Monday, 30 November 2020

News

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A channel of the Middle Creek levee, maintained by the county. Photo courtesy of Tom Smythe.

UPPER LAKE – The US Army Corps of Engineers has removed the Middle Creek levee from its list of levees around the nation that the agency said had not been properly maintained.

In late January, the Corps released a list of 122 levees across the U.S. that it said could fail to protect against flood events due to maintenance issues.

The 11-mile Middle Creek levee system near Upper Lake made that original list, much to the frustration of local officials, who said

Tom Smythe, water resources engineer with the Water Resource Division of Lake County's Public Works Department, said Middle Creek's low rating resulted from a Corps inspection conducted in 2005.

Smythe said the county's levees are inspected twice annually by the state Department of Water Resources, and that the county has remained in compliance with the state's maintenance standards over the past decade.

The Army Corps' low rating listed issues that Smythe said had already been addressed, such as trees and vegetation along the levees, and gravel bars that have been removed.

The Corps' list also incorrectly reported that the 3.5-mile stretch of levees in the Middle Creek Reclamation District is maintained by the Department of Water Resources was maintained by the county, Smythe said.

Since that January list was released, levee districts around the state began requesting reinspections.

On Feb. 14, the Army Corps and Department of Water Resources took another look at the Middle Creek levee system, said Smythe.

The inspection went well, he said.

“The inspectors saw that the system was being maintained and the deficiencies noted in the previous inspection were being addressed,” he said. “Attitudes were positive at the end of the inspection.”

An updated list of levees issued by the Corps on Feb. 16 shows that Middle Creek and seven other levees around the state were removed from the list.

However, the county didn't receive an official notification of that fact, said Smythe, only finding out about it unofficially earlier this month.

Dave Killam, a spokesman for the Sacramento Army Corps office, said those levees were removed from the list after being reinspected based on information provided by the levee owners.

Killam said a new list of poorly maintained levees will be released sometime this spring.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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An Army Corps of Engineer map that showed the levees originally listed as being poorly maintained.

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Hazmat drums. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

A nationwide information audit, conducted as a prelude to Sunshine Week, found slightly more than four in 10 of the official gatekeepers willing – if wary – to provide copies of emergency response plans, which federal law makes public.


Other local officials, however, reacted to requests with confusion, outright denials and sometimes by calling police to check out the auditors. Many weren’t sure who had the authority to release the reports, or even where the documents were located.


More than a third of public officials audited refused to provide access to their local Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan – which is mandated by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 as a public document. Another 20 percent provided only partial reports.


Those denials stood in stark contrast to the experience of other auditors, many of whom were offered copies of the report in either paper or disc form; 48, or 12 percent, of the 404 communities put the reports online.


The audits were conducted in early January, when reporters, civic group members, students and other volunteers visited their Local Emergency Planning Committee, which prepares the reports outlining emergency response in the event of a chemical or hazardous material accident. The 1986 law not only says the plans are public, it also requires the local officials to advertise their availability once a year.


In all, 162 news organizations participated as requestors, along with three student newspapers and eight League of Women Voters chapters. This report is built on a database of their experiences and offers a snapshot of the difficulties citizens may face when they request public information that may be considered sensitive.


The audit is a project of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Environmental Journalists for Sunshine Week 2007, March 11-17. Sunshine Week is an open government initiative spearheaded by ASNE. Entering its third year, the program encourages newspapers, broadcasters, online content producers, schools, libraries, civic groups and others to engage in discussions about the importance of protecting public access to government information and meetings. It is supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


Overall, there were 404 audits conducted in 37 states and Puerto Rico. The emergency response plan was provided in full to 177 requestors, or 44 percent of the total. One official in Iowa told the auditor that he was delighted to see a citizen seeking the report: "We need more awareness on what to do during an incident for the safety of everyone."


