Friday, 19 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Police are investigating an incident in which a driver hit a pedestrian in Lakeport on Monday evening.

The driver in the collision, Matthew James Craig, 27, of Lakeport, later was arrested for felony driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, according to Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke.

Burke said the collision occurred at 11:35 p.m. Monday.

A 38-year-old woman was in the 1800 block of S. Main Street near the Lakeport Lagoons when Craig allegedly hit her with his 2004 Chevrolet Impala, Burke said.

The area has few crosswalks. Burke said the investigation is still trying to determine where the woman was when she was hit, if she was off the sidewalk and, if so, why she may have been in the roadway.

The woman was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Burke didn't release her name, and didn't have information about her condition on Tuesday.

Craig, who has no previous contacts with Lakeport Police, was booked into the Lake County Jail early Tuesday morning, with bail set at $10,000. He later posted bail and was released, according to jail records.

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LAKE COUNTY – With dozens of classified staff set to be laid off next month, the Yuba Community College District is trying to find ways to spare job losses as it faces growing fiscal restraints.

At an Oct. 14 meeting held in Clearlake, the district's board voted to lay off 56 classified employees, as Lake County News has reported. That number later was adjusted to 58.

The college reported that the job losses will occur at the district's Marysville, Woodland and Clear Lake campuses, as well as district offices.

The layoffs are set to go into effect on Jan. 22, according to college spokesman Adrian Lopez.

The district, which covers eight rural counties including a portion of Lake, had a $48 million budget in the last fiscal year, and is expected to have just over 7,800 full-time students this academic year, according to a message Chancellor Nicki Harrington released earlier this fall.

The Yuba Community College District is facing a $4 million reduction in its operating budget due to state budget cuts, and 84 percent of the college's budget is spent on personnel costs, according to district officials.

California School Employees Association (CSEA) unit negotiator Donna Veal-Spenser said layoff notices have been coming out since the board's Oct. 14 vote.

Between retirements and layoffs she reported a total of 76 positions that could be lost – 51 at the Yuba College main campus in Marysville, 19 at Woodland and six at Clear Lake. Veal-Spenser said all of those numbers should change.

“It's bad,” she said.

Since the October vote – which was greeted by picketing employees who crowded into the meeting chambers, asking board members to consider other measures to meet the fiscal shortfall – the situation has changed, thanks to efforts on behalf of staff, faculty and administration.

In November, the college board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution requesting that all district staff make concessions to help offset state budget cuts, Lopez reported.

The board asked all of the college's employee groups to take reductions equaling a 3-percent pay cut. District management staff also took cuts or made voluntary concessions, which amounted to $65,000.

Other cost-cutting measures the district has reported taking include not filling positions left vacant by resignations or retirements, reducing adjunct – or part-time – faculty positions, cutting department operating expenses and compressing academic schedules.

Based on those concessions, grant funding and an employee resignation, the board of trustees was able to restore four positions at its Dec. 9 meeting, according to Lopez.

The positions in question included the director of Yuba College's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program – which young science and engineering students had asked the board to spare at the Oct. 14 meeting – two science lab technicians at Woodland Community College and a campus operations specialist at Beale Air Force Base.

Also on Dec. 9, the college board of trustees told Harrington to bring back a budget with 1 percent less of a reserve – totaling about $450,000 – in order to restore more of the positions slated for layoff, Lopez said.

The district's chief negotiator then met with the employee bargaining units on Dec. 11, Lopez reported.

The negotiations have gone in a positive direction, Veal-Spenser said.

The classified employees voted on Dec. 15 to accept a memorandum of understanding with the district that includes employees taking four furlough days during the fiscal year, she said.

There also may be some future discussion regarding retirement incentives, she added.

Veal-Spenser said they're hoping to see at least half of the layoffs restored, but she said that all of it depends on negotiations with the district.

“We don't know yet what positions are going to be brought back for sure and what the district is going to be proposing,” she said. “We're still going to have to hold their feet to the fire.”

While classified and management staff have provided concessions, some other units – like police and adjunct faculty – haven't yet, Lopez said.

The board's next meeting is Jan. 20, just two days before the layoffs go into effect, Lopez said.

In order to continue trying to save as many jobs as possible, “Meetings will be taking place between now and then,” Lopez said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .




