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Community shows support at Hodges children’s funeral

By Michele Townsend

People say that death is a part of life, but people shouldn’t outlive their children! This is a heart-wrenching statement that far too many people have had to live through. The pain and emptiness that you feel at the loss of a child is so deep and overpowering, that it feels like you, yourself, will die from the pain.
It’s not something that can accurately be described, nor is it something that people want to know. When Kelvin, Julie and Lucas Hodges were taken from this world back in September, the devastation was so tremendous that it paralyzed our city. The pain could be felt everywhere that the story was told. I myself, am struggling just to write about it.
West Sacramento Council Member Quirina Orozco described the loss. “Three glorious lights in our community, had gone out.” The community of West Sacramento came together, and by the next night we were doing anything that we could think of to show our support, and condolences to Mai Sheng Vang (the children’s mother), and her family. The neighbors and community members gathered for a vigil at Southport Elementary. Orozco said “They held candles to the darkness of this city and for a moment, brought the light back”.
On Saturday, Oct. 7, 11-year-old Kelvin, 9-year-old Julie and 7-month-old Lucas Hodges were laid to rest. There was such an outpouring of support that two memorial services were held.
Saturday morning a service was held for close family and friends. The News Ledger is going to honor the requests of the family and not report on that service. However, Saturday afternoon, a second service was held for the community. An estimated 500-800 people were expected. Ribbons were handed out with the children’s initials on them. Every room available in River City Funeral Home was full with an additional section of seating set up outside for the overflow of people. Those people watched the service on large TV screens. The service was led by Pastor Micah Moreno, with special music sung by Jessica Moreno and Evelien Smothers.
In the program that was handed out, it says that Kelvin was a 5th grader who loved Transformers, Legos, and had a deep curiosity of sea life, especially sharks. It went on to mention his huge “bunny smile” (which was also referenced by speakers during the service), his cheerful personality and his warm devotion to his brother and sister. Principal Matt Ainsworth told a riddle that Kelvin had told him while sharing a story about him. He also said that he had told Kelvin that he “had the best smile in the yearbook.”
Julie was continually described as a sweet and loving socialite. In addition, it was reported that she “knew everybody,” and will be remembered for her infectious laugh, playfulness and curiosity. Principal Ainsworth told about a time when the kids were playing Dodgeball and Julie kept running in front of the ball. He said “Julie, the point of the game is to dodge the ball”. Julie replied that she “didn’t want any of her teammates to get out”. This was the kind of love that this young girl was full of.
Lucas was only 7 months old, but brought just as much joy and warmth to the family as the other children did. He was described as a content baby who rarely cried. He loved to play and make faces at his mommy, was just learning to crawl, and was just learning to say “mama”.
Orozco, a mom of four, spoke very eloquently when she said “Mai Sheng Vang will be able to do the impossible (to heal), because she has just lived through the unimaginable … Those moments when it is quiet, just know that with it carries our love and our support and our prayers to you. We will not forget. This is our community, we are your family.”
Mai Sheng got up, and in a very fragile voice thanked the community for their love, kindness and support. She said that she “never expected such a beautiful display of comfort and care. It will help her continue.”
She went on to thank the first responders who “tried everything to help her children,” and she said she knows that they “share her nightmares.” She apologized to them, and then to the community. Mai said that she “thinks about your children and their suffering, and the suffering of the community about her children, and she is sorry to have your kids have to see such a harsh reality while they are children.”
Washington Unified School District School Board Member Jackie Wong told Mai that “we share in your sadness.”
This is profoundly true. Mai said that she “thinks of Kelvin and his huge smile.” She “thinks of Julie and her social personality who loved everyone” and that she “thinks of Lucas, her happy baby whose giggles she can still hear.”
As teacher Marty Elliot said, “May peace come to you some day!”

Woodland Man Graduates from Mental Health Court

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Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced today that on Monday September 25, 2017, 41-year-old Davis resident Gary Wight successfully graduated from Mental Health Court in Department Four of the Yolo County Superior Court.