Officials around the country who denied requests, however, frequently cited national security or terrorism concerns – or even, incorrectly, the USA PATRIOT Act. In fact, the law provides for separating any sensitive information the local responders gather in preparing the plans. Several auditors were told they were getting the document because they didn’t "look like terrorists." In all, 20 percent of auditors, or 82 requestors, received the plan only in part, and 36 percent, 145 requests, were denied.


In some cases, officials ran background checks on citizen auditors or sent police to follow them. The highway patrol in one state even launched an all-county alert seeking more information about one requester. In several states, officials sent e-mails to colleagues in other emergency planning agencies warning of the audit.


A handful of the officials asked for the report apparently did not understand the request and did not appear eager to help. Several also were working out of their homes or businesses, although that did not necessarily hinder disclosure.


The full report can be viewed online at http://www.sunshineweek.org/files/audit07.pdf. It includes data charts as well as recaps of auditors' experiences.


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LAKE COUNTY – If it seems like Daylight Savings Time has arrived faster this year, that's because it has. In fact, it's three weeks earlier this year.


Daylight Savings Time will go into effect Sunday, when clocks are set ahead one hour at 2 a.m.


Clocks will “fall back” to Standard Time on Sunday, Nov. 4.


The California Energy Commission (CEC) reports that the National Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the extended Daylight Saving Time beginning this year.


The legislation moved the time change from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March, the CEC noted. Daylight Savings also ends one week later, on the first Sunday in November rather than the last Sunday in October.


One of the potential benefits of extending Daylight Savings is an energy savings. CEC estimates that there is a savings in electricity used during the peak of the day. The "peak" electricity demand is estimated to decline by approximately 3 percent for the remainder of March, according to the CEC.


Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman David Eisenhauer said the company isn't sure yet of what energy savings that it might realize. Calculations and studies are still under way, Eisenhauer said this week.


The CEC encourages people to use the Daylight Savings time change to remember to change the batteries in home smoke detectors, and to replace an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light to save energy.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKEPORT A Clearlake man charged with the October murder of a woman he shared a home with has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.


James Wade Roberts, 45, is facing murder charges for the death of Clearlake resident Ruth Donaldson, 63.


Roberts was in Judge Arthur Mann's court Monday to enter a plea, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins, who is prosecuting Roberts' case.


Hopkins said Roberts entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder charge against him.


Roberts' defense attorney, Steve Carter, asked for a psychologist, who had previously been appointed to Roberts' case confidentially, to be reappointed as an expert consultant, said Hopkins.


Hopkins explained the Penal Code requires that two to three psychologists must be appointed to evaluate Roberts due to the insanity plea.


He said that Mann appointed two new psychologists to the case, and will continue the hearing March 19, when a third psychologist also will be appointed.


Clearlake Police found Donaldson's body in the Mullen Avenue home that she shared with Roberts on Oct. 15.


Roberts is being held in the Lake County Jail on $1 million bail.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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The wrecked Toyota pickup after Sunday's accident. Photo by CHP Officer Kevin Domby.

 

This story has been updated.


LAKE PILLSBURY – An early morning traffic collision on Sunday killed a 19-year-old Santa Rosa man, according to the California Highway Patrol.


The victim's name has not been released pending family notification.


The accident, a vehicle rollover, happened along Elk Mountain Road east of Soda Creek at 12:40 a.m., according to a CHP report released Monday.


Ryan White, 20, of Rohnert Park was driving a 2000 Toyota Tacoma westbound on Elk Mountain Road west of Oak Flats campground and three miles east of Soda Creek, the CHP reported.


With White were three passengers – one in the front, the unidentified victim, and two in the back, Erik Anderson, 23, of Santa Rosa and a 17-year-old male juvenile, also from Santa Rosa, the CHP report noted.


White rapidly accelerated in the Toyota and lost control, the CHP stated, with the rear of the vehicle skidding out from behind and rotating in a clockwise direction.


The Toyota then left the paved portion of the road and began to overturn, according to the CHP.


