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In the News - Friday, FEBRUARY 29, 2008

—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

 

One hurt in explosion
at Montecito-Sequoia


   Tulare County Fire Department units responded Wednesday morning, Feb. 27, to a propane explosion and structure fire at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Giant Sequoia National Monument. The cross-country ski resort, operated by Sequoia-Kings Canyon Park Service Company, is located eight miles southeast of Grant Grove off the Generals Highway.
   The explosion and fire destroyed a two-story building used to house staff on the top floor with restrooms and showers for employees at ground level. Access to the area was difficult due to ice and snow on the roads leading to the popular year-round resort.
   On arrival, firefighters found the collapsed building was totally destroyed. At the time of the explosion, Don Anderson, a maintenance worker, was sleeping in one of the four bedrooms located on the second floor.
   The explosion caused the second floor to collapse onto the lower floor where the showers and bathrooms are located. Anderson awoke and soon realized he was buried in the rubble. A fellow employee heard the explosion and came to the aid of the victim.
   By calling repeatedly to Anderson, the other worker was able to direct Anderson to crawl out of the first floor of the collapsed and burning structure. Anderson was then transported by fellow employees in a private vehicle to Sierra Kings Hospital in Reedley.
   Miraculously, Anderson suffered only cuts and abrasions to his left shoulder. There were no other injuries, and the cause of the explosion and blaze are currently being investigated.

Supervisor Ishida

seeks a second term

 

“It takes 12 years to hit your stride as a supervisor and after that you become a politician.”
   Those prophetic words were how Supervisor Allen Ishida summed up one of his goals to serve three terms after announcing that he was officially seeking a second term. Ishida’s opposition on the June 3 ballot for the non-partisan District 1 seat on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors is Guy Christian, a former CDF employee who now works in the office of the Tulare County District Attorney.
   Ishida, 59, of Lindsay, was elected to his first term in 2004. The incumbent said he is excited about what has been accomplished in the past four years, but there is still a great deal of work to do.

  “I think it takes four years just to build the relationships at the state and federal level to be effective in county government,” Ishida said. “We need the continuity in office to be more successful in our lobbying efforts.”
   Arguably, nobody has worked harder on bringing about change in county government. During Ishida’s first term, a new county fire department was created, federal money was allocated for the eradication of marijuana on county lands, and most services at county offices have been vastly improved.
   But even more important to local voters, Three Rivers, for the first time in the modern era, has a real opportunity for leadership in county government.

  “Three Rivers now has direct input in planning and transportation because there are folks up here who have the background and expertise that we need in countywide decision-making,” Ishida said. “These positions help to build relationships that steer tax dollars locally to promote tourism and partner in economic development.”
   Ishida said on March 5, Resource Management Agency officials will walk the property adjacent to the Three Rivers Post Office to assess the feasibility of a Measure R-funded transit center.

  “The transit center initially could be a shuttle stop for tourists with public facilities like restrooms,” Ishida said.
   Building a transit center, Ishida said, paves the way for some added retail that could centralize key services within walking distance of hotel rooms, banks, post office, markets, and restaurants. The town center then could evolve as a jumping off and connecting point for a Three Rivers destination.

  “Three Rivers has told me that the County should be investing some dollars to promote tourism and the Board is getting the message loud and clear,” Ishida said. “We’re developing some new programs with the local chamber that will help every business in town.”

3R couple targeted

in sweepstakes scam

   Everyone at one time or another has probably envisioned the Publisher’s Clearing House van pulling up to the house. There’s a knock at the door and suddenly one member of the sweepstakes team hands you a check for an astronomical sum and suddenly all your wildest dreams come true.
   Believe it or not, this scenario does happen, but the odds of it happening to you are even more astronomical than the check amount for millions. But what often happens is that lots of folks, just like you, are scammed under the guise of the legitimate sweepstakes.
   The odds are far better that you will receive a bad check than actually be chosen as a winner.
   In fact, that’s what happened recently to Bob and Nell Leyhe of Three Rivers. They received an official-looking check but had the good sense to alert the fraud bureau of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.

