Community Services Featured

By Eleanore Fahey
Special to the Sun

Last Saturday, Nov. 4, Tank Park hosted an informative event featuring community service organizations. Represented there were the Owens Valley Career Development Center, the Women’s Center High Desert, the Sheriff’s Department, the Family Resource Center, the Epilepsy Support Group, the Bureau of Land Management, and a few surprises.

The focus of the Owens Valley Career Development Center is the Native American population. To use their education and employment services, a family member must have verification that he/she is a member of a federally recognized tribe, or be on a Judgment Roll, which verifies that a family relative or ancestor has signed up, said case coordinator Renee Garcia. They also offer a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and more. Their office is located at 6404 Lake Isabella Blvd.

The Women’s Center High Desert, represented by Christy Luton. Her focus is as victim advocate in crises such as domestic violence, sexual assault and shockingly, human trafficking. Of the latter she explained that predators come from the big city to small towns like the KRV and find young girls with home issues. They romance them, then abduct them. Boys can also fall prey to predators, where they end up in the sex trade or as laborers. Social media is also a fertile hunting ground for victims. It is not known if there have been such abductions here.

Kristi Gibbard of the Kern County Sheriffs Office, Crime Prevention Unit, shares Luton’s concerns about child abductions, in addition to a host of other concerns, including domestic and teen dating violence, robbery, bullying, and scams and frauds against senior citizens. As if this weren’t enough, her sphere also includes water, bicycle and personal safety, the internet, and new drug trends. She cautions that victims must be patient and proactive and they must call, and that all calls are recorded and saved. The edgy issue of the insufficient number of officers and lack of response was not addressed.

For neighborhood safety, she advocates using an app called Next Door to alert neighbors of suspicious vehicles or activities. In addition, she recommends the Neighborhood Watch Program; call our local sheriffs department for start-up information. She also cautions against leaving your empty car running to warm it up during the winter months, as it is criminal opportunity.

The Family Resource Center, helmed by Cindy Filkowski, seeks to stabilize families by educating parents about available resources, such as the energy assistance program (HEAP) for electricity and propane. In an effort to wean folks off sodas, she has a program and a slogan called “Rethink Your Drink” that encourages using natural fruit and berries for liquid flavorings. The center also offers parenting classes, no-cost playgroups for ages up to five, and programs to get children ready for pre-school and kindergarten. For Christmas, the center is sponsoring a holiday gift program. Parents sign up their children, ages 11 – 18, including a wish list, and members of the community can either donate money towards the gifts or buy them. For more information, call Filkowsky at 760-379-2556.

The Central Valley Epileptic Support Group was represented at the event by Larry Stevenson, phone 760-376-1606, and Sheril, who is an epileptic whose symptoms are under control. Bakersfield hosts monthly meetings on the second Tuesday. Contact Larry for more information, or if interested in starting a local meeting.

Kern County deputy sheriff Josh Cain and his Sheriffs Activity League (SAL) crew were at the event. This is a program for students age 8 to 18. He views his role as that of mentor. He is “not taking the place of a dad but encouraging right choices to help shape them.” For more information, contact Cain at 760-608-1078.

Also present were members of the Bureau of Land Management to let the public know that they (and we) are still in fire prevention mode, and will continue to be until we have our first major weather event of rain or snow. This means that everyone must have a fire permit on BLM land; without it, no open pits, no charcoal, no propane, no fire.

A few tips to prevent fires: do not throw lit cigarettes out the car window, and don’t let a trailer safety chain drag on the ground, as it sends off sparks.

Engine Captain at the Canebrake facility, James Rooffener, enthusiastically showed off their new light-duty fire truck. Smaller than a conventional fire engine, it is more maneuverable and can get to places where the big ones can’t go. It carries 300 gallons of water and is used for structure protection, mobile attack and spot fires. This unit totes a crew of five, auxiliary power to run the water pump, tools, packs, helmets, and truck repair items.

In a nod to the consequences of very bad behavior, two members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team displayed their fire power. Jaime Hernandez and David Briggs work within the jail at Lerdo, a transitional facility housing inmates who are ready to go to court or have just been sentenced. Their job is “to maintain compliance,” that is to quell disturbances, such as riots. Briggs prefers to use what he calls verbal judo, to talk down a hostile situation by one or more inmates. But if that is not successful, they may use large bore “less lethal launchers,” a gun-like piece of equipment that fires plastic-shelled bullets tipped with a foam-rubber pad.

Sprinkled throughout the day were performances by the talented and synchronized students at Danica’s Dance Studio of Lake Isabella.