed to this day. 

"What the heck was I doing," she asked. "That was crazy. I had no idea the magnitude of the event. I've learned a lot since then." 

Has she ever. Ferroni has come all the way from starting with just a desk and a computer by herself to having more than 4,700 volunteers in the system today. At last month's Farm-to-Fork festivities, she had more than 800 volunteers fill in nearly 1,100 shifts. Her program obviously has a solid following. 

"It feels great," she said of the recognition. "It says a lot about the organization for being recognized and of course, our volunteers. We have a great following. When they volunteer with us it's their way of giving back. A lot of people like to see the behind-the-scenes work and they get a front row seat to some of the best events in Sacramento."


Sac Event Crew

Sac Event Crew is now like a runaway train. The sheer amount of volunteers that help with every aspect of event management ensures that it won't fail anytime soon. Volunteers even show up to staff meetings at Visit Sacramento. But throughout all of the energy of this juggernaut, Ferroni is still the constant, the "fearless leader."

"I'm pretty driven, competitive," she said. "My personal goal is to increase the volunteer base to ensure our events are properly covered, but more importantly, I want to make sure that everyone on Sac Event Crew has a memorable and rewarding experience, and I feel fortunate to be part of that."

Though this position can be stressful, requiring 14-hour days during events, lost sleep, endless emails, a clear temperament and crystal clear expectations, Ferroni wouldn't have it any other way. It's the people who keep her going. 

"It's important to acknowledge each and every one, and… if you want to see some of the hardest workers at Sacramento’s biggest events, keep your eye out for those in T-Shirts labeled “volunteer”

To volunteer for Sac Events Crew, contact Ferroni at (916) 808-7781 or



Sacramento Hotel Association’s 12th Annual Community Service Day

The Hospitality Industry Helping in the Community


 Sacramento Hotel Association Volunteers



By Johnny Chao

Sacramento Hotel Association helped local organizations during its 12th annual community service day on Sept. 8, 2018. It was a gathering of more than 250 volunteers from 15 local hotels and 4 vendor partners. After a quick assemble at the Oak Park Community Center, locations were given out and each team left to improve our community.

It was a day of improvements, donations and community pride as teams left places like American Legion High School, Fairytale Town and Ronald McDonald House better than when they arrived. While volunteers were out improving the community, a team stayed back and created greeting cards that were donated to Meals on Wheels and UC Davis Children's Hospital. Volunteers also donated over 549 pounds of nonperishable food items, which were given to the River City Food Bank and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

“The volunteer list kept growing for this annual community service event, so we kept adding partner organizations to assist,” said Teresa Stephenson, Executive Director of the Sacramento Hotel Association. This is the Association's 12th annual community service project - The Hospitality Industry Helping in the Community.



The nonprofit and governmental agencies where the Sacramento Hotel Association’s volunteers served included:

 A photo album on SacVolunteers’ Facebook page captures the action: Sacramento Hotel Association Community Service Day

The Sacramento Hotel Association provides educational, informational, and networking experiences for those engaged in the lodging industry in the Sacramento region and advocates for recognition of the industry as an important segment of the regional economy. For more information about the association, visit:





 Stephanie McCall

Rock Star Volunteer at Front Street Animal Shelter


By Michael Lingberg


What do you get when you place four cats, four dogs, three chickens, various numbers of foster cats and dogs, one man and woman in one home?

“It’s our own little farm in Loomis,” Front Street Animal Shelter volunteer Stephanie McCall said.

McCall, a native of Texas, has become the rock star of the shelter because she has fostered more than 1,000 kittens for it. In 2017 alone, she and her husband, Garrett, cared for 180 kittens, all of which ranged from one week old to eight weeks old.

Since January 2017, she has put in 200 hours of volunteer service to the shelter and “Ringworm Town”, which is the kennel where cats infected with ringworm live. Ringworm Town treats the skin fungus cats have to make them ready for adoption. Since 2016, the kennel has treated approximately 160 cats.