Rosé (pronounced “roh-ZAY”) isn’t a varietal wine grape. Rather, it is a certain style of making wine. I wanted to cover it in this series comparing wines to celebrities because, in my opinion, Renée Zellwegger is a Rosé wine.

Renée Zellweger, although she has done many serious roles, is perhaps more well known for the comedies she has done. Rosé-style wines, although a fantastic style of wine and many are very good, aren’t appreciated by many people and aren’t taken seriously.

Rosé can be like Renée Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a little chubby and cloyingly sweet, but they can also be lighter and sultry like she was in “Chicago.” If a person doesn’t like Rosé or Renée Zellweger, it’s usually because they are judging from just one incident that wasn’t to their taste, while if they were to try another movie or a different Rosé they would most likely find one that they would love.

You may have had a mass produced Rosé wine that you thought was too sweet and was like drinking a liquid candy. Sweeter Rosés are sometimes called “Blush.”

Rosé can be dry or sweet, light or heavy, creamy or effervescent. They are very open to a winemaker’s influence. Blending of white wines with small amounts of red wines was once a common way to make a Rosé wine but isn’t done very often any more.

A Rosé is typically made by crushing red grapes and putting them in a vat. The grape skins will start imparting color and flavors to the “must” (which is what the crushed grape juice is called at this point). The winemaker will then take regular samples of the must until it achieves the color he/she is looking for.

The grape skins are then strained out and the pure juice then fermented like a white wine. In a way you could say that Rosé wine is a red wine, interrupted, or a post traumatic obsessive white wine, like “Nurse Betty.”

Renée Zellweger claims to be part Norwegian, which I’m sure she says for simplicity’s sake but isn’t entirely correct. Her mother is of Sami heritage, which is the aboriginal people of the Lapland area of northern Norway. So she’s Norwegian in the way that American Indians are Americans. Renée Zellweger has very distinct Sami features like her eyes and cheekbones.

Similarly, Rosé that are crafted from a specific variety of grape aren’t technically that wine but they can have the distinct features from that grape. Rosé is a red wine and it isn’t.

Not only that but both Renée Zellweger and Rosé have a weird accent mark in them for some reason. Will the similarities never cease?

The Tavel region in France is an appellation dedicated to dry Rosés. While America isn’t very serious about Rosé the French are passionate about them. They have Gris de Bourgogne, Rosé de Provence and Rosé de Loire. Europeans drink Rosé as often as they do white wines.

White Zinfandel isn’t what I or many others would consider a Rosé although in a way it is. Because it is made with a slightly different process called “saignée” which involves “bleeding” the vat (more of those weird accent marks!). Since the grape skins float and the color and tannins are going to be concentrated near them, the winemaker will bleed some of the must from the bottom of the vat in order to concentrate the final Zinfandel wine. The juice that is bled off is then made into white Zinfandel.

So as you can see, it is not a typical Rosé style wine but it can claim to be a Rosé. It’s just a different process that ends up with the same wine. For some reason they didn’t take the Rosé name and went with “white Zinfandel”

Flavors you can find in a Rosé are cherries, cranberries, cinnamon, flowers, fresh herbs, ginger, honey, key lime, lingonberry (a Norwegian berry with a taste similar to cranberries), minerals, passion fruit, pomegranate, oranges, raspberries, spice, strawberries, tropical fruits, violets and watermelon.

When pairing Rosé with food a good rule of thumb is, if it’s pink it will match well with Rosé. Salmon, tuna, bouillabaisse, ham, shrimp, and even, unlike most wines, with salads (I know, salads aren’t pink).

It may be a little cliché but I think Rosé style wines are the perfect summer wine. They tend to be crisp, cool and refreshing, something you want to drink while sitting on your deck watching whatever is out behind your deck.

Then again, it’s that perfect wine to go with your holiday salmon or ham. I’m bringing a couple of different Rosés to my family's Christmas dinner, I won’t be bringing Renée Zellweger in any other manner …

Lake County Rosé (Grape they are made from)

Brassfield Estate Winery (Pinot Noir) available only at the tasting room

Ceago Vinegarden (Syrah)

Gregory Graham Wines (Grenache, Syrah)

Monte Lago Estate (Grenache) Also available under the Dharmapalan label

Moore Family Winery (Syrah, Grenache)

Rosa D’Oro Vineyards (Rosato)

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery (Syrah)

Six Sigma Ranch (Cabernet Sauvignon, Temperanillo, Cabernet Franc)

Sol Rouge Vineyard and Winery (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah)

Steele Winery (Cabernet Franc)

Terrill Cellars Wines (Merlot Blush)

Tulip Hill (Merlot, Syrah)

Wildhurst Vineyards (Syrah)

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

YOLO COUNTY – A Clear Lake man was arrested in Yolo County earlier this month for allegedly possessing drugs and a counterfeit vehicle registration tab.

