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Longfield Center is Parks and Rec's hidden gem

HANFORD — According to Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez, the Longfield Center is Hanford Parks and Recreation’s best-kept secret.

People may know about the events constantly going on at the Civic Auditorium or the Veterans Memorial Building, but there's a lot going on south of Downtown, to, Chavez said. 

“It’s got a lot of amenities that, I’ve discovered, people don’t have a clue that are there,” Chavez said, adding that she feels there are a lot of people – especially seniors — in the area that could benefit from the programs and equipment offered at the Longfield Center, if only they knew about them.

The facility, located at 450 S. Douty St., is open to seniors from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 1-9 p.m. for general public use.

Chavez said that many programs moved from downtown’s Veterans Memorial Building to the Longfield Center when that building was condemned late last year. When the Veterans Memorial Building reopened recently after repairs, many of the Parks and Recreation programs returned – but not all of them.

“There are so many new people in town that may not know what’s here and what’s available,” Chavez said.

The Longfield Center facility is home to a basketball court, billiards and game room, a weight room and a multimedia room with computers, Wi-Fi and cable television. The amenities are available free to the public.

Of the scheduled weekly and bi-weekly activities, only the aerobics and Zumba classes have fees, $11 and $15 per month, respectively. The aerobics classes run three times a week from 8:30-9:30 a.m, led by instructor Cindy Rodriguez. Catherine Wunderly Suarez’ Zumba Gold classes run Tuesday and Thursday from 9-10 a.m. and Monday and Wednesday from 9:45-10:45 a.m.

The center opens at 8 a.m. daily, and in no time at all, seniors will be taking to walking the perimeter of the basketball court, getting exercise inside, shielded from the chilly mornings.

The facility also hosts a “Rehab Social Club” twice a week, where those with special needs can play games, exercise and “just enjoy a new location for a while,” Chavez said.

“We try to make it fun and welcoming for the seniors and for the special-needs people,” volunteer Diana Ramm said.

The retired Ramm works mornings at the center Monday through Thursday. After retiring due to a chronic illness, she wanted to do something with her time, preferably working with seniors or those with special needs, she said, and mornings at the Longfield Center were a perfect fit.

“It’s not like working. It’s something I enjoy,” she said.

She said that during the rehab social club, she leads the special needs visitors in games and rounds of karaoke and dancing. Every other week, she treats she offers manicures.

Last month, visitors were treated to a Halloween party, featuring costumes and dancing.

Longfield Center also hosts a free food bank in partnership with the Kings County Commission on Aging on the first Wednesday of each month, free blood pressure tests and coffee every Wednesday morning and other events.

For more information, call 559-585-2525.  

A Thanksgiving for everyone

HANFORD — Every year, local organizations and volunteers forego their own traditional Thanksgivings to provide free meals to those in need in the community.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Corps of Hanford will host a free Thanksgiving lunch Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the organization’s local headquarters, 380 E. Ivy St. in Hanford.

Doors will open at 10:30 a.m. so people can warm up with hot beverages before the food is served.

Capt. Luke Betti, Salvation Army of Hanford’s administrator and pastor, said 400 plates were served last year and he expects even more this year. He said the meal is for everybody, including those who are homeless.

“They don’t have a house, but their home is Hanford,” Betti said. “They’re a part of us.”

In addition to the meals on site, Betti said dozens of home deliveries are also made on Thanksgiving Day to those who may not have transportation or are elderly and can’t leave their homes.

Anyone wishing to request a meal can contact the Salvation Army office at 582-4434.

“It keeps growing and we keep adding more things,” Betti said of the longtime event. “If we get a call from anywhere in Kings County, we’ll try to service those areas.”

On Tuesday, the organization also distributed about 180 food boxes to families and individuals in the community with the help of Central California Food Bank.

Betti said volunteers seem to really enjoy themselves and talk with those who attend the lunch. He said the goal is to be family-friendly, and even said families with kids volunteer their time.

“It’s a very nice event,” Betti said. “We want to take care of each other and cheer each other up.”

Betti would also like to let community members know that the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign for the holiday season began Monday and has the goal of raising $50,000 this year.

“Get out here and help us raise that money so we can serve more people in Kings County,” Betti said.

Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner

The Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner Committee, a group of volunteers that has provided a free meal to those in need every year for the past seventeen years, is hard at work preparing for the 18th annual dinner.

This meal is provided to anyone who would like a place to go to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day. It is open to the public as well as to seniors, military personnel and their families.

Around 2,000 meals are expected to be served Thursday, which include Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, green beans and dessert.

Takeout meals and home deliveries in the Hanford/Lemoore area are available for anyone who cannot make it to the dinner’s location, which is the Lemoore Senior Citizens Center located at 789 18th Ave., Lemoore.

To order a home delivery, call on 816-5461 on Thanksgiving Day.

The Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner Committee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on donations. The entire event is made possible thanks to the volunteers and donations from members of the community.

The planning committee said any person or organizations wishing to help with this year’s dinner are welcome. They are seeking volunteers who wish to help with donations of time, food or money.

Help will be needed with planning, cooking, serving, clean-up and home deliveries.

Life goes on for a hardy few

PARADISE, Calif. — Brad Weldon lost his home to fire when he was a kid, so when a deadly wildland blaze came roaring toward his ranch house in the pines where he lives with his 89-year-old blind mother, he wasn't going to let disaster strike twice.