  “If it’s just too good to be true, then it’s probably not,” said one investigator. “We’ve had reports of a number of these checks turning up, and if they are cashed the money has to be returned.”
   According to a Publishers Clearing House website, here’s how the fake check scam works. Scam artists, after “phishing” for your address, send you an official looking letter claiming to be from a legitimate sweepstakes.
   The letter illegally uses the name of a well-known company like Publishers Clearing House in attempt to reel in the unsuspecting catch. There’s a very real looking check that in many instances has been cashed by a bank or other check-cashing institution.
   Even though the check is bogus, if it’s deposited, the money may be made available for a short period of time. Federal law allows banks to make the money available quickly, usually within one to five days depending on the type of check.
   But just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is valid. It can take weeks to discover the forgery and that’s what the scammers are counting on. They hope you think the check is real and with a sum of cash in hand, you send them back a “deposit” on the winnings.
   The scam artists explain that the deposit is an advance on millions in winnings and the additional payment covers taxes or a processing fee. Whatever the scammers promise, the results are always the same.
   If you cash the check and send money you will be out twice. You are responsible to pay the bank back plus a bad check fee, and you’re out the amount you sent back to the scammer.
   Keep in mind: A real sweepstakes will never ask you to send money to enter a sweepstakes, claim a prize, or to pay a fee, tax or deposit. There is no legitimate reason to wire or send money back.
   Always use common sense and do not be duped. If you believe you are a victim of a fake check or any other scam, notify the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and then contact the National Fraud Hotline at 1-800-876-7060.

Woodlake doles out gratitude

to annual crop of benefactors

   ON THE NIGHT BEFORE THE ACADEMY AWARDS were held in Hollywood, Woodlake held their own version of the esteemed event and celebrated some of their own for achievements, not in film, but more importantly, in volunteerism and community activism.
   Sponsored this year on Saturday, Feb. 23, by the Kiwanis Club of Woodlake, the 46th annual Woodlake Awards Banquet recognized eight individuals with a presentation and beautiful student-made plaques preceded by a Mexican dinner prepared by club members. In attendance were more than a hundred Woodlake residents, a scattering of Three Rivers residents, and several dignitaries.
   Bill Maze, California assemblyman (R-Visalia), and his wife, Becky Maze, who is on the June ballot as a Republican candidate running for her husband’s termed-out seat in the 34th Assembly District, mingled with the crowd during the social hour.
   Connie Conway, 2008 chairman of the Board of Supervisors and rival Republican candidate for the 34th Assembly District, presented proclamations from the Tulare County supervisors during the awards presentation. The honorees also each received a certificate from Congressman Devin Nunes (R-21st District) and acknowledgment from John Zapalac, Woodlake’s chief of police.

  Here are 2007's honorees:

GREGORIO
GONZALEZ JR.
Man of the Year

   Greg has lived in Woodlake almost his entire life and is a graduate of Woodlake High School, College of the Sequoias, and Fresno State. He and his wife, Linda, have three young children.
   Greg is working toward a Master’s degree in Social Work while working at the Woodlake Family Resource Center.
   He volunteers on behalf of his community in many ways, most recently as an advocate for Measure C, the recently passed Woodlake High School bond measure that will upgrade arts, athletic, and academic facilities on the campus. He assists in the coordination of the Toys for Joy drive each Christmas, is on the board of directors at the Woodlake Food Pantry, is a former president of the Kiwanis of Woodlake, coaches youth sports, and is a former Salvation Army board member.


TORI JOHNSON
Woman of the Year

   Tori and her husband of 15 years, Jeff, moved from Southern California to raise their two sons in a small town. For the past seven years, Tori has worked at Castle Rock Elementary School in Woodlake and is the head varsity volleyball coach at Woodlake High School and Woodlake Club Volleyball coach. Tori is the coordinator of the Woodlake chapter of Friday Night Live, a program that begins in middle school to educate students about the risks of drinking, smoking, and drugs. She assists each Christmas with Woodlake Toys for Joy, organizes the Bike Rodeo during Woodlake’s Western Week, is a Sunday school teacher, organizes fundraisers for various groups and sports programs, and never says no when she hears of a family in need in the community.


ROBERT GRÖEBER
JACKIE HARRIS-GRÖEBER
Spirit of Woodlake

   Although Robert and Jackie live in Three Rivers, they have devoted much time and energy for the betterment of Woodlake High School and its students and programs. Their two children have graduated WHS and gone on to college in the past few years, but the couple’s involvement at the school continues.
   Jackie was raised in Three Rivers and graduated from Woodlake High School and the College of the Sequoias before leaving to continue her education. She and Robert met while attending the University of Redlands and returned to Three Rivers in 1991. Robert was a tireless advocate and instrumental in the passage of Measure C, Woodlake High’s bond measure on the February ballot, organizing and participating in the many informational presentations held.
   Their children were involved in several sports as well as Choir, Band, Art, and Theatre Arts, and the couple has been involved as boosters in every program. Robert has worked on the “chain gang” for home football games since moving to Three Rivers and is a former treasurer of the WHS Football Boosters.
   The couple has led 15 college study trips, taking prospective college students from the high school to visit various colleges, as well as participated in the annual Senior Exit Interviews. Three years ago, Jackie and Robert were instrumental in organizing a local Club Volleyball team, a program that has nearly quadrupled in size since that first year and is open to athletes from Three Rivers and Woodlake.
   For more than 10 years, Jackie has taught music and singing to junior high students at Three Rivers School. She is also the longtime music director at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers and was PTA president at TRUS in 1996-1997. Jackie and Robert have also participated in the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour Relay for Life and assisted in the building of a home for Habitat for Humanity.