Jack Oliver, 38, was taken into custody on Dec. 18 following a traffic stop, according to Sgt. Lance Faille of the Yolo County Sheriff's Department.

Faille reported that at about 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 sheriff's deputies stopped Oliver on Interstate 5 north of Zamora.

Riding with Oliver was 55-year-old Richard Oakley, a transient who had a felony warrant out of Napa County for methamphetamine possession. Faille said deputies found Oakley in possession of hashish and less than an ounce of marijuana.

During the search, deputies determined that Oliver had a counterfeit registration tab, which is a felony, and they additionally found five ounces of marijuana in the vehicle's engine compartment that Oliver allegedly admitted belonged to him, Faille said.

Both Oliver and Oakley were booked into the Yolo County Jail, according to Faille's report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY – December's rains are helping to replenish local creeks and a very low Clear Lake, but despite much-needed influxes of water the lake is still at a 15-year low.

On Sunday, a US Geological Survey water gage showed that Clear Lake was at 0.69 feet Rumsey, the measurement used specifically for Clear Lake. On Dec. 27, 2008, the lake was at 1.16 feet Rumsey.

November and December typically are the months of the year when the lake is at its lowest level, based on a survey of lake level records.

Clear Lake is considered full at 7.56 feet Rumsey, according to the Lake County Water Resources Division.

Water Resources explains on its Web site that the lake's natural level is maintained by a rock sill – the Grigsby Riffle – located at the confluence of Cache and Siegler creeks near Lower Lake. The lake's natural low water level is “Zero Rumsey,” a measurement equivalent to 1318.26 feet above sea level.

Rains over the past two weekends have raised Clear Lake a small amount overall. While the lake is low, it was at its lowest point for the year on Nov. 20, when it was at 0.45 feet Rumsey, according to US Geological Survey records.

The last time it was as low, or lower, than that Nov. 20 measurement was in November of 1994, when records show it was down to 0.39 feet Rumsey.

US Geological Survey stream gages around the county also showed creek levels picking up over the past two weekends.

The lowest level recorded for the lake over the past century was -3.50 feet Rumsey, recorded in late September of 1920, according to Water Resources. The lake's maximum gage height, 11.34, was recorded on Feb. 21, 1986.

Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, which owns the water rights to Clear Lake as well as to Indian Valley Reservoir, reported that the reservoir was at 12,834 acre feet on Dec. 22, down by more than 6,300 acre feet from December 2008.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LOWER LAKE – The community is invited to participate in an interactive trails workshop to help plan Lake County’s regional trails system.

The workshop will be held on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lower Lake Historic Schoolhouse Museum, located at 16435 Morgan Valley Road in Lower Lake.

Presented by the County of Lake, the National Park Service (Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program), and Alta Planning, this community workshop will provide an opportunity to learn about the County’s efforts to plan for and develop a network of trails and community pathway connections on and around Clear Lake.

The workshop, which is a followup to a workshop held in September, will feature a presentation on the county’s trails planning efforts, the results of the recently conducted trails community survey, breakout sessions to gather feedback about proposed trail concepts and ideas for potential connections, a trails open house, and an opportunity for “trail talk” with trail vendors and experts. Information tables will feature sample trail plans and documents.

Volunteer opportunities for trails development also will be discussed.

Light lunch will be provided. After the workshop, attendees can choose to participate in an optional one-hour guided hike through Anderson Marsh State Historic Park (weather permitting).

Be a part of this workshop and help shape a trails system that will meet community needs and encourage tourism by making Lake County a world-class trails destination.

For information on the County’s trails development efforts, go online to or contact the Lake County Public Services Department at 707-262-1618.

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Ron Keas captured this unusual sunset on Monday, December 28, 2009.

