HANFORD — Members of Hanford Senior Citizens Inc. have showed up to the last several Hanford City Council meetings and they have one thing on their mind.
“We want a Hanford Senior Inc. building,” Gail Soto, president of the senior citizen’s board, said.
The seniors and American Legion veterans had been jointly using the Veterans Memorial Building/Senior Center at 401 N. Lacey Blvd. next to the Civic Auditorium for many years.
When the Hanford City Council voted to close the building in November 2017 due to roof issues, the closure sent the seniors and the veterans scrambling to find a new location for the organizations.
Both organizations were indefinitely moved to the former Goodwill building at 426 W. Lacey Blvd. The displacement has caused strain on everyone involved, and Soto said there’s just not enough space for both the seniors and the veterans in the building.
Good news for the veterans came during the March 6 Council study session, when a civil engineer hired by the city said the roof issues on the building weren’t as bad as originally thought; and after some minor work, the Veteran’s Memorial Building could be inhabitable much sooner than planned.
However, when work on the Veterans building is complete, Soto said the seniors will not be going back to the building with the veterans.
Instead, she said the seniors like the old Goodwill building and its location — which is handicap accessible and boasts ample parking — and really want to make it the permanent home for the nearly 70-member group.
The only problem is the seniors feel the city of Hanford has abandoned them in a way and aren’t doing enough to help the senior citizens.
In addition to growing membership, the organization’s biggest money maker, bingo, is also growing at the new site and Soto said they don’t have enough tables to sit everyone.
Soto also said the organization is now enduring expenses it didn’t have before, so its funds are diminishing before their eyes.
The 44 dances the seniors held every year have now dwindled to one dance per month at the Civic Auditorium. Soto said the dances bring in some money, but not enough to pay the bills.
Other board members have also voiced their opinions to Council during public comment, telling Council how much the organization means to their lives and how they desperately need a place to call their own.
There are seniors who are in their 80s and 90s who play bingo every week or go to dances. Soto said they are thriving members of the community and said she believes people need to stand behind the seniors.
When the organization was established in 1984, Soto said the city of Hanford made a donation to the seniors. The gesture is something Soto hopes the current Council will consider doing again, and has asked Council for a $20,000 donation.
“If they’re our sponsors, then they should sponsor us,” Soto said. “Hanford should stand by Hanford.”
Soto said nothing would make her happier than if the building belonged to the seniors. If the necessary improvements were to be made to the former Goodwill building, she said more dances could be held and the building could even be rented for events for extra revenue.
In order to be able to hold dances inside the building, the floor would need to be leveled; right now the uneven floor poses a tripping hazard. Soto said she would also like to have a kitchen and an expanded restroom with more stalls.
Soto said there has been communication with the city and she regularly talks with City Manager Darrel Pyle.
While Pyle said there have been talks for years about the city assisting the veterans in becoming “building independent,” he said the seniors don’t have access to the same kind of revenue streams as the veterans that would allow them to have their own building.
Pyle did say, however, that Council will be discussing possibilities for future recreational facilities soon. He said the city is waiting for appraisals to see if there is an opportunity to expand services at the former Kings YMCA site.
“Our City Council is keenly aware of the demands for indoor space for youth, seniors and veterans,” Pyle said. “They will evaluate many possibilities for long-term solutions.”
Pyle said he hopes to have a clear direction for the groups by early summer.
Soto said everything has caused frustration not just for her and the board, but all the members of Hanford Senior Citizen’s Inc.
“I don’t know how to answer them,” Soto said of the questions she gets from the seniors. “I don’t want to let them down. I want them to get what they deserve.”
Soto said she wishes the seniors and Council could have a meeting together and come to an agreement, but for now, she’ll keep going to the meetings and voicing her concerns.
SACRAMENTO — In the end, it was all Sierra Pacific. The dream season they had longed for was complete.
The Golden Bears were crowned the CIF State Division V champions with a 52-26 rout of Lowell on Saturday — and it was all Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush wanted. Not only to end the season with a win, but to get a state championship for her six seniors who played their final game together.
“They’re like a family to me,” Bush said. “I’ve known a lot of them since they were very, very little.”
With many of the seniors — Janae Tolbert, Haley Bettencourt, Hailey Leslie, Rose Miller, Kalea Bush and Kaylie Rocha — playing together since the third and fourth grade, they know that this is the end of their time together on the court, but not in life.
