Category Archives: News

‘Habitat’ volunteers tackle first of several West Sac home repair projects

Marty Swingle and Derek Haynes at at work, fixing the roof at a West Sacramento home. Swingle is president of the Habitat-Yolo board and Haynes is a board member (photo courtesy of Diana Walker-Smith)


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Work on one West Sacramento home was postponed because of the resident’s medical issues.

But volunteers from the Yolo chapter of Habitat for Humanity found some other good work to do in West Sacramento this month: they converged on the home of a pair of West Sacramento brothers who needed a little help with their north-area home.

“We tore down and replaced their porch, and we also did some roof repair,” reports Diana Walker-Smith, executive director for Habitat Yolo. “All the work is done. We just have to paint it. We’ll be out there again definitely on Thursday.”

Tracy Harris (the Habitat chapter board's vice president) and Roger Aston (treasurer) with construction manager Robert Mitchell (on the ladder). Photo courtesy of Diana Walker-Smith.

Walker-Smith estimated that over 30 people came to help out with the work over several days, including volunteers from a well-known store chain.

“We had people from Home Depot coming from as far south as Stockton and as far north as Yuba City,” she said.

“They’re all volunteers. Home Depot has a very pro-community philosophy. Home Depot also donated some shrubs – we had to cut down two large junipers on either side of the porch to fix the roof.”

The culprit at the home of Boris Shipunoff, 72, and Benjamin Shipunoff, a 57-year old disabled veteran, was some pesky dry rot that left the porch and part of the roof in dangerous shape. The new “A Brush with Kindness” program from Habitat was meant to give them a hand.

[adrotate group=”9″]   Habitat for Humanity is best known for its work building new homes for people who can’t afford to buy a house the traditional way. The new “A Brush With Kindness” program is a different kind of effort, helping low-income people afford to repair the exterior of their home. The Yolo chapter’s effort is now focused on helping a handful of homeowners in West Sacramento’s Bryte and Broderick neighborhoods, on the north side.

“We have five homes lined up so far,” said Walker-Smith.

The renovation program is similar to the home-building program, she added.

“The way we’re able to do it is we get underwriters. We find people who donate supplies or funds. All our work is no-profit, at our cost. It costs much less because we use volunteers working with a professional construction manager. We give (the homeowner) a zero-percent loan to pay for the home, we build it and sell it at a zero-percent mortgage. We then take the payments from them and recycle the money into new homes.”

Anyone interested in helping Habitat, or applying for help, can reach the group at (530) 668-4301 or by email at The group’s website is at

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

‘Cash for College’ help getting aid


It can be hard to navigate the paperwork to get financial aid for college.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada is hosting a number of “Cash for College” workshops to help college-bound students connect with financial aid.

The workshops will include help applying for Cal Grants and filling out the FAFSA.

[adrotate group=”9″] In West Sacramento, a workshop for students and their families is planned for 6-8 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 8, at River City High School. Bring driver’s license or I.D., social security number, 2011 W-2 forms or pay check stubs, 2011 bank statements, 2010 tax info (or 2011 tax info if available), and a list of colleges in which the student is interested. If not a U.S. citizen, bring alien registration card if available. Before attending, make sure to obtain a FAFSA PIN: visit For information, call (707) 455-8025, visit, or to see additional workshops,

News nuggets: Sac City College trains on RCHS track; veteran gets his wish

[adrotate group=”10″] FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 25, 2012 —

Here’s a round-up of other small news items this week:

Sacramento City College athletes are training temporarily on the track at River City High School, as their usual facility at Hughes Stadium gets some remodeling work.

A well-known local news story has gone national: The online Huffington Post (part of America Online) has run an article about the reunion of local veteran Minoru Ohye with his brother in Japan after 60 years apart. The reunion was engineered by volunteers and donors, led by Debbie Reynolds at Eskaton Wilson Manor in West Sacramento.
The News-Ledger profiled Ohye a decade ago, and more recently published a brief article about attempts to raise money for him to travel and see his brother again.