The right front passenger was ejected and sustained major injuries, the CHP reported. He was transported via ground ambulance to the hospital, where he later died.


Neither White nor Anderson received any injuries, the CHP said. The juvenile received minor injuries and was treated at the scene.


The CHP reported that White was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – A man alleged to have abducted his infant child and two companions alleged to have helped him were arrested Wednesday by California Highway Patrol officers.


Clear Lake Area CHP officers were notified at 6:09 p.m. Wednesday that a child abduction had allegedly occurred on Highland Springs Road, according to a CHP statement. During the abduction a shot was allegedly fired from a 30-30 rifle.


Officers Kevin Domby and Josh Dye responded to the Highland Springs area to look for the silver pickup associated with the incident. Once at the scene, the CHP reported, the officers began receiving different vehicle descriptions, including a green Saturn and a red or maroon Toyota.


Twenty-three-year-old Justin Beebe of Lakeport, the infant's father, was alleged to be the abductor, and witnesses reported he was being assisted by Robert McDarment, 24, of Lakeport, said the CHP. Domby and Dye were also notified that the suspect vehicles might be Highway 175/Hopland Grade.


Domby and Dye, the CHP reported, headed over Highway 175 and located a green Saturn in a turnout just east of the Lake-Mendocino County line. McDarment and Jacqualine Coffey, 31, of Lakeport, were in the car, along with the infant that was reported abducted and Coffey's toddler.


Domby and Dye subsequently arrested Coffey and McDarment, the CHP reported. Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested Beebe later that night.


Beebe was booked at the Lake County Jail on felony charges of kidnapping, second-degree robbery and inflicting corporate injury on a spouse, with bail set at $80,000.


Coffey faces felony charges of kidnapping, second-degree robbery and accessory, with $75,000 bail.


McDarment is being held on $115,000 bail, facing five felony charges including kidnapping, first degree robbery, willful discharge of a firearm in a negligent manner, willful cruelty to a child and accessory.


As of Friday morning, all three suspects remained in Lake County Jail.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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WASHINGTON, D.C. Ten years after Congress enacted the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only one in five federal agencies actually complies with the law, according to a new survey released today during Sunshine Week by the National Security Archive.


Passed in 1996 and effective in 1997, E-FOIA ordered federal agencies to post key records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making information requests, and use new information technology to publish information proactively. The act's intent: Expand public access and reduce the burden of FOIA requests.


But most federal agencies do not follow the law, according to the National Security Archive's government-wide audit, "File Not Found," conducted with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


The Knight Open Government Survey systematically reviewed agency Web sites to cover all 91 federal agencies that have Chief FOIA Officers and the additional 58 agency components each of which handles more than 500 FOIA requests a year.


Key findings are:


– Only one in five federal agencies (21 percent) posts on the Web all four categories of records that the law specifically requires;


– Only one in 16 agencies (6 percent) posts all ten elements of essential FOIA guidance;


– Only 36 percent of agencies provide the required indexes of records;


– Only 26 percent of agencies provide online forms for submitting FOIA requests;


– Many agency Web links are missing or just wrong - one FOIA fax number checked in the Knight Survey actually rang in the maternity ward of a military base hospital.


"Federal agencies are flunking the online test and keeping us in the dark," said Thomas Blanton, the Archive's director. "Some government sites just link to each other in an endless empty loop."


"Public access on the Web to government information is the only long-term solution to the backlogs and delays that undermine the FOIA today," said the Archive's general counsel, Meredith Fuchs. "This audit plus Congressional oversight should provide a wake-up call to the agencies."


Fuchs cited the Education Department and NASA as "E-Stars" with excellent FOIA Web sites, and the Air Force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Veterans Affairs as among the dozen "E-Delinquents." Last week, the Archive faxed the top FOIA officer at each of the E-Delinquents with advance notice of the Survey and the critical findings specific to that agency.


"It's appropriate that this important news is being released during Sunshine Week, when millions of Americans will be able to see it," said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "People need to know when their government is not obeying its own laws."