LAKE COUNTY – Winter's days may be short, but they can have spectacular endings.

On Monday evening local photographer Ron Keas captured another spectacular Lake County sunset.

Throughout the year Keas has shared his talent for capturing great moments around the county, including morning and evening light shows.

View more of his photos at .

SAN FRANCISCO – An earthquake early warning system for California is feasible in coming years, according to research presented earlier this month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

The ongoing study demonstrates that an earthquake early warning system for earthquake-prone California is possible and lays out how such a system could be built, according to the US Geological Survey.

Earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking.

Building on developments in other countries with significant earthquake risk, scientists are exploring early warning in the United States.

After a three-year earthquake early warning study funded by the US Geological Survey was completed in August 2009, a second project funded by the agency was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system.

When completed, this pilot system, called the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) ShakeAlert System, will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies.

While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts, the US Geological Survey reported.

The CISN ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake's epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. The speed of an electronic warning message is faster than the speed of earthquake waves traveling through the earth.

Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems, and alerting people to move to safer locations. In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.

The earthquake early warning test uses real-time data from the CISN, which is part of the US Geological Survey's Advanced National Seismic System, through which the agency aims to broadly improve earthquake monitoring and reporting in the United States. Funding for the CISN is provided by the US Geological Survey and the state of California.

The study is a collaboration among the USGS, the California Institute of Technology, the University of California-Berkeley, the Swiss Seismological Service and the Southern California Earthquake Center.

In the next two years American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding will be used to upgrade many of the older, slower seismic instruments throughout the CISN. These older instruments introduce time delays and would slow down early warning alerts.

Earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that the US Geological Survey would fund $29.4 million in earthquake network upgrades nationwide through stimulus money.

The upgrades are expected to improve the timely delivery of information to high-hazard regions such as the Bay Area.

The US Geological Survey will replace old instruments – some of which have not been upgraded in 40 years – with state-of-the-art, robust systems across the highest earthquake hazard areas in California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Intermountain West, and the Central and Eastern United States.

Salazar said nearly 75 million Americans live within earthquake prone areas.

Statewide, California has more than a 99 percent chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake within the next 30 years, according to scientists using a new model to determine the probability of big quakes, officials reported. In the Bay area specifically, there is a nearly two out of three chance of an earthquake of that magnitude in that time period.

The funds will be used to upgrade the seismic and geodetic stations that monitor earthquakes; improve communication systems to make them more robust and reliable; lay the groundwork to enable earthquake early warning; support students at universities in California who will be involved in the installation, providing a unique educational experience and helping to train the next generation of earthquake scientists; and help save jobs that are threatened by cuts in state funding in California.

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The surviving spouse of a decedent owing large debts will want to limit how much such debts reduce the decedent’s assets left to the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse’s own assets.

California law provides that a surviving spouse is personally liable for all of the separate debts of the deceased spouse up to the amount of the couple’s community property assets and any separate property of the decedent received by the surviving spouse without probate.

Under California law, creditors generally have one year from the date of death to file a timely claim against a decedent’s estate. Due process under the US Constitution, however, allows creditors to receive notice and an opportunity to file a claim. California’s law may, therefore, be unconstitutional as to creditors who neither receive notice nor know about the debtor’s death.

Delaying the estate administration, if possible, until after one year may be advantageous. If the creditor does not open a probate and file a claim within the year, then they may be out of luck.

Is the debt the decedent’s separate property debt or a community property debt?

If the surviving spouse is not the decedent’s sole beneficiary, the following rules are more important. First, if separate property debts cannot be fully paid from the decedent’s own separate property, the deficiency is chargeable to the couple’s community property (beginning with the decedent’s one-half share).

Second, community property debts are primarily chargeable against the community property assets. After exhausting the community property, any unpaid deficiency is divided equally between the spouses’ separate property estates. If the decedent’s separate property is not enough to pay such deficiency, any remaining balance is paid from the surviving spouse’s separate property.

Administration of the decedent’s estate plays a major role. In a probate all reasonably ascertainable creditors must be notified.

Creditors have a four month “claims period” to file timely claims, subject to the one year statute of limitations. Untimely or unfiled creditor claims are denied.

Moreover, the surviving spouse may elect to include her half of the community property as part of the probate in order to deny untimely or unfiled creditor claims from enforcement against the surviving spouse’s own one-half share of the community property assets.