Volunteer Coordinator Janice Wagaman described McCall as a highly dedicated shelter ally.


Stephanie McCall with kittens


Definitely not a glamorous job, but Stephanie is faithful and dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the cats,” Wagaman said. “She is a true asset to our team and we are very grateful to have her volunteer here at Front Street.”

McCall and her husband have lived in the Sacramento area for the past eight years. Her foster story began in 2014 when the two bought their home, where a pregnant and injured cat showed up on their doorstep. She cared for the cat, and thus began her journey.

“It’s definitely something that just happened,” she said.

She started with one litter of cats and enjoyed it so much that at any given time these days, she and Garrett usually have between one to three litters of kittens as guests in their home.

“We’ve pretty much turned my house into an extension of the shelter,” she said. “I’m really lucky that my husband is so supportive; I wouldn’t be able to do anything without him.”

All of the animals already living in the house provide help with fostering. For example, if a kitten has trouble transitioning to canned food, McCall gives it scrambled eggs that come from the family chickens.


Photo of Stephanie McCall with cat



Through this level of service and dedication to the animal shelter, McCall discovered something she is really good at doing. It also saved her because she was diagnosed with depression in 2013.

“Something about being here and helping save lives really helped me,” she said. “If I can do something for the shelter, I will. The only thing that could bring me more joy is becoming a mother.”

This is something McCall was born to do, and she now envisions the day of her retirement. Her mission is to help 90 percent of dogs and cats become spayed and neutered.

“Front Street is trying to make it happen,” she said. “It’s awesome to be a part of it.”

For more information about how to volunteer for the Front Street Animal Shelter, contact Wagaman at (916) 808-8166 or or visit:





City of Sacramento Youth Volunteers Help FairyTales Come True

By Michael Lingberg

The youth of Sacramento are the future. 

So, it only makes sense that two local teenagers are providing plenty of community service to Fairytale Town, a 3.5-acre haven of childhood imagination and joy in Sacramento's William Land Park since it opened in 1959. 

Within these magical confines, Abby Shumacher, 16, and Hadley Nevin, 16, are full-fledged community-service superstars. Combined, the two have logged more than 550 volunteer hours in at least two years of service each, much more than most of their peers will have managed by the time high school ends. 

Shumacher has gotten a taste of many different areas while volunteering, including activity preparation, event preparation, facilitating arts and crafts for young children, working in theater, leading games and telling stories. Sarah Thomas, Education & Program Manager at Fairytale Town, described Shumacher as an "all-around helpful person" who conducts herself with maturity and professionalism. 

And Shumacher’s most important qualities? She's reliable and enthusiastic. 

"Her cheery attitude brightens up everyone's day," Thomas said, "and she is always willing to jump in and help."

Shumacher said she most enjoys seeing the growth in the children. 

"I look forward to summer camp each year," she said. "I love watching the kids grow throughout the week. They start out very shy and by the end of the week they are running around with all the other children." 

Nevin does more behind-the-scenes work, such as painting and theater production, but she does work directly with the public as well. She had the lead role in a production that more than 9,000 Sacramento-area school children saw last year

Thomas said Nevin's artistic talent and listening skills highlight her many great qualities. 

"Hadley has shown that she is a self-starter and approaches her responsibilities with both eagerness and a willingness to learn new things," Thomas said. 

"I enjoy working at Fairytale Town because it's always fun here," Nevin said. "There are many different things to do, such as helping with field trips, making sets for plays or dressing up as a superhero or princess and having a dance party on the Mother Goose Stage. It's a great place to spend my Tuesdays and Thursdays."

Both Nevin and Shumacher visited Fairytale Town as children and were influenced by it. Hopefully their presence has influenced today's children to pay it forward as well. 

Fairytale Town is open every day during the summer from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except on July 4th. Admission is $5 for adults and children aged 12 and under on weekdays, and $6 on weekends.





David Baker - Building healthy Soil for our community gardens



By Michael Lingberg

Some people have a green thumb. David Baker of Green Restaurant Alliance of Sacramento (GRAS), however, has a green thumb on steroids.