Download the full report at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB216/index.htm.


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LUCERNE – The results of a survey of Lucerne residents at last month's town hall meeting are in, and the town's residents have listed their priorities for their community's future.


District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing hosted a town hall meeting for Lucerne on Feb. 17 at the Lucerne Senior Center.


As part of the gathering, Rushing asked attendees to answer a “quick survey” ranking their priorities in shaping Lucerne.


The No. 1 priority was cleaning up the town/enforcing codes and law, which was the same primary goal for Clearlake Oaks members surveyed at their town hall meeting Jan. 24, Rushing noted.


Coming in a close second in Lucerne was addressing basic infrastructure, such was water and roads. Water, in particular, has been one of the most pressing issues facing Lucerne in recent years.


The rest of the ranked items, in order, were illegal dumping and creek cleanup, revitalizing businesses, better local stores and services, face lifts for businesses and Highway 20, improving community parks and waterfront, Highway 20 traffic calming, building community identity and cohesiveness, keeping expenses low/efficient use of dollars, creek flooding and parking.


The town hall meeting helped bring attention the condition of Morrison Creek, which was the focus of a cleanup conducted by the county on Saturday.


The next town hall meeting scheduled to take place in District 3 will be in Upper Lake. The meeting will take place beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, in the Upper Lake High School cafeteria, 675 Clover Valley Road.


County Staff will provide updates on the community redevelopment process, flood zone and other issues and citizens will be given the opportunity to participate in an open forum discussing critical issues of concern to the Upper Lake Community.


For more information visit Rushing's Web site, www.drushing.com.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Illegal dumping in Morrison Creek. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

LUCERNE Before Lucerne has even formed a Coordinated Resource Management Plan, or CRMP, it's getting a massive boost from cooperating county and state agencies and some private firms.


On Saturday, those groups, which include Lake County jail inmates, a private towing company, the California Department of Fish and Game and Lake County's Code Enforcement department, will clean up Morrison Creek's illegally dumped trash. The Robinson Rancheria Tribal Council will bring its trucks to help haul.


Voris Brumfield, Code Enforcement director, invited the public to stay away on this occasion, for safety reasons. But they are invited to a CRMP formation meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center (LASC).


"It's being handed to you," said Chuck Morse, a director with the West Lake Resource Conservation District, and the county's deputy agriculture commissioner, at Wednesday's information meeting at LASC.


About 45 people attended, nearly a third of them county employees or volunteers with other long-established local CRMPS.


Residents' concerns ranged beyond the watershed effort, which is the RCD's central task, to cleaning up street litter and homes where garbage piles up, and involving the community's youth.


That last might be tricky, some residents said later, noting that young users of Off Highway Vehicles had participated in previous cleanups and then been told they could no longer use their OHVs on the back roads.


DFG warden Loren Freeman, who came here in January from Orange County, said he has four misdemeanor prosecutions in the works for illegal dumping.


He and DFG partner Lynette Shimek dug through piles of garbage to find leads which identified the culprits. The violations can bring a maximum six months in jail or fines of $25,000-plus. He noted wardens are peace officers, although involved with environmental law.


The established Nice CRMP will have a cleanup day April 21; all are welcome to join in. "It's good practice," said Linda Juntunen, project coordinator with the RDC. Other state and county sponsored cleanups are regularly scheduled in October.


The audience gave a standing ovation to Lucerne resident Lenny Matthews, who started the effort with her widely-posted photos of illegal dump sites. One of them showed flammable materials and poisons in Morrison Creek.


"And that's right where the creek empties into the lake near the Lucerne water supply's intake pipe," said Third District Supervisor Denise Rushing, who led the meeting.


Gating some access roads to ridge areas was mentioned as a deterrent, a suggestion that led Lucerne's fire captain David Fesmire to comment unlocking gates would slow response times to fires. "We often get reports of a brush fire and then find it's actually flammable materials illegally dumped," he said. A motorcyclist himself, he also expressed reservations about banning OHVs.


