Compassion Through Action

Story and Photos by Jacqueline F  |  2017-07-18

William Magana, a recent graduate of Union Gospel Mission’s Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program, now works onsite as the kitchen intern.

Union Gospel Mission at 55

Sacramento, CA (MPG) – For William Magana, it began with cutting. Up and down the Southern California native’s body, he says, are more than 200 scars from self-mutilation that began when he was only 11, just after his mother, struggling to overcome a heroin addiction, was sent to prison outside Sacramento.  

Until he was nearly 30, Magana lived between the two sides of the revolving door of foster homes, juvenile hall, mental wards, drug and alcohol addiction, arrests, prison, recovery and relapse.

“I supposed I was acting out because I wanted my mother, I wanted to be with her,” says Magana, now 33. “So I started with cutting and then later it was drugs and drinking and all the things that go with that.”

In 1997 Magana was given his first hit of methamphetamine and, for the next 17 years or so would work various jobs just to get enough money for more drugs. Stealing and robbing from his own employers, in one case $8,000 from the till at a local convenience store, for which he would be convicted of a felony embezzlement charge, became routine survival tactics.

“I worked to drug and drugged to live,” said Magana. “It was just an ongoing battle.”

Eventually, he overdosed on his psych medication and wound up back inside one more mental institution near downtown Sacramento.  But upon his release form that hospital, Magana says, something different happened, and it would set him on a course for change.

“I got out with nowhere to go and a couple of homeless guys said ‘Go over to Sacramento’s Union Gospel Mission. They can help you there,’” Magana recalls.  “So I went. And I thank God every day for this place.”

In 2015 Magana enrolled in the Union Gospel’s nine month drug and alcohol rehabilitation program for men, began studying the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible, a requirement all who wish to receive services at Union, and started to turn his life around. But, as is often the case with addiction and mental health issues, Magana began cutting again and within a few months left and got back into old patterns of self-destruction.  But the seed had been planted and he returned in March of 2016.

“You can do that here if you are willing,” says Magana.  “They saw me come back and they took me in again.”

Now, 16 months clean and sober, Magana is a graduate of Union’s rehabilitation program and is working as the Mission’s kitchen intern, assisting with the preparation of the meals given out to the roughly 120 men and women who walk through doors each day.
 
At 55, Union Gospel is on the precipice of growth and much-needed restoration. The restrooms inside the men’s rehabilitation center and living quarters at its Bannon Street facility have, through the donations of supporters, been given a makeover, complete with new floors, private stalls and granite countertops.  Granite countertops and new floors, says Director Pastor Time Lane, may seem like small things, but to the men who are enrolled in the Mission’s rehabilitation program, and the guests the facility serves, they represent little reminders of self-worth.

“What we want to do with the renovations is provide a space that gives our residents a sense of pride and value,” said Lane, who has served in his current capacity at Union Gospel since 2005.

Union Gospel can currently house up to about 60 men in its temporary shelter, but those stays are only good for roughly seven nights, after which they must leave for a minimum of three nights before cycling back in again. This is to allow others to rotate in.  They must carry a current TB card, proof of a recent, negative Tuberculosis test and inoculation and attend bible study sessions.

Meals are served twice daily inside the main dining hall.  In 2016, more than 100,000 men, women and children received a hot meal at Union

Although the area’s homeless population is rising, the numbers served at the mission remain relatively consistent, but that is because availability is limited to current capacity only. Union Gospel’s Bible-based, modified 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation program can serve up to 24 men at a time.  Its goal is to steer participants toward a life of recovery, as well as a life centered on the gospel.

“They don’t have to convert, but they have to give us a chance to offer them information about the teachings of the Bible and how, if they want to, they can change for the better, change for good,” says Lane.

Union Gospel Mission offers free showers and access to clean clothes for men who come in from the street during specified hours during the week. In addition, weekly food boxes are donated at a rate of roughly 2,000 a year. The Mission also hands out some 12,000 hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and other essentials that are hard to come by for many of the area’s homeless, as well as job-preparation training, mailroom services, locker rentals, access to a medical clinic, free haircuts, toys for children at Christmas, and other services as the need arises.