Mental Health Court (MHC) is a minimum 18-month court-based treatment and monitoring system for adult offenders with serious mental illness. MHC is designed to increase the treatment engagement of the participants while reducing both arrests and jail time both during and after their involvement and participation in the program. The program is a collaborative effort between the Yolo County Superior Court, Probation, Health and Human Services Agency, the Public Defender, and the District Attorney.

Mr. Wight’s parents, Linda and Tom who are both from Woodland, joined him for the graduation ceremony. Linda Wight regularly attended Mental Health Court hearings from November 23, 2015, when Gary entered the program, through his graduation almost two year later. Mrs. Wight spoke at the graduation ceremony and expressed her gratitude for the MHC program. “The atmosphere in Mental Health Court is the best in the world! When an entire team is collaboratively working in support of the client, success is possible. There is no comparison between walking into this space and walking into a traditional criminal justice courtroom where the clients arrive in stripes and chains. Our family is most appreciative of being a part of this opportunity.”

The Honorable Janet Gaard is the judge assigned to Mental Health Court. Judge Gaard presided over Monday’s proceedings and congratulated Mr. Wight stating, “Gary has been an inspiration to each of us on the MHC team, and he reminds all of us that, when we work together, we can do great things to help people improve their own lives and those of the people around them.”

Courtroom Artist Vicki Behringer volunteered to draw some sketches of the graduation ceremony. One of the court sketches from the event depicts Judge Gaard presenting Gary with a Mental Health Court graduation certificate. The other sketch depicts Deputy Public Defender Bret Bandley, who represented Gary Wight, addressing his former client at the graduation ceremony. The sketches can be seen on the District Attorney’s website at the following web address yoloda.org.

Mr. Bandley congratulated Mr. Wight “on his accomplishments and the great change I have seen in him while in MHC.” He further expressed that Gary is a great example for the other participants in this program to follow.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig commended Mr. Wight for his hard work during the 22-months he was in the program commenting, “Mental Health Court’s collaborative process results in increased treatment engagement for participants such as Mr. Wight who gained valuable insight into his mental health along with the ability to better manage it. This program has proved to be a successful way to address those suffering from mental illness who find themselves in the criminal justice system.”

Scripture, Service, and Being Sikh in West Sacramento

The soaring white domes of the Sikh Temple of Sacramento, or “Gurdwara Sahib”, are a familiar sight to many West Sacramento residents. But for West Sacramento resident Parveen Kaur Tumber, the temple evokes family memories that extend back to the early days of the local Sikh community.
Thirty-four years ago, her grandfather, Vichitra Singh Sandhu, was one of the founding members of the temple. In June of 1983, this group of Sikh men purchased the land on Evergreen Avenue where the temple now sits. The temple became a meeting place for Sikhs to socialize, enjoy community meals, and venerate the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism.
The first ever copy of this scripture to be used at the West Sac temple was procured by another member of Parveen’s family: her father, Avtar Singh Dosanjh. In 1976, Dosanjh traveled back to India to purchase a copy of the holy book, which is always treated with great respect and carried on the head. The first leg of his journey home began with a flight from India to London, during which he held the 1430-page book on his head the entire time. In London, a fellow Sikh traveler approached him to suggest that he say a prayer and rest the book on his lap for the remainder of the journey. He heeded her advice, and was relieved to finally rest his fatigued arms.
That copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was venerated at the West Sac temple for many years before being passed on to another temple. Today, Parveen still attends the Gurdwara regularly, now with her own spouse and children. “I love the sense of community and comfort. And now my kids love going there too.”
Having lived in the Bay area for a time, Parveen moved back to West Sacramento five years ago. Her experience as a member of the Sikh community here has been primarily positive. “In West Sac, there is a lot of awareness of who we are as Sikhs. We are very engaged in the community.”
“Seva”, or selfless service, is a key principle of the Sikh faith. The Gurdwara Sahib attracted media attention earlier this year when it opened its doors to hundreds of evacuees from the Oroville dam flooding. Parveen points out the temple’s community meals as another form of “seva”. They regularly feed the homeless as well as members of the congregation. “Nobody is turned away.”
Community service plays a key role in Parveen’s life too. Since moving back to West Sacramento, she has earned a name for herself by serving on the City’s Planning Commission from 2014-2016. Currently, she serves as an Assembly-level Delegate for the Democratic Party. (Her wedding at the Gurdwara Sahib was also featured on an episode of the PBS Show Viewfinder called “Sikhs in America”, which won an Emmy in 2008 for Best Historic/Cultural Program.)
Parveen says that being Sikh comes with challenges too, including prejudice and even violence. She attributes some of this aggression to “post-9/11 bigotry” by those who use that tragedy as an excuse to target minority groups. Although Sikhism is a separate religion from Islam and Hinduism, many Sikhs feel that targeting any faith is wrong.
This issue of discrimination motivated Parveen to apply to law school in 2004. Today, her practice focuses on employment law, including cases of discrimination against South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. “We’re all brothers and sisters in this, and we’re all from a peaceful background.”
With a passion for fairness and equality that align strongly with Sikh core values, Parveen feels gratitude for all those who came before her and paved the way for her current vocation. “People like [my father and grandfather] did the work… so the foundation is there for the advocacy work I do now. Everything I do is in the shade of the trees they planted decades ago.”