Rushing said Thursday the CRMP program has proved effective since it started in California in the 1950s, modeled on a Nevada program.


Currently, 15 agencies are involved, including the California departments of Conservation,Fish and Game, Food and Agriculture, Forestry and Fire Protection, and Water Resources, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Services.


Numerous local agencies, such as Scout troops and garden clubs, homeowners' associations and garden clubs also participate. One of the most popular programs is "Kids in the Creek," which encompasses education flora and fauna. Another is native plant protection and rehabilitation.


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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LAKE COUNTY – The West Lake Conservation District has won a state grant that will help it complete assessments of three of the county's major watersheds.


Greg Dills, watershed coordinator, East Lake and West Lake Conservation Districts, said the West Lake District recently received a CALFED Watershed Committee grant of funds from Proposition 50, a state water bond.


The plan, said Dills, is to produce three watershed assessments for Middle Creek, Scotts Creek and Kelsey Creek, which will inventory historical and current data collected on the watersheds.


It was tough competition, said Dills; there were 120 applicants from agencies around the state that competed in a two-phased grant application process.


The district submitted a concept paper, Dills said, which explained its plan for the three assessments.


After making it past the first round of cuts, which took the number of applications down to 60, Dills said the district wrote a full proposal. The district, he said, was eventually named one of 28 projects funded statewide.


"It's highly competitive," said Dills. "We were fortunate to have done so well."


The watershed assessments the district proposes to complete will be a management tool, said Dills, and a building block in future work.


Once those planning documents are finished, he said, the district and/or its partners can use them to approach agencies for funds to pursue the projects identified in the assessments, such as restoration or fuel load reduction.


Together, Middle and Scotts Creeks are the most significant conveyance of water to Clear Lake, said Dills. They transport 57 percent of the water and 70 percent of sediment, he added.


The third largest watershed, said Dills, is Kelsey Creek.


The watersheds each have coordinated resource management and planning groups – called CRMPs – that have been meeting about the health of the county's watersheds, he said. For many years those groups have been compiling data and doing the background work necessary for watershed improvement projects.


“We've seen a lot of land use changes going on in the watersheds in recent years," said Dills, including shifts from agricultural usage to development, which impact watersheds.


The three watershed groups for Kelsey Creek, Middle Creek, and Scotts Creek, are now jumping into the assessment process, he said, which includes going into the Department of Public Works watershed data library, which stretches back to the 1940s.


That data, he said, includes loss of habitat, water quality data, fuel load management, stream bank erosion, nonnative and invasive weeds.


Dills said they'll identity missing data and try to fill in the gaps during the new assessment project.


There are many aspects to watershed management and assessments, said Dills. So, besides CRMP members examining data, there also will be help from engineers, hydrologists and other professionals in the watershed management field to help put the assessments together, "so we have the science behind it," he added.


There's a lot of work to be done, he said, and a deadline to do it by – June 2008 for assessment completion, with the grant expiring the following June.


Simultaneously, as the assessments are going on, said Dills, the Clear Lake Basin Management Plan will be completed under the grant. When the assessments are finished, he said, they will be incorporated into that finished management plan.


The grant also offers funds to provide capacity building for the Upper Cache Creek Watershed, said Dills. "Capacity building," said Dills, is a term used in reference to providing assistance and sustainability for the watershed groups, which includes training and educational workshops for watershed group members. Providing that assistance will be a function of the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance, which was formed under this grant.  


A few of those workshops have already taken place, he said. One, on Jan. 27 at the Scotts Valley Women's Clubhouse, was standing-room only, he said.


Interest in the health of watersheds – which has a direct impact on water quality – is interesting more people these days, Dills said.


"Back nine years ago when I started this whole journey, doing a kickoff meeting for a watershed group was a cold sell," he said.


He added, “This many years later, we have people coming in the office asking for help starting one.”