The main dining hall is transformed into a warming center in winter and, especially with the region’s latest heatwave, serves as a cooling center during the day time. Every August, Union also puts on a massive birthday party open to anyone on the streets, working or living onsite, as way to provide them with recognition of a day that, for many, often goes unnoticed.

“When you’re on the streets, homeless, or estranged from family members, your birthday can come and go without anyone acknowledging that,” says Eileen Trussell, Union Gospel’s office manager. “So we get balloons and have a giant cake and just offer one big birthday party for anyone who wants to come. It’s an important thing to have someone acknowledge your birthday.”

For all its able to provide the area’s homeless and needy population, Union Gospel’s resources for women are limited, although statistics suggest women, including those with with children in particular, represent a growing sector of the homeless population across the region and nationwide.

The Bannon Street facility does provide one critical service: It’s women’s drop in clothes closet, where blouses, dresses, skirts, jackets, shoes, purses and even accessories, are available, free to any one in need. There is also a small inventory of clothing and shoes for children.

Lane, who was raised by a single mother, said the clothes closet fills a significant gap for many women and those with children, but added that there is a vital need to do much more, as more women are not just in need of clothing but also a place to sleep.

“We served just over 1,500 women and children through the clothing closet in 2016,” said Lane. “But clothing is not enough. We are seeing more and more women on the streets with no place to go. Right now we don’t have the facilities to house women who need a place to sleep, but we are moving in that direction.”

Earlier this year, Union Gospel purchased a 9,600 square-foot building on B Street in the River District with the intention of establishing a women’s rehabilitation program with beds for overnight stays.  Permits are being pulled for the new enterprise, but unfortunately, says Lane, the process is moving very slowly, as officials have been reticent to allow for the opening of one more homeless services center in an area of town largely considered to be saturated with homeless services already.

“We are in the permitting process now, but it’s moving very slowly,” said Lane.  “Unfortunately the city has some concerns, and we understand why.  With the confluence of two rivers, you have all the homelessness you need. But the need is strong. We are seeing many more women out there than we used to see. I know one woman who literally grew up on the streets. Her mother was homeless. I don’t know where she is today, but her daughter is out there. She’s had three babies out there on the streets. The state takes them away each time and she goes right back out again.”

 But for every heartbreak story there is the potential for thousands of stories of success: More than 21,000 men received services through Union Gospel in 2016 and, of that number, 12 successfully enrolled in and graduated from the mission’s nine-month rehabilitation program and started new lives in recovery and service, Magana among them. 

He has re-established a relationship with two of this three children and is looking forward to once again having a place of his own where they can be a family again.  As a condition of his parole, Magana promised to back the employer he stole from in exchange for a reduced sentence on his record. With the help of the $200 a month he earns working in the kitchen, he’s managed to whittle that $8,000 down to $3,000.   

“This time, I’ve gone deeper into God,” said Magana. “I worked hard to learn as much as I could and today I have no desire to drink, use drugs or cut myself. God has taken those impulses away from me.”

While the journey has included a few bumps and detours, Magana is on a new path, one of recovery fueled, he says, by the power of prayer and the commitment to one day giving back what has so freely been given to him.  Twice. 

“I never knew how much happiness I could get out of helping others,” Magana said.  “It’s filled a piece of me I think was missing.”

WAYS TO HELP:
Trough Summer:
Union Gospel Back to School Drive
Items needed: binders, paper, note pads, pencils and pens, markers
Some of the items needed year-round: Clothing and shoes for men and women, children’s clothing and shoes, toys, backpacks, travel sized hygiene products for men and women, laptop computers, vehicles. Visit: http://www.ugmsac.com/items-needed


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Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) -The latest quarterly survey of Sacramento regional employers has discovered that ‘helicopter parenting’ is apparently landing at work. Polling employers regularly since 1992 it appears a new trend may be emerging in workplaces involving ‘parental hovering’.  HR contacts surveyed say they are hearing more often now from parents than in past years.