Through his work with GRAS, a local non-profit organization, and other programs such as ResoilSac that fall under the GRAS umbrella, Baker is helping California's capitol regenerate its soil, be more sustainable and less wasteful. 

The Sacramento native helps collect approximately 20,000 pounds of food waste from local restaurants per month (Baker estimates they could do twice as much), which goes into community gardens around the city, including the City of Sacramento’s Brooks Truitt Community Garden in Midtown, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Garden in Oak Park, Ninos Community Garden in North Sacramento, and Southside Community Garden.  The kind of food waste Baker and the rest of his helpers look for are biodegradable waste such as eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable leaves, potato scraps, banana peels and other things. 

"Soil is the heart of the food system," Baker said. "We're feeding life into the soil."

“David and his volunteers are a very important component to the City’s Community Gardens program.  During the spring and summer our plants are growing, and we make very little of our own compost.  David’s team brings a lot of good nutrients to keep the soil healthy and rich,” states Bill Maynard, City of Sacramento Community Gardens Coordinator.

So far GRAS has 12 volunteers, five of which pick up the food waste, usually in 35-gallon bins, from participating restaurants and take it to gardens via bicycle and specially designed trailers. The kitchen staff of those restaurants are trained in how to prepare these scraps for pickup, and all of this happens in a 5-mile radius of the capitol building. 

Baker said the ultimate goal of GRAS and ResoilSac is to make the Sacramento community a more livable place where food can be grown for food banks and others who need it. To do that, the soil must be regenerated by introducing more nutrients and putting carbon back into the ground.

The inspiration for this project came after Baker observed similar programs in the Bay Area and other parts of the country. 

"We could make Sacramento the leader in recycling organics back into the landscape," he said. 

Since Baker started in 2014, these programs have diverted an estimated 833,000 pounds of food waste from local landfills (and hope to hit 1 million pounds by the end of this year) which has eliminated more than 230,000 pounds of methane from the atmosphere and added more than 187,000 pounds of compost to local soils. Having worked in restaurants in the past, Baker knew something could be improved especially with food waste. 

"I saw the sustainability of other restaurants and thought, 'why can't we do that?'" he said.

Since Sacramento experiences hot temperatures in the summer, another goal of the programs is to "turn brownscapes into greenscapes." This means designing gardens and landscapes in a way that helps the soil absorb more rainwater and featuring plants that absorb heat instead of reflecting it. 

"Food is priority," Baker said.

For more information about GRAS and ResoilSac visit:   Contact them at  For more information about the City of Sacramento’s Community Gardens visit: or contact Bill Maynard at





Anthony Kirk Built Little Free Library at Truitt Bark Park

By Michael Lingberg


McClatchy High School senior Anthony Kirk had an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone on March 3. 

He got the job done. 

With his construction of a Little Library for the Truitt Bark Park on the corner of Q and 19th Streets, Kirk satisfied one part of becoming an Eagle Scout as well as a requirement in order to graduate from McClatchy. 

"It's a weight off my shoulders," he said.

A Little Library is a small, wooden box which stands in a public place and contains around two shelves stuffed full of books. Passersby are encouraged to take a book and return it later and if possible, replace them with books of their own.  

Though the end product may not seem so formidable, the nine-month road up to the completion certainly was and it was peppered with setbacks, stress and plenty of paperwork. All in all, Kirk estimated that he spent 50 total hours shopping for and gathering materials, sending emails to the city, filling out paperwork and other preparation. He then estimated that it took 113-120 hours of working with other people to build the Little Library. 

With the help of his parents, Kirk first constructed a Little Library in front of his own house as a dress rehearsal of sorts before advancing to the dog park. This project satisfied the high school graduation requirements of 15-20 hours of community service as well as learning a new skill. Then, he gave a 10-15-minute presentation to the rest of the senior class. 

This wasn't even Kirk's original idea; it was Plan B. He originally wanted to construct an outdoor workout station at a park for a local nonprofit organization, but the grant he had his sights set on fell through. With the completion of the Little Library just a few short months before he graduates high school, Kirk is obviously relieved. 