Thousands of children in California’s Foster Care System require temporary out-of-home care

By Jan Dalske

There are estimated to be over 65,000 children in our state, and over 3,000 in the Sacramento area, who require temporary out-of-home care due to parental neglect, abuse, or exploitation. The largest percentages are African American and Latino children. Some may stay in foster care for just weeks, but, many of them will remain there for years. The children are of all ages and have a variety of needs, most importantly they need a stable home. They can no longer remain with their birth parents.
Foster parents provide a supportive and stable family for children who cannot live with their birth parents until family problems are resolved. In most cases, foster parents work with social services staff to reunite the child with birth parents. Foster parents often provide care to many different children. You must be certified to become a foster parent. Adults from the age of 18 to retirement age are welcome, as long as their health, energy, and desire are appropriate.
A license is required to operate a foster home. The process requires a licensing worker to visit your home and meet with you and other family members. Minimum personal, safety and space requirements are required by law. Foster parents work with social services staff to determine the type of child best suited for their home. There may be health issues. Some families may have preference for a boy, and some prefer girls. Foster parents receive a monthly payment to feed, clothe, and meet the material needs of the children placed in their care. Medical and dental coverage is provided through the Medi-Cal program. Foster parents who work outside the home must make appropriate child care arrangements.
The preferred placement of children who require out-of-home care is with relatives. If securing a home with relatives is not a possibility, foster parents and other caretakers can provide a supportive and stable environment for children who cannot live with their birth parents until family problems are resolved. In most cases, the foster parents and care providers work with social services staff to reunite the child with birth parents. Foster parents often provide care to many different children.
Children who require out-of-home care generally come under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The juvenile dependency process involves a series of hearings and case reviews which may result in foster care placement, including placement with relatives. County placing agencies have indicated a particular need for foster homes that will provide homes for adolescents, for homes that have enough room to permit siblings to stay together, and for homes that may be used on an emergency shelter basis.
In some cases, children may require more intensive structured care. These children may be placed in licensed community care facilities that may have from six beds to more, or, in a much larger institution. These group homes offer individualized treatment. To become a group home provider, contact your local county welfare office.
In addition to children placed in foster family homes and group homes, foster family agencies provide another placement resource. Agencies are licensed to provide certified family homes for children who require more services than are provided in foster family homes, yet these homes are less structured than group homes.
Paradise Oaks Youth Services (POYS), a local Foster Family agency has been providing foster care services since 1993. They continue to certify foster families who are committed to providing safe and caring homes for foster children. All prospective foster parents interested in becoming certified with POYS must go through a screening and certification process. They will receive training, and be supported and monitored to ensure compliance with accreditation and Community Care Licensing standards.
If you are interested in learning more about their program, they can be reached at 916-550-2841.