Contact by a parent on behalf of an applicant or employee was noted by twelve percent (12%) of service firms, two percent (2%)of manufacturers, six percent (6%) of construction companies and five percent (5%) of retail employers polled directly by phone between May 22 and June 22, 2017. Pacific Staffing learned one quarter, or twenty-five percent (25%) of all companies reported having had this experience recently when asked about it directly. This is an unwelcome new trend and seems to be growing in the workplace.

In anecdotal comments, the people who hire and manage people suggest they don’t want to hear from parents in any way. Comments described personal contact by a parent as ‘meddling’, an ‘embarrassment for parent and child’, ‘not appropriate’ and whether positive or negative unwelcome as an ‘intrusion’ that raised ‘privacy issues’ and often resulted in an unfavorable view of that individual as an applicant, or as an employee.

One HR contact says they were surprised when a parent called to say they fired their child without taking time to really ‘understand’ them. The response was ‘just need them to do the job, not understand them’.  Another described a parent who called to say they should not rescind a job offer as a parking valet, but couldn’t dispute the decision when they learned the individual was let go when they could not drive a stick shift. A fact not revealed in the interview or to the parent.                           

With seventy-two percent (72%) of employers in the Sacramento region hiring in the next three months, new challenges are emerging. They include finding qualified applicants, including a wide variety of IT positions, construction equipment operators and skilled trades, sales, customer service and adequate numbers of entry level people. HR contacts also report retention of current workers and growing wage pressure from the thin talent pool as issues in Q3. Nineteen percent (19%) of hiring was motivated by seasonal needs in July, August and September.

For more information, employment blogs and market surveys go to www.pacificstaffing.com.


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SMUD Crews Concentrate on Repairs

SMUD Media   |  2017-07-18

SMUD line crews replaced power poles on Hazel Avenue overnight June 28/29. The poles support 69,000-volt power lines that are the backbone of the SMUD system that delivers electricity to homes and businesses. The work is part of SMUD’s efforts to enhance the SMUD grid’s reliability.

Now Replacing Dozens of Poles, Miles of Cable

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - If you’re a SMUD customer, there’s a good chance you’ll see SMUD workers out this summer along area streets and highways working to improve the SMUD electrical system. Reliability is a core value of community-owned SMUD, so a lot of the work is preventative, concentrating on replacing older power poles and installing and replacing miles of underground cable. Safety is ingrained in SMUD’s culture. Doing the work now precludes needing to do it later such as during the winter storm season.

SMUD’s electrical grid serves about a million and a half people. The system is about 40 percent overhead (wires and transformers and other equipment on poles) and about 60 percent underground (buried cable and other equipment, and pad-mounted transformers). SMUD plans to replace approximately a thousand poles over the rest of the calendar year and some 3,000 poles over the next several years.

Most of the electrical grid is redundant, which means most of the customers affected by an outage can be rerouted to other power lines and circuits while the underground cable or damaged pole, transformer, or other electrical equipment is fixed or replaced. Most outages last less than an hour as a result. There are, however, some people who will experience longer outages because there are no redundant power lines in their area, or the damaged equipment affects them directly.

While underground electrical equipment provides for better aesthetics, it can also present significant challenges for all utilities, including SMUD. By its nature, any problem with equipment installed underground is going to be more difficult to initially locate, sometimes taking an hour or two. Repairing it can take several hours depending on the problem and the location. The longer restoration time is a trade-off for having underground service, compared to overhead service.

The underground power cables that were manufactured decades ago tend to have higher failure rates. SMUD is replacing that cable with much better cable that has benefited from more rigorous testing and better manufacturing techniques. They are replacing the older cable at a rate of about 400,000 feet—or more than 75 miles of new cable—which would be roughly the distance from Folsom to Lake Tahoe, per year over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the SMUD smart grid has become more robust every year since smart meters were installed at the beginning of the decade. The smart grid now enables more expedient identification of outages, which results in quicker restoration times. Sometimes power can be restored remotely or even automatically without having to dispatch a troubleshooter and a truck.

No one likes being without power, even for a short period of time. If your power is out, please contact SMUD and report it at the SMUD.org Outage Portal page, or by calling 1-888-456-SMUD. SMUD has optimized its outage map and outage reporting options for mobile phones as well. For more information visit SMUD.org.