"I feel very happy and satisfied," Kirk said. "Getting Eagle Scout is difficult and not a lot of people can say they did it."

"It's been a long and bumpy road to complete this," he said. "At the end of the day it's like a dream come true but it's just taken me a while to get it done."

Having helped himself, while also providing the City of Sacramento with another source of library books, Kirk can call it a day on helping his community. 

"It's very rewarding," he said. 

After high school, Kirk will enter the fire academy at American River College in his quest to become a fire fighter and EMT. His father, Thomas, worked for CalFire. 





Self-Described gypsy charms at the ethel hart senior center



By Michael Lingberg

If one looks closely inside the Ethel Hart Senior Center, they just may be able to see a gypsy.

Or, one would catch a glimpse of Latifu Munirah, a self-described gypsy, leading the monthly writing courses which focus on personal growth and wellness, as well as Mind-Body Skills for Self-Care and Conscious Aging workshops. She is also a certified life and wellness coach.


Participants spend two hours during these sessions exploring self-expression personal reflection, emotional and mental health, and stress reduction.

Having more than 40 years of experience as a clinical social worker who specialized in child abuse and family violence, it’s safe to say Munirah is qualified to teach about such subjects. Her journey began in Florida and wandered through Georgia, Texas, Washington D.C., Ohio, San Francisco, Jamaica and for three months, Senegal. She spent 12 years in the Peace Corps but since 2004, she has been rooted in Sacramento.

“My wings have been by my side for the most part since then,” she said about her move to Sacramento.

Munirah retired in 2015. During her time in San Francisco she worked with homeless youth and single mothers, and it was during times of great stress when she flourished.

“It was crisis I thrived in,” she said. “I like working in crisis situations and helping people work through it.”

Needless to say, Munirah is an asset for the Hart Senior Center, according to Volunteer and Leisure Enrichment Program Coordinator Alicia Black.

“I was immediately impressed by her organizational skills, kind nature and her strong desire to share her vast knowledge and time at the Hart Center,” Black said. “It was clear early on that her talents would be a great opportunity for us to expand our programming in new and interesting ways.”

According to Black, Munirah’s “professionalism, dedication and sense of humor” have gained her a small following of students who eagerly sign up for the courses she leads.

“I fell in love with the staff,” Munirah said. “They are fantastic people. I fell in love with the participants and all they had to offer. It’s kind of a mutual love affair.”

Having spent a lifetime helping others solve their problems, Munirah has developed a mindset that focuses on celebrating what is going well in one’s life, rather than what isn’t going to plan.

In order to be more optimistic, Munirah encourages people to take the first step even though the staircase cannot be seen. Everything will be alright eventually. Her philosophy for sharing knowledge is one of self-growth.

“If you keep your skills and knowledge inside,” she said, “there’s no space for anything else. I feel like I’m growing and developing as an individual when I volunteer. I feed off the energy of people discovering something new and turning on that light.”





When one career ends, another begins

By Michael Lingberg

Gordon Lau, 60, retired from his IT job at the UC Davis Medical Center in July of 2016. Since then, he has become one of the nearly 4,200 individuals who make up Sac Event Crew



This organization’s dedicated troop of volunteers – led by Volunteer Coordinator Danielle Ferroni – assists at several large-scale events that take place in the city of Sacramento, including the Amgen Tour of California Bike Race, the California State Fair, and the Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall. In 2017, Sac Event Crew logged an impressive 10,000+ hours of volunteer service.

“When volunteering, you get to know people and make friends,” Lau said. “I’m doing stuff that’s fun for me.”

Lau has had the opportunity to participate in and assist with events like the 2017 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness) at Golden 1 Center. He utilized his professional skillset by overseeing the Media/IT Help Desk, all while enjoying a veritable front row seat at one of Sacramento’s coolest events.

Being in the front row isn’t necessarily what motivates Lau, however. A large draw to these types of events is his inquiring mind.