Education about water issues, and the success of local watershed groups, has helped generate the increased interest, he said. The Scotts Creek Watershed Council, he said, has been responsible for creek cleanups and a fire break on Cow Mountain.


The Big Valley CRMP, Lower Lake Watershed Council, Middle Creek CRMP, and Nice Watershed Group also participate in cleanup events each year removing thousands of cubic yards of trash from our landscape, according to Linda Juntunen, project coordinator for the West Lake Conservation District. The active groups are involved in a variety of projects and activities besides their cleanup events.


There are now nine CRMPs in various stages of activity throughout Lake County, Dills reported, with a 10th, in Lucerne, now beginning to form.


For more information about watershed issues, CRMPs and how to get involved, call the West Lake Resource Conservation District,  263-4180.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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This is the first in an ongoing Lake County News series on confronting hunger in Lake County.

LUCERNE – "I was very hungry as a kid," admits Yvonne Cox. "At a very young age, I decided if I ever made it, I would feed people."

This Tuesday, Cox will feed an entire auditorium of people for the fifth time.

Really Understanding Hunger (RU Hunger) is a program Cox developed in early February to help feed those in need in Lake County. Every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. Cox opens up what she calls the "Dignity Diner" at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center to feed people with no and low incomes.

At the Dignity Diner, Cox explains, people don't have to stand in line for a small commodity and deal with any discomfort or embarrassment. Instead, guests are invited to come in, sit down and be served.

Even children and adolescents are welcomed to come unattended. Full tables of kids and teens have been present at times, without any adults accompanying them.

The program started big and continues to increase. On the first night she opened, Feb. 13, Cox served 61 people. Two weeks ago, she served 87.

Cox described the response from her guests as being one of the most powerful feelings she has ever experienced: "When these people came in and started thanking me, it was overwhelming."
 
Cox puts out anywhere from $150 to $200 per week to provide food to RU Hunger, covering about 80 percent of the cost. Lakeview Market makes up the rest, donating breads and a variety of salads.

Cox has expressed gratitude and appreciation for Kenny and Deana Parlet, owners of the small-town market, for their generosity - especially after some of the large grocery stores turned her down.

In the beginning, Cox was cooking and preparing all of the food, but more and more volunteers have shown up to support the program. Cox has seen help in the kitchen from the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center chef – after his regular shift – as well as students from the junior high, who came last week on their own right after school, ready to help out. In addition, students from Cox's own dance class help serve, and each week, more and more of their family members and friends have been joining them.

The owners of Pet Acres in Upper Lake were the first to contribute food to RU Hunger's food pantry.

Even a few people who came to eat the first night returned the second night and thereafter to help serve others food.

"It's turning out better than I imagined," smiles Cox.

She says none of this would have been possible without her partner, Annie Barnes of Sunrise Foundation.

Cox advises: "Talk about your dreams out loud because you never know who's listening."

It was Barnes who overheard Cox's wish to open up a soup kitchen and who helped get the process in motion. Barnes handles the administrative side of their partnership and is currently working on funding for RU Hunger.

"The best thing in the world is having her in our corner," says Cox. "She's a wonderful, incredible woman. She made my dreams come true. I can't say much more."

Though RU Hunger targets people with no or low incomes, anyone is welcomed to come and eat. Donations are accepted for those who would like to pay to enjoy the great food, which changes each week.

Many have likened the Dignity Diner to a regular restaurant, and some have even boasted that the quality of food and service is superior – with no real waiting time and plenty of servers who are doing the job simply because they want to.

In the future, Cox wants to open four more Dignity Diners throughout the county – one per night – so that five nights a week, people are able to eat a full meal.

And a little further down the road? "I want to put Dignity Diners across the United States," she says.

The Lucerne Alpine Senior Center is located at 3985 Country Club Drive.

All types of donations are accepted for the RU Hunger program - time, labor, food, drink mixes, paper plates, to-go boxes, money, etc. To volunteer, donate, or for more information about RU Hunger, contact Yvonne Cox, (707) 274-8821.