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Funding notice encourages local applicants to use Housing First approach

Washington, D.C. (MPG) - In an effort to prevent and effectively end homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is making $2 billion available to support thousands of local homeless assistance programs nationwide. Funded through the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance ProgramHUD’s funding notice continues to encourage local applicants to use a Housing First approach to help individuals and families move quickly into permanent housing.  Read HUD’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

HUD’s Continuum of Care homeless assistance grants support a wide variety of local programs from street outreach and assessment programs to transitional and permanent housing for individuals, including, veterans, youth, families, and persons experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.

“We know these grants can make a huge difference in ending homelessness” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson.  “HUD continues to forge deep relationships with our local partners to invest in proven programs that are working to reduce the scale of homelessness in their communities.”

HUD continues to place a major emphasis on ending homelessness for all persons experiencing homelessness, creating a systematic response to homelessness and improving how resources are used to end homelessness. These priorities will make it much more competitive and increase incentives for communities to improve their performance. As part of these priorities, HUD is continuing incentives to adopt best practices for rapid-rehousing and Housing First, an approach that has proven effective in helping communities to make progress on their goal of ending homelessness.

Additionally, HUD is encouraging communities to end veteran, chronic, family, and youth homelessness and to use their data to strategically target their available resources to end homelessness. Finally, to help communities reach these goals, there is greater flexibility provided to create a variety of new projects that will allow recipients to serve different populations of individuals and families experiencing homelessness as well as to support increased data collection and analysis.

HUD requires prospective grantees to submit applications electronically at www.grants.gov. Any changes to HUD-published funding notices will be made available to the public through a Federal Register publication and published on this government-wide portal. Applicants are urged to sign up for Grants.gov’s notification service to receive periodic updates or changes to these grant offerings.  The application deadline is September 28, 2017. 

HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov 

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,

Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20410            


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Senator Gaines Calls Cap-and-Trade Deal a Massive energy Tax 

Sacramento, CA (MPG) Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) on July 13th, voted against Assembly Bills 398 and 617 during a Senate Committee on Environmental Quality hearing. These bills are the Governor and Legislative Democrats’ attempt to extend California’s cap-and-trade program.

“Cap-and-trade is bait and switch.

“Governor Brown is full of talk about cap-and-trade ‘benefits’ we never verify and jobs we never see. What we do see are electricity rates that are 50-percent higher than the national average and a million California households living in energy poverty and struggling to get by because we push power prices up beyond affordability.

“California just passed a new gas tax that will add twelve cents to the cost of every gallon of gasoline starting this fall. This cap-and-trade extension could add about another seventy-three cents a gallon on top of that. While the rest of the country is paying $2 a gallon for gas, we are going to be paying a dollar and a half a gallon just in taxes and climate fees!

“Governor Brown and his cadre of climate change extremists won’t be happy until California leads the nation in wind, solar and poverty. 

“This so-called historic agreement is really just a big fat energy tax. Californians will have to use less but pay more for it. That is a rotten deal for our families and businesses.”

Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.


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Local Swimmer Earns Team USA Roster Spot

By Wendi Zales  |  2017-07-12

Amalie trains with DART Swimming at Sacramento under Brian Nabeta. Photo courtesy Wendi Zales - DART

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Based on the results at the U.S. National Championship, Amalie Fackenthal, 17, from DART Swimming at Sacramento made the Team USA roster for the 2017 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, which will be hosted by USA this year, at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis on August 23-28.  

Amalie was selected based on her 100m freestyle performance at the Phillip 66 U.S. National Championships / World Championship Trials last week where she posted a 55.61 second swim, tying for 3rd place overall amongst all 17 & under female swimmers.

USA will field a team of 24 women and 19 men total at the World Junior Championship.   Nearly 800 athletes from 167 countries are expected to compete in this six-day meet, which "will feature an early look at young athletes who will vie for positions on their respective nations’ Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games teams”, according to FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), the governing body for aquatics worldwide.

Also at U.S. Nationals, Amalie placed 13th overall (all ages) in the 50m Fly event with a time of 27.02. She was 2nd amongst the 17 & Under girls.    

