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Tachi Palace helps Valley Animal Haven

LEMOORE — Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino recently hosted its December community breakfast and presented a check for over $5,868 to Valley Animal Haven, a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter that helps save the lives of helpless and homeless animals.

Tachi officials said more than 435 people attended the breakfast, raising a total of $2,934 at the door. Tachi Palace and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tribe matched the amount for a total donation of $5,868.

Tachi Palace Marketing Director Tribal Intern Rojelio Morales presented the check to Pam Brasil, executive director of Valley Animal Haven.

“We are grateful for the support of Tachi Palace and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tribe,” Brasil said. “We will use this money to purchase food, pet supplies and cleaning products, and help the countless animals that are in need.”

Tachi Palace hosts a monthly community breakfast that features a breakfast buffet, informative community news and business networking, as well as raffle prizes. All contributions benefit a featured organization.

This is the third year Valley Animal Haven has been the recipient of the community breakfast donation and Brasil said this year was the largest amount so far.

The shelter is fully donation-based, so Brasil said the donation from the community breakfast will be used to offset general costs. She said the shelter service that uses the most money — roughly $4,000 a month — is spaying and neutering the animals.

An average of 65 animals are adopted out of Valley Animal Haven every month, and all of them are spayed and neutered before they leave. They are also microchipped.

Along with donations, Valley Animal Haven also holds fundraisers, like operating a firework booth before the Fourth of July and hosting a large yard sale with items donated from the community. The shelter also has a mailing list and receives individual donations.

Just like last year, Brasil said the shelter received blanket donations from some local elementary schools for the cold winter months.

Brasil calls fundraisers and donations the lifeblood of the organization, saying the lives of the animals depend on the funds.

“Without the help we wouldn’t be able to keep the doors open and we wouldn’t be able to be here for the animals” Brasil said. “We’re eternally grateful for the funds.”

Holiday adoptions have left some space, but Brasil said the shelter is usually full. She said the shelter can house around 90-100 dogs and 50-55 cats comfortably. This summer, however, she said there were as many as 95 cats there.

Right now, Brasil said Valley Animal Haven if focused on stockpiling its food pantry. She said some items the shelter always needs on an ongoing basis are dry puppy food, canned cat food that is not fish flavored and bleach for cleaning.

As the year closes out, Brasil said almost 700 animals were adopted in 2018. She said she was proud of her amazing team of hundreds of volunteers who keep the shelter going year round.

The next Tachi Palace community breakfast will be held Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Attendees are encouraged to make a minimum donation of $5 to attend the breakfast. For more information, visit

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The Macey Blue Band plays for a cause

HANFORD — If you’re going to rock, you might as well do it for a good cause.

That’s the collective mindset of Hanford rockers The Macey Blue Band, who prefer to perform at the functions of local charities and non-profits.

“We don’t play night clubs or all that. We like to play things that gel into something a little bit more interesting for us,” bassist Jackie Ray said.

Through Hanford Parks and Recreation’s “Challenger” program, the band will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 at the Civic Auditorium for locals with special-needs and their families.

The four-piece Hanford band, the core of which has been playing together over a decade, has played for the participants of the “Challenger” program before and Ray said it’s a fun time.

“[Parks and Recreation Supervisor] Susie [Chavez]’s intention is to put on a full rock and roll concert for these people so they can dance and have fun and we just like to help out,” he said. “They’re very appreciative.”

A free hot dog dinner with chips, drinks and a dessert will be served during the concert.

In addition to Ray, the band is made up of guitarist Steve Earl, guitarist and vocalist Chris Machado and drummer Paul Cruz who joined the band nearly two years ago.

The Macey Blue Band regularly performs at Parks and Recreation functions and other events organized for good causes. Recently, the group performed as part of the Hanford Carnegie Museum’s Homecoming event.

“Our main gig is performing for charities and fundraisers,” he said. “It’s just what we do.”

Ray said that the band likes to write and perform music just for the fun of it and aren’t aiming to be the next American Idols.

The band performs at events hosted by these charities because their lives have been touched by many of the afflictions the organizations seek to remedy.

“We’ve all had somebody suffer with cancer so that’s why we do the Relay events. Children’s Hospital is real special to me because I had a daughter that had cancer, so we donate to them whenever we can,” Ray said.

The band covers hits from several genres, spanning multiple decades, including country, rock, pop and reggae. Any given setlist could feature songs from artists like Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, R.E.M. or Bob Marley.  

“We like to cover all the bases,” he said.

He said the band tends to play songs that could be considered deeper cuts than what audiences may expect. They also try to play tunes from beloved bands that audiences may not hear from performed live often.

Of course, the band also throws in a few of their own songs on occasion, as well.

“We have some originals we play that we’ll throw in the middle and tell people afterward that we wrote it just to see what the reaction is,” he said.

The band is also scheduled to perform from 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 at the Plan B Taphouse, 129 W. 5th Street, Hanford.

Federal workers face grim prospect of lengthy shutdown

WASHINGTON — Three days, maybe four. That's how long Ethan James, 21, says he can realistically miss work before he's struggling.