If no probate was commenced and the decedent’s estate was held in a living trust, then the trustee may proceed with an optional claims procedure, similar to probate, in order to time bar other creditors who file late or do not file at all.

Unlike with probate, the surviving spouse may not elect to include her one-half share in trust community property assets as part of the creditor claims process. Only if all community property passes through probate is protection definitely afforded against untimely claims.

Who the creditor is also is important. Is the creditor a secured creditor who may go against some collateral, or guarantee, and pursue any deficiency judgment as an unsecured creditor? Is the creditor the California’s Estate Recovery Unit requesting repayment for SSI/Medi-Cal welfare benefits received by the decedent while alive? If so their claim will not become enforceable until after the surviving spouse dies.

Is the creditor is the Internal Revenue Service? If so, did the couple filed a joint return or filed separately? If they filed jointly for the year in question, then the surviving spouse is fully liable for the tax debt.

How to proceed in any individual matter requires examination of the particular facts related to the deceased spouse’s estate. A qualified attorney should be consulted for guidance.


Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

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CACHE CREEK – Winter brings with it an opportunity to view amazing wildlife in Lake County.

The Bureau of Land Management will host free guided hikes on Saturdays in January and February to view wintering bald eagles in Lake County's Cache Creek Natural Area.

Hikes will be held Jan. 16, 23 and 30, and Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27.

The California Department of Fish and Game reported that the bald eagle is a regular winter visitor in the Cache Creek area, where they can be seen roosting or soaring from mid October through mid August.

California state law classifies the bald eagle as a “fully protected bird.” The bald eagle was added to the federal list of endangered species in 1967, and to the California list of endangered species in 1971 after its numbers dropped to 30 nesting pairs in California.

Use of the pesticide DDT was reported to have had the most effect on the bald eagle's population, although numerous other impacts also were reported to have dropped its numbers, including habitat changes because of timber harvests, agriculture, poisoning and shootings, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

Lake County is reported to have two nesting territories for bald eagles, one in the far north and the second in far south at the Napa County line, according to state records.

Fish and Game also reported that bald eagle numbers and the territories they inhabit also are increasing across the state.

Participants in the January and February hikes will meet at the Redbud Trailhead parking area, eight miles east of Clearlake Oaks on Highway 20 at 10 a.m. The trailhead is just west of the North Fork Cache Creek Bridge (38° 59' 13.20" N, 122° 32' 22.50" W).

The four-mile hikes last three to four hours. The trail includes a steep 600-foot climb in the first mile, so hikers should be in good physical condition.

Hikers should wear sturdy hiking boots suitable for wet conditions and dress for cold weather. They should carry water, a lunch and binoculars, as most eagle sightings are at a distance. Hikes will be canceled in rainy weather.

Those who join the hikes will enjoy scenic vistas of the Cache Creek Canyon, where eagles often soar over the creek or perch in streamside trees. Participants often spot other wildlife including tule elk, golden eagles, osprey, herons, red-tailed hawks and egrets.

Those interested in participating should reserve space for a specific date by calling the BLM Ukiah Field Office, 707-468-4000.

Early reservations are suggested for the popular hikes, which are limited to 25 participants each.

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THE GEYSERS – A new research project in The Geysers geothermal steamfield has received funding from the federal government.

University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering professor Fred Aminzadeh and his colleagues have won Department of Energy funding for a 3-D geothermal mapping and modeling effort.

The effort will focus on The Geysers area, a high-potential geothermal energy site straddling Lake and Sonoma counties that is already home to commercial operations.

The two-year, $1.5 million project will be carried out in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Geysers Power Co., the operator of existing geothermal power plants in the area.

The objective is to develop new methodologies to characterize the northwestern part of the Geysers geothermal reservoir, gaining better knowledge of their porosity, permeability, fracture size, fracture spacing, reservoir discontinuities (leaky barriers) and impermeable boundaries.

The immediate focus will be creating improved methods for better characterization of fractures in an enhanced geothermal system.

“This will be accomplished by creating a 3-D seismic velocity model of the field using the micro-seismic data, collected under another Department of Energy-funded project,” said Aminzadeh, research professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and managing director of the USC Energy Institute’s Global Energy Center.