E-mail Penny Dahl at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Karlie Breeden last summer. Photo by John Lindblom.

COBB They were a group of family members and intimate friends and they sat in a room singing, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," with tears in their eyes or running uncontrollably down their faces.


The mood in the singing didn't fit the song and the song didn't fit the time of year, because it wasn't Christmas. It was the last day of February, 2007, and the last day of Karlie Breeden's life.


Hours later, lying huddled in a bed between her parents, David and Renada Breeden, she died. She was 4 years old. Four. The number of years it takes to earn a college degree that Karlie, given her brightness, might one day have done. Four. One year short of the age in which children enter kindergarten, which Karlie never will.


The place was the George Mark House for Children, a San Leandro hospice, where the Breedens had elected to take Karlie for the moment that they had steeled themselves against as best they could.


The miracle that Karlie might beat the overwhelming odds and survive an inoperable brain tumor, which the Breedens and many others had hoped and prayed for and for a fleeting moment late last year seemed possible, was not to be.


So, all that was left was to make the precious moments that remained of her life as comfortable as possible for her. The option would have been for the Breedens to take Karlie to their home in the Hobergs area of the Cobb Mountains, but there she would have been placed on feeding tubes and the attendant medical paraphernalia.


"... Or, we could go to George Mark and let nature take its course," said Renada. "I felt that George Mark would be better equipped for us. It's the only hospice for children in the U.S.


"There were some family members and some friends and we all gathered around Karlie and sang Christmas carols and told funny stories. Christmas carols were a big thing for her this year. She really got to know them and know all the words."


At some point of the night, Brody, Karlie's younger brother, not quite 3, but well aware of the situation, came into the room, went to the place where she was lying, hugged her and said, "Bye."


That the Higher Power to which the Breedens and others prayed to had "called home" one so young is, at best, a curious matter. This writer recalls a Lakeport woman telling him that as a sickly child there were serious doubts that she would live to see her sixth birthday. The woman, the late Kate Richardson, was 106 at the time of the interview.


But the Breedens, although not especially devout, hold to the belief that there was a special reason for the brevity of Karlie's life.


"She definitely had a purpose," says Renada.


And who's to say what occurred in this little blonde girl's final hours were not more than mere coincidence? Occurrences such as Karlie's putting David's hand on her heart and, as David recalls, saying, "Daddy, I have the spirit of God in me right now. This is happening to save all of us. I have a secret, but I can't tell you."


Of her approaching death, David says, "She knew before we knew and she took her medicine because it made us happy. She had a purpose and she told us the purpose.


"She was like an earthquake," he continued. "She came in, touched everybody she met, shook them up and was gone."


Sometime after learning that the tumor was back Karlie simply refused to eat the acrid pudding that did not quite disguise the harsh medicine she had taken for the 10 months since the tumor was diagnosed.


"She said she wasn't going to take it anymore, and we realized that she's done and the fight's over," said Renada, "because we had been pretty honest with her. She knew she was taking the medicine to extend her life."


In the month that followed, Karlie, said Renada, "went through the bitterness of having to leave, the bitterness of saying goodbye and praying for everyone."


Once an active tot who would rarely sit still, Karlie last walked, her parents said, at a Feb. 4 Doobie Brothers concert at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, where the Seabreeze Foundation provided the family front-row seats.


"The Doobie Brothers went off stage and when they came back they said, 'This song is for our friend, Karlie.' The song was, 'Listen to the Music,' and they don't know it but with their lyrics they just sang our life that night," said Renada.


The most difficult moments were still ahead. The doctors told David and Renada that they needed to tell Karlie that she must die.


"They told us you have to tell her to let go," said David, who said his final words to his daughter were, "Karlie, don't fight. Just go to heaven."


For Karlie's obituary, go to the www.lakeconews.com front page and scroll down to “obituaries.”


E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

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