JUDI VACCARO
Lifetime Achievement

   Judi was raised in Visalia and has been married to her high school sweetheart, Brian (former Woodlake Public Schools principal/superintendent), for 47 years. The couple has four grown sons.
   Judi retired in 2005 after teaching for the Cutler-Orosi Unified School District for an astounding 42 years. In addition to all the services she provided above and beyond the call of duty for that school district, Judi has also found time to serve her hometown of Woodlake in various capacities, including as a longtime member and Sunday school teacher at Woodlake Presbyterian Church, a former 4H leader, an advisor at the middle school and high school, and as an organizer of the annual Mexico Mission Outreach and Western Week fundraisers.

DAVID SINGH
Owner of
SUBSTATION
Business of the Year

   Civic pride is very important to David Singh and his wife, Harvinder. The couple moved to Woodlake 15 years ago and purchased the Substation on the northeast corner of Valencia and Naranjo, Woodlake’s main intersection.
   The Substation has undergone a complete renovation in the past year. Further upgrading the community’s image, the Singhs recently purchased the Quik Shop on the southwest corner of the intersection and are currently remodeling that business as well.
   In addition, the couple enjoys providing financial support to various programs that benefit the youth of Woodlake.
   The Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce sponsors this award each year. Chamber president Lino Moran presented the award to the honoree.

ZAKARIA ALSUMARI
KARLA THOMPSON
Youths of the Year

   These two Woodlake High School seniors were recognized for, among other things, their positive attitudes and willingness to serve.
   ZAK— Fresh off his win has Homecoming King 2008 and now being named the Kiwanis Club’s Youth of the Year, it’s obvious that Zak’s accomplishments are being recognized by both his peers and community members.
   Zak, who has lived in Woodlake his entire life, has participated in FFA, as well as at the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, training a golden retriever to learn the skills necessary to help a disabled person. He works at the Pizza Factory in Woodlake while also finding time the past four years to volunteer with the Woodlake Police Explorers. Zak plans on attending COS in Visalia in the fall.
   KARLA— If Karla had accumulated any more community-service hours, she probably wouldn’t have had time to attend high school. All WHS students are required to complete 85 hours prior to graduation; Karla has more than three times that.
   Karla plans to pursue a career in art. A mural by Karla can be seen at the Visalia Oaks ballpark. She also assists as a counselor at Camp Zap, a program for disadvantaged youth sponsored by Woodlake’s chief of police John Zapalac and held at his Lemon Cove ranch. Karla has shared her artistic talents when needed, painting the Soapbox Derby ramp used during Woodlake’s Western Week or creating sets for WHS Theatre Arts. After graduation, Karla will attend COS.

The poppies are popping

   It’s currently an eye-popping sight when navigating Highway 198 around Lake Kaweah. It’s the year of the California golden poppies as the moisture and warming weather have combined to create a blanketing of the state’s official flower on the foothills surrounding the lake.
   The poppies are the most spectacular wildflower now blooming, no doubt, but they are sharing the slopes with bush lupine, fiddleneck, popcornflower, brodiaea, and more, and when combined with the verdant hillsides and blue sky, provide a spectacular palette of color.

County library needs a logo

   The Tulare County Library has agreed to a logo change and is inviting the public to submit designs. Logo designs may be submitted from March 1 to April 19.
   Entries will be judged during the week of April 20 to 26. The person submitting the winning entry will receive $500.
   All entries must be two-dimensional. There is no size restriction, but the logo should represent the Tulare County Library’s 15 branches.
   The contest is open to all Tulare County residents except for library employees and their family members.
Mail or bring entries to the Tulare County Library, c/o Carrie Beeby, 200 W. Oak Ave., Visalia, CA 93291.
   Information: 733-6954.

OBITUARY
Maureen Parker
1969 ~ 2008

   Maureen F. Parker lost her battle with cancer on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008. She died at her Three Rivers home with her family by her side. The mother of three was 38.
   A graveside service will be held tomorrow (Saturday, March 1) at 11 a.m. at the Three Rivers Cemetery.
   Maureen was born Aug. 27, 1969, in Hollywood to James and Ruth Ann Feeley. She was raised and educated in Southern California.
   On Oct. 18, 1991, Maureen married Dan Parker in Las Vegas. They have resided in Three Rivers since August 2002. Maureen was a local Avon representative.
   In addition to her husband of 16 years, Dan, Maureen is survived by their children, Jacob, 15, Shelby, 7, and Mitchell, 5; and her sister, Inger Scholkops of Connecticut.
   In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Parker children’s educational fund at the Bank of the Sierra in Three Rivers.
   Condolences may be made online at:

     www.smithfamilychapel.com

 
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