“I’ve been on this ride with some of them for nine, 10 years, so it’s just crazy to think it stops here,” Bettencourt said. “But I know it’s not really going to stop. We’re going to stay in touch, we’ve known each other too long to get rid of each other. It’s been fun.”
Bush coached her 100th career game for Sierra Pacific and is now 84-16 with the program. The title is the area’s first basketball state championship since 2001 when the Hanford girls won the Division II title.
The Golden 1 Center, home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, was loud with cheers for the Golden Bears. The green and gold supporters made the trip over three hours north to watch their team in their first-ever state title game.
“It just means a lot to have [the community] standing behind you,” Bush said.
Even with six seniors graduating, the future looks bright for Sierra Pacific and it showed in Saturday’s game. Alana Roberts was stellar with 20 points and 12 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor and Celeste Lewis finished with 12 points, four assists and five steals. They’re both only sophomores.
The pair got things started for the team by combining for 10 of the team’s 12 first-quarter points. The top-seeded Golden Bears held No. 4 seed Lowell to five points in the first quarter and 1-of-12 shooting.
Sierra Pacific’s length and defense made it tough for the Cardinals to find any open space, but they also struggled immensely to shoot the ball. Lowell missed plenty of open looks and ended the half 3-for-23 and 8-of-46 for the game (17.4 percent). After the game, they said they believed “nerves” got to them.
The Golden Bears built a 16-point lead in the second quarter, but Lowell went on a 6-0 run to close the half and Sierra Pacific led 22-12 at the break.
Lowell would not go away and down 32-16 with 2:59 left in the third, the Cardinals found some offense and went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to nine points. They trailed 32-23 entering the fourth quarter.
A free throw trimmed the lead to eight, the closest Lowell had been since the first quarter. But when push came to shove, Sierra Pacific responded like champions.
The Golden Bears went on a championship-sealing 20-2 run to end the game, including scoring the last 18 points. The defense limited Lowell to three points in the fourth quarter.
“[Lowell] got here by never giving up,” Bush said. “We talked about what we had to do … that we take care of the ball. We boxed out on the boards, that was big, and coming down and actually running our offense.”
The Golden Bears were all smiles, tears and cheers as the buzzer sounded to close their season. After losing in the Division IV Valley final, this one made all those bad memories disappear.
Despite going 1-for-13 from the 3-point line, the Golden Bears dominated the boards outrebounding Lowell 48-26. Those second-chances allowed for Sierra Pacific to reset and attack inside again.
The seniors combined for 16 points with Leslie not playing due to an injury earlier in the year. Kalea and Tolbert led the seniors with seven points each.
Kalea, the daughter of coach Bush, finishes as the all-time leading scorer for the Golden Bears with 1,099 points after scoring seven in the state final. Bettencourt sits in second with 1,079 and was given the Pursuing Victory with Honor after the game for her sportsmanship.
Sierra Pacific ends the season 32-5, 10-0 in the East Sequoia League, 14-0 at home and on a five-game winning streak.
“I am so incredibly proud,” Bush said. “This is all them, this is all them. They work hard. They work together. We have great leaders and we have a lot of girls that we’re going to miss.”
CHOWCHILLA — A man convicted of the 2005 rape of a Lemoore girl was recently denied parole for another three years, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.
On Friday, at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, a California Parole Board denied parole for 29-year-old Daniel Flanum of Lemoore, DA officials said.
Officials said Flanum was convicted in May 2006 for the forcible rape of a 14-year-old Lemoore girl and was also convicted of inflicting great bodily injury upon the victim.
The rape occurred in October 2005 when Flanum, who was a stranger to the girl, choked her to unconsciousness inside of a vehicle, raped her and then stabbed the child in the neck with a box-cutter knife six times in an attempt to kill her, said a press release from the DA’s office.
Officials said the victim survived the attack and spent several weeks in a hospital.
Flanum was sentenced to 15 years to life in the state prison for the crime and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Assistant District Attorney Phil Esbenshade from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office said he attended the hearing, argued against Flanum’s release and objected to a grant of parole.
Officials said the two-commissioner board agreed with the district attorney and found that Flanum would pose an unreasonable risk to society if released.
Flanum could remain incarcerated for life. The DA’s office said his next parole hearing will be in three years.
“We attend all lifer hearings. Justice for victims of crime does not end at the time of sentencing,” Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes said. “We attend these hearings to give the victims a voice and to protect our community from serious and violent offenders.”
Offenders sentenced to a life term with the possibility of parole cannot be released on parole until a California Board of Prison Hearings determines that they are ready to be returned to society.