Several complementary processing approaches will be used to develop and test new techniques for data collection and analysis. The approaches include micro-seismic data analysis both for compressional and shear waves using soft computing, anisotropic inversion and fractal concepts.

“Geothermal energy is potentially an extremely important energy source, particularly for California,” said Don Paul, executive director of the USC Energy Institute. “Many of the techniques used in oil and gas well engineering are applicable to geothermal, and we look forward to the opportunity to apply this technology in a new area.”

Two other USC faculty members will contribute to the effort: Charles Sammis from the earth sciences department at USC College and Muhammad Sahimi from the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

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Members of the Toys for Kids team, including Congressman Mike Thompson and Santa Claus, on Saturday, December 19, 2009, at the Lake Transit bus barn in Lower Lake. Photo courtesy of Bob Minenna.




LAKE COUNTY – With the tough times, the Christmas spirit was especially needed this year, and once again it came through in many giving campaigns.

That was true of the Toys for Kids fundraiser and toy drive, which last Saturday gave out toys and Christmas cheer to children in need and their families.

Toys for Kids is a nonprofit effort started by a group of local volunteers and Congressman Mike Thompson.

Brad Onorato, Thompson's district representative, said this is the toy drive's 14th year, and it was both a successful and heart-wrenching effort.

“I think this year the need was bigger,” he said.

Onorato said the annual toy drive started when some Clearlake residents called him several years ago and said they were having trouble raising money to buy toys for low-income children.

Thompson and his staff decided that year that, rather than have a Christmas party, they would donate their money to buying toys.

“And every year it grew after that,” said Onorato, who explained that Toys for Kids became a nonprofit about nine years ago.

Mel Aust is the chair, while Thompson is chairman emeritus. Board members include Tami Ipsen, Hidden Valley Lake; Anna Ocon, Clearlake; Peggy McCloud, Lakeport; Bob Minenna, Lower Lake; Margaret Walker-Stimmel, Kelseyville; and Dorrie Walker, Lower Lake.

In Toys for Kids' 14 years, it has served exactly 21,413 children – 791 just this year – and raised about $75,000, Onorato explained.

“We raised that money mostly out of Lake County,” said Onorato.

He said there were numerous community and corporate partners in making the toy drive and the distribution event on Dec. 19 successful.

Partner groups include Lake Transit Authority, Lake Family Resource Center, Lake County Office of Education-Healthy Family and Healthy Start programs, Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District, Wal-Mart of Clearlake and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Action Sanitation also participated in the giveaway this year.

This year PG&E gave the effort $1,000, and Onorato said Wal-Mart gave them a discount as well as a donation. He said when they show up the Clearlake store's manager and sales associates are waiting with shopping carts.

This year they were able to shop for 700 toys in close to 25 minutes, and spent about $9,100, Onorato said.

The toys were then taken to the Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District, where Mel Aust and his staff, along with local volunteers, wrapped all of the presents, according to Onorato.

He said they work with Healthy Start programs around the lake to identify the children who will be provided gifts.

The focus is on children, from infants to 12 years old, but if there is money left over, Onorato said they purchase gift cards for teenagers. This year they handed out 30 such gift cards, along with some footballs and basketballs.

On the day of the gift giveaway, Lake Transit hosts the families and children at its Lower Lake bus garage, and also transports the families there.

Seeing some of the children's faces “just makes it all worth it,” Onorato said.

Culinary students from Yuba College's Clear Lake campus were up bright and early on Saturday to bake cookies, which they served – along with hot chocolate – to the parents and children at the event, said Onorato.

Thompson spent about an hour and a half at the giveaway, said Onorato, “talking with parents and teasing kids and having a good time.”

The toys that were left over were given to the Freedom House domestic violence shelter at the Lake Family Resource Center in Kelseyville and to the Lake County Community Action Agency, Onorato said.

Onorato said they usually start fundraising in July with a golf tournament, although that didn't take place this year.

This is the only part of his district where Thompson has such a giveaway, which he's very proud of and also supports with his own donations, said Onorato.

In fact, Thompson was discussing it on the House floor, and now Congresswoman Jackie Speier is asking Thompson for information on how to start a similar effort in her district.

Thompson feels that it's a heartwarming endeavor, Onorato said. “He loves participating in this.”

“I do, too,” Onorato added. “It's really satisfying to be involved in this effort.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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