“I have a curiosity in how things work,” he said. “Being a volunteer, you see all of the stuff that goes into setting up the event and taking it down.”
Even when he’s not supporting Ferroni and her crew, Lau continues to donate his time to a variety of causes. He’s been known to volunteer at the hospital as a test patient for medical students, and he assisted KCRA 3 when the news station held a fundraiser during the Santa Rosa wildfires. He’s a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and has trained on Emergency Response Vehicles with the Red Cross. Lau said that part of the reason he volunteers so much is his pride in his community. He and Ferroni promote Sacramento as a great place to volunteer because of the numerous events that occur throughout the year.

If there’s one message to take away from Lau, it’s a relatively simple one: “When people ask if I get bored in retirement, I tell them there are many ways to volunteer to help the community. There’s no excuse to be bored.”

**If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering with Sac Event Crew, please visit their website or contact Danielle Ferroni at with any specific questions.



  City of Sacramento department of human resources interns:  yee xiong and waringa waitiki


By Michael Lingberg

Written policies and procedures serve as internal controls to aid organizations in preventing, detecting, and correcting wrongdoing. Effective policies help minimize waste, fraud, legal liability, and loss of public trust and assets.

As a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional, Sally Ly understands the value of having effective policies and strong policy governance. In her former role as a compliance manager for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), she led the development and implementation of a policy development and management framework for the organization.

In her new role as a program specialist for the Human Resources Department, the majority of her time is dedicated to policy analysis and development. Her current focus is tackling the development of several new policies. However, her long-term goal is to conduct a comprehensive review of existing human resources policies to identify potential gaps and opportunities for improvement.

To get going on the longer-term policy project, she has two volunteer interns who will assist her with the initial review of existing human resources policies.

The interns, Yee Xiong and Waringa Waitiki, will both use a policy analysis matrix developed by Ly to assist with the preliminary analysis. In doing so, they will capture key characteristics such as the intended purpose of the policy, policy scope, stakeholders, roles and responsibilities, explicit directives/mandates, authoritative sources such as laws and regulations, and related documents. The information gathered will assist Ly in diving into the subsequent phases of her policy analysis.

Xiong and Waitiki are the first interns Ly has brought on board since Ly made the switch from CalPERS in October of this year. She saw this as a chance to indulge in one of her passions.

“I’m really excited about it,” Ly said. “I saw it as an opportunity to bring talent on board and develop others. I’m passionate about developing others.”

Waitiki and Xiong are teaming up for what seems like a deep and dense task, one that requires plenty of focus and patience. For Xiong, who is originally from Olivehurst, this is right up his alley as he graduated from Sonoma State in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and researched theoretical frameworks of the physical workplace and their effects on job performance.

Xiong hopes to use his experience to join a Human Resources team in the future. He wants to help maximize the potential of his fellow employees.

“I believe [policy analysis] is an important tool to have and understand when becoming part of a Human Resource[s] team,” he said. “My goal is to maximize positive benefits from all angles and mitigate negative effects to an organization.”

In his spare time, Xiong enjoys a form of outdoor adventure travel called Overlanding, in which the traveller is self-reliant in their trek to remote locations, often enjoying the journey itself.

As for Waitiki, she has a bit more of a winding road behind her. Originally from Kenya, she has spent the past nine years in Sacramento and about 12 years in social services, working with children and adults in the foster system. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is one semester from obtaining her Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of the Pacific.

“Policy analysis requires in-depth study and focus which are essential for my career paths,” she said.

Her future could be many different things, but she enjoys working with foster children because their roads are more difficult than most.

“I would like to work in education policy and advocacy for foster children since their outcomes tend to be negative,” she said. “Improving education outcomes for foster children would greatly improve their overall life outcomes.

Outside of her internship and schooling, Waitiki is in the process of staining a dresser.

So far so good. Ly said Xiong and Waitiki are enjoying the work and the process of learning even more.

“They’re very eager to learn,” she said. “They’re like little sponges soaking up knowledge.”