News 10 reports that a woman falsely claimed to have breast cancer, earning sympathy and cash donations. Jaymie Litza admits to receiving about $9,000, said the station, although some peg the total as about $20,000. Fundraising efforts included a benefit held at a West Sacramento veterans post.
Litza has admitted lying about the illness and has promised to pay “every dime” back, said News 10. She told the station she has medical issues including “fictitious disorder” and is “heartbroken” over the lie.

The City of West Sacramento has installed new landscaping – supported by the Port – near the corner of Jefferson Blvd. and Lake Washington Blvd., across from port property.
The project includes seven crapemyrtle trees, 150 carpet roses, 140 plumbagos and 90 xylosma plants, along with an efficient watering system, said a statement from the Port of West Sacramento.

  Support local journalism, and see all our articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger.  It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, by mail..

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

School boundaries change near Sycamore


The local school district is changing attendance boundaries for Stonegate, Westmore Oaks, Westfield Village and Elkhorn Village elementary schools, beginning with the 2012-13 year.

Residential reas affected include a number of streets west of Sycamore Ave., including Orchard Way, Pine Street, Palomar Avenue, Lake Court, and more.

[adrotate group=”9″] Town hall meetings for information are planned for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Stonegate Elementary and 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 at Westfield Village Elementary. For questions, call Lisa Guillen, 375-7604 ext. 1371.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Car hits Southport power poles: outage


This morning at about 3 a.m., West Sacramento police responded to the area of 4315 Gregory Ave. after the report of a traffic collision.

Officers  determined that a single vehicle had left the roadway and collided with a power pole on the south side of the street. The vehicle then crossed the roadway and collided with another power pole on the north side.

The three occupants of the vehicle sustained only minor injuries. The driver, identified as 21 year old Cody Zito, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

[adrotate group=”9″] PG&E responded and reported that 1 to 25 houses were without power due to the downed poles.  PG&E officials estimated the problem would be fixed by about noon today.  More information regarding this outage may be found on the PG&E website at

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

A computer may help autistic youth

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 25, 2012

By Steve Marschke

13-year old Qais Kakar is new to this country and new to the concept of school – he has just started his second year of formal education at Riverbank Elementary School. But those difficulties may pale in the face of another challenge Qais experiences.

Qais Kakar

Qais is autistic – unable to relate to the world in the ways most people take for granted.  (His name is pronounced like “Case.”)

One of the things that works for him at school is the shared use of an iPad tablet computer, which he uses for, among other things, watching videos explaining how to have a simple human conversation.

His older sister, Waheeda, has been in the country longer than Qais, and helped explain his situation to the News-Ledger. Qais, his mother, and another sister came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2010, after the children’s father died. Their native language is Pashtoo, and before coming to the U.S., Qais had never been to school.

He now has limited language skills and limited means to interact.

“He has severe autism. He started in 7th grade here, and is now in 8th,” said Waheeda Kakar. “The iPad seems to help. When I go to my mom’s, I sometimes give him my iPhone (a computerized smart phone) and he really enjoys that. He knows how to work with (the website) Youtube – I type in a musician’s name, and he scrolls through that musician’s videos.”

Qais also uses computers for simple videos on language skills, and for Sesame Street.

[adrotate group=”7″]  The family has limited income, and would like some help providing Qais with an iPad computer of his own.

“We hope that while he’s at home with the computer, he could learn more from his English videos, and his language skills could get better,” said Waheeda Kakar.

Anyone interested in helping can go online to

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Solar array turned on at RCHS campus

Teresa Blackmer, president of the Washington Unified School District’s board of trustees, flips the switch at a new solar array at the district’s high school campus on Dec. 13. Looking on are fellow board member Dave Westin (left, with his daughter) and Superintendent Dayton Gilleland.


The array was built with the help of $8 million in federal bonds, administered by the state and used to finance several energy-efficiency projects in the district. The district expects the solar array to provide most of the school’s electrical needs — with money saved on utility bills essentially going instead to pay off bondholders in 16 years.

The ground-mounted array (all photos courtesy of Heather McGowan, Sounding Board Marketing & Communications, and WUSD)


Rows of panels on a southern field at the River City campus

FOR MORE INFORMATION on how the solar array came to be at the River City High School campus, see an earlier News-Ledger article, available here.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012