Weldon and his mother's caregiver, armed only with a garden hose and buckets, successfully fought the flames for 24 hou winds drove flames through the forest.

Having saved his home in Paradise, Weldon's not leaving what he now calls the "hell zone."

"If they take me out of here, it will be at gunpoint," Weldon said. "My mom says they'll have to beat her ass, too. She ain't going without a fight."

Weldon is among a small group of fire survivors who have defied orders to leave and decided to stick it out in the blackened and smoldering landscape. Flames leveled the town of Paradise, which is about 140 miles north of San Francisco, and much of the surrounding area, killing at least 77 people and destroying more than 10,500 homes.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said he didn't know how many people were living in the evacuation zones. Deputies who encounter someone in the area will confirm they live there, but won't necessarily take other action.

"We're not dragging them out," he said. "If some guy stayed at his house, I'm not going to arrest him if he's not creating some kind of problem. I'm trying to treat people with respect and compassion."

Honea said he was hesitant to spread that message because it might encourage people to ignore evacuation orders, which can create problems even if they survive the initial danger. He said deputies have encountered people who stayed behind and ran out of food.

It's an audacious endeavor to stay behind in the smoky ruins with all the challenges that remain: There's no power, no public water supply and there's nowhere nearby to get supplies. Residents who leave to get groceries, drinking water or fuel for generators, aren't allowed to return.

The fire continues to burn and the sheriff has said there's no timeline for when people will be allowed back in the area because the scope of the destruction is unprecedented.

Patrick Knuthson, who managed to save his large metal workshop that has a small apartment inside, said he's not planning to leave and has plenty of food and fuel to provide electricity to his living space and to pump water from his well.

Knuthson has appointed himself as a guardian in his neck of the woods on the outskirts of Paradise where only two of 22 houses remained standing on his road. He has spray painted a sign saying "Looters will be shot!!"

"I got my neighborhood locked down," Knuthson said. "We're all armed. We'll ask questions later."

Weldon also feared looters would break into his "hicktorian" style house — a one-story ranch with ornate Victorian details inside.

"It's a ghost town, buddy," he said. "It's pitch black. If you hear something, you better be on your toes because somebody's outside your house."

Knuthson said he knows about 40 people still living in the hills and added that he'd welcome anyone who wants to park a trailer on his large plot of land.

For a while, his cousins, Phillip and Krystin Harvey, who lost their mobile home, had been staying with their three teenage daughters in a camper, trying to hang on to a piece of the life they had known. At night, the victims of the so-called Camp Fire stood by the glow of a campfire to stay warm.

When someone offered to bring supplies, 16-year-old Arissa Harvey only wanted textbooks so she wouldn't fall behind.

Eventually the family gave up and moved to Oroville to stay with friends to have some stability and security, Knuthson said.

"They had to get out of the smoke," Knuthson said. "To have some kind of life."

Some stayed because they had nowhere else to go.

Troy Miller, who had tried to evacuate from his Concow home but was turned back by flames, was camping in a truck next to the metal frame that remained of his home. His horse and three dogs survived, but he has no money or insurance to rebuild.

Some passing firefighters gave Miller some drinking water, but he was hoping someone would get through the roadblocks and bring him a flashlight and some tarps for rain in the forecast.

"I'm alive and I'm still up here. There are plenty of other people worse off than I am," he said. "I've got a lot of faith in God. I think things will be OK."

In wake of teen’s death, Selma rallies around family

SELMA – A weekend dirt bike ride turned tragic for a Selma teen, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol and the Selma community is coming to grips with the unexpected death of a local 16-year-old.

It was nearly 5 p.m. Nov. 17 when the CHP received the initial call that an off-road motorcycle collided with a two-axle big rig northwest of Selma.

Jose Campos, 44, of Lemoore was traveling south on Clovis Avenue near Dinuba Avenue. Meanwhile, the teen, later identified as Ramon Gonzalez, was driving 2007 off-road motorcycle wearing a full-face helmet and goggles along a dirt path nearby. Because of a row of trees and a large wooden fence, Campos did not see Gonzalez approaching from his left as he passed Clovis Avenue. Once he heard the engine noise of the motorcycle, Campos reported he looked to his left and saw the dirt bike driver come from the dirt path and on to the road. Gonzalez collided with the rear trailer of the Freightliner and came to rest in the front yard of a residence on Clovis Avenue.

Campos stopped on the right shoulder and provided medical aid, as did the residents of the home; however the teen succumbed to his injuries.

Drugs and alcohol were not a factor in this collision.

As the community became aware of his death, an outpouring of support has been shown with fundraisers and services at Selma High where Gonzalez played on the junior varsity football team

Selma High's Principal Guillermo Lopez sent a message via Twitter to help the family and each other at this time.

“Dear SHS Bear Family, please help our fellow Bear’s family during this tough time with their loss. Any help will be greatly appreciated and please hug your loved ones.”

On a GoFundMe page, Gonzalez’s sister-in-law Yvonne Gonzalez described Gonzalez as a “very charismatic, funny, responsible and very devoted young man who was taken away too soon. Prayers for all who are grieving with our family.”

Selma High’s Vice Principal Shawn Wisley said in a Twitter comment that the Selma High sophomore was a “fantastic young man. The shock and grief are overwhelming.”

Selma High is hosting a Celebration of Life for Ramon Gonzalez from 6-8 p.m. at the Selma High Dining Hall.