Amalie trains with DART Swimming at Sacramento under Brian Nabeta.

Most recently during the spring high school season, Amalie swam for Sacramento Country Day High School Swim Team. The Country Day high school team was also coached by Brian Nabeta, and won State titles in both the 50 yard and 100 yard Freestyle at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships, setting a new State meet record in the 50 yard Freestyle. 

Amalie is a Senior. She has been swimming under the DART at Sacramento coaches since she was 9.  

Source: DART Swimming-Sacramento


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HealthQuest: New Approach to Medical Equipment

Story by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-07-12

Husband and wife team of Vanessa and Kevin Grenyion, owners of HealthQuest medical supplies in Fair Oaks. Photo by Jacqueline Fox

Fair Oaks, CA (MPG) - Who says shopping for things such as compression socks, knee braces, walkers, canes or crutches has to feel clinical and impersonal?

Vanesa and Kevin Grenyion, the husband and wife owners of HealthQuest in Fair Oaks, have done everything possible to make the experience of shopping for medical equipment and supplies a much kinder, gentler one.  In short, they hope to turn the industry on its head by providing a fresh approach to the physical space in which these products are sold, supported by a suite of services that include educational seminars, custom fittings, and an emphasis on “wellness,” as well as recovery.

“Two things were very important to me when I was researching the plans for opening the store,” says Vanessa. “First, I wanted to make sure that we treat every single person who walks through those doors like a human being, not a dollar sign. Second, I wanted the space to feel open, warm and well lit, so that the experience for everyone was pleasant and not so clinical.”

HealthQuest, which will be celebrating its first year in business July 18, offers a vast, top-of-the-line inventory of pain management, diabetes support, bath and safety accessories including walk-in tubs and raised toilet seats, scooters, walkers and rollators, a large selection of lift chairs, orthopedic braces, high-quality closed shoes and sandals for men and women, facial and “beauty” products, even a mothering section that includes breast pumps and pregnancy aids. 

Rather than stuffing these items onto metal shelves in a crowded space where volume overshadows service, Vanessa and Kevin, both trained pharmacists who, by the way, met in pharmacy school in Massachusetts, have created something more akin to boutique for medical supplies, with categories of products grouped into their own “departments,” each designated with bright, painted signage, soft wood wall décor and inviting displays that strip the sterile right out of the experience.

“We want the experience of shopping in our store to be calming and supportive,” says Kevin, an air force veteran who still works as a pharmacist at Mather Air Force Base while sharing responsibilities for managing the new business.  Vanessa, the face of HealthQuest, says she and Kevin considered opening their own private pharmacy, but competition from chain stores, as well as concerns about being targeted by thieves put that idea to bed.  Instead, the couple, both born and raised in Jamaica, decided to parlay their experience in the pharmacological field with a strong interest in serving others through wellness and health services.

With the help of a VA loan, the couple were able to invest roughly $200,000 into their new venture. The first year has had some challenges, but with any small business, marketing has been key. Vanessa has spent the last year nurturing relationships with home-health care providers, assisted living facilities, pharmacies, chiropractors, physical therapists and other ancillary businesses to ramp up visibility for the new store and exposure to service providers who, like Kevin and Vanessa, want a better experience for their clients and patients.

“We have worked hard this last year to build relationships in the community, to let people know we are here and it is starting to come through for us,” Vanessa said.  “This last month alone was a really strong indicator of how things are beginning to really start to shift into gear.”

The store also has partnered with at least two elder care organizations, the Older Adult Collaborative (OAC) and the Elder Society Network (ESN) to provide on-site seminars and workshops at facilities across the community to educate both care providers and the patients themselves.

 “We think of ourselves as a resource center, as well as a retail store,” says Vanessa.  “This is a business that relies on the needs of those in care facilities and the caretakers themselves, but it’s also here for anyone who wants a more personal experience shopping for items for themselves or their loved ones, or those in their care.”

The store offers senior discounts of 10% every Monday, as well as loyalty customer discounts of 5% off all purchases of regularly priced items. 

In recognition of its first year in business, the store will be having an open-house from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18. All are invited.


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