So as the partial government shutdown stretched into its sixth day with no end in sight, James, a minimum-wage contractor sidelined from his job as an office worker at the Interior Department, was worried. "I live check to check right now," he said, and risks missing his rent or phone payment. Contractors, unlike most federal employees, may never get back pay for being idled. "I'm getting nervous," he said.

Federal workers and contractors forced to stay home or work without pay are experiencing mounting stress from the impasse affecting hundreds of thousands of them. For those without a financial cushion, even a few days of lost wages during the shutdown over President Donald Trump's border wall could have dire consequences.

As well, the disruption is starting to pinch citizens who count on a variety of public services, beyond those who've been finding gates closed at national parks. For example, the government won't issue new federal flood insurance policies or renew expiring ones.

Trump and congressional leaders appear no closer to a resolution over his demand for $5 billion for the border wall that could now push the shutdown into the new year. The House and Senate gaveled in for a perfunctory session Thursday, but quickly adjourned without action. No votes are expected until next week, and even that's not guaranteed. Lawmakers are mostly away for the holidays and will be given 24-hour notice to return, with Republican senators saying they won't vote until all parties, including Trump, agree to a deal.

The president spent part of the day tweeting about the shutdown, insisting "this isn't about the Wall," but about Democrats denying him "a win."

"Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" he asked in one tweet, citing no evidence for that claim. That earned him a reprimand from Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who tweeted: "Federal employees don't go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They're public servants."

Roughly federal 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, unable to take any sick days or vacation. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, it's not guaranteed. The Senate passed a bill last week to make sure workers will be paid. The House will probably follow suit.

The longer the shutdown lasts, the more government activities will grind to a halt. It's already caused a lapse in money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

Many national parks have closed while some have limited facilities. The National Flood Insurance Program announced it will no longer renew or issue policies during the shutdown.

The chief judge of Manhattan federal courts suspended work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers as a result of the shutdown. The order suspends action in several civil lawsuits in which Trump is a defendant.

Judge Colleen McMahon said in a written order that the suspension will remain in effect until the business day after the president signs a budget appropriation law restoring Justice Department funding.

A similar order to McMahon's has been issued in the Northern District of Ohio.

"I think it's obvious that until the president decides he can sign something — or something is presented to him — that we are where we are," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

House Democrats tried Thursday to offer a measure to re-open government, but they were blocked from action by Republicans, who still have majority control of the chamber until Democrats take over Jan. 3.

"Unfortunately, 800,000 federal workers are in a panic because they don't know whether they'll get paid," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who tried to offer the bill. "That may make the president feel good but the rest of us should be terribly bothered by that, and should work on overtime to end the shutdown now."

Government contractors like James, placed on unpaid leave, don't get compensated for lost hours.

James said the contracting company he works for gave its employees a choice: take unpaid leave or dip into paid time-off entitlements. But James doesn't have any paid time off because he started the job just four months ago. His only option is forgoing a paycheck.

"This is my full-time job, this is what I was putting my time into until I can save up to take a few classes," said James, who plans to study education and become a teacher. "I'm going to have to look for something else to sustain me."

As federal employees tell their stories on Twitter under the hashtag #Shutdownstories, Trump has claimed that federal workers are behind him, saying many have told him "stay out until you get the funding for the wall.'" He didn't say whom he had heard from, and he did not explain the incongruity of also believing that most are Democrats.

Steve Reaves, president of Federal Emergency Management Agency union, said he hasn't heard from any employees who say they support the shutdown.

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Fresno deputies search for robbery suspect

FRESNO — Property crimes detectives with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office are asking for the public to help them find 26-year-old Marco Antonio Perez of Selma, who is wanted in connection to an armed robbery of field workers that occurred recently.

Around 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, Sheriff’s officials said a group of workers were pruning a vineyard off a dirt road north of Floral Avenue, west of South Jameson Avenue, when three men in a black Dodge Durango drove up, got out and demanded the workers hand over their money.

The suspects wore hooded sweatshirts and masks and deputies said one was armed with a handgun and another had a knife.

Officials said a contractor, who was paying the employees at the time, had a large amount of cash taken from them. They said two of the field workers also handed over their money.

Two of the suspects got into their SUV, however, officials said 22-year-old Dion Loftis of Hanford did not make it back to the vehicle because he stumbled and fell, dropping his gun.

Deputies said one of the victims picked up the gun and began firing shots at Loftis. He was struck three times: twice in the buttocks and once in the calf, they said.

Officials said the victim continued shooting at the back of the SUV as it drove away.

They said the other workers quickly ran over and held Loftis down as they waited for deputies to respond to a 911 call that was made.

Deputies arrived and gave Loftis medical treatment before an ambulance responded and took Loftis to a hospital to undergo surgery. Officials said he has since been booked into the Fresno County Jail.

Detectives said they later identified the two men who fled in the SUV: 23-year-old Jorge Pacheco of Fresno and 26-year-old Marco Perez of Selma.

Detectives later found and arrested Pacheco, but continue to search for Perez.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Marco Perez is asked to contact the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at 600-3111, or Detective Patrick Beggs at 600-8390 or

You may also contact Crime Stoppers at 498-7867 or You will remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.