Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the creation of the Great Plates Delivered program, which had two goals in the midst of the COVID-19 shut-down order: feeding local seniors in need, and keeping restaurant workers employed.

Since then, the program has done both of those things. According to Riverside County spokesman Jose Arballo Jr., as of July 9, some 2,899 people have received 302,046 meals—three per day, seven days per week—from 51 restaurants employing 897 staffers countywide (not counting the cities of Perris, Moreno Valley and Rancho Mirage, which are administering the program themselves).

In the Coachella Valley (except for Rancho Mirage), Arballo said, 859 participants have received meals from 19 restaurants. In Rancho Mirage, 168 seniors from at least nine restaurants were receiving meals as of June 10, according to the city.

For Willie Rhine, the co-owner of Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, participating in the program was a no-brainer, especially since the restaurant had launched a program to feed lunches to local health-care workers even before the Great Plates Delivered program was announced.

“Since the shutdown, we have delivered almost 2,000 boxed lunches to health-care workers throughout the valley,” Rhine said. “The Great Plates program seemed to fit perfectly and give us another opportunity to continue helping people, specifically seniors.

“Additionally, I wanted to keep as many staff employed as possible. The Great Plates program allowed us that opportunity.”

Great Plates delivered is largely funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the county or city administering the program chipping in a small percentage; as of now, the program is funded through Aug. 9. This program is open to seniors 65 or older, or seniors age 60-64 who are at high risk of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants can make up to 600 percent of the federal poverty limit; must live alone or with one other program-eligible adult; not be currently receiving aid from other state or federal nutrition-assistance programs; and affirm an inability to prepare or obtain meals for themselves.

In order to participate, restaurants must meet certain nutritional guidelines, such as including fresh fruits and vegetables on each dish; keeping foods low in sodium; and not including “sugary drinks” (although 100 percent fruit juice is allowed). Preference was also given to restaurants and food providers who source and prioritize food from California-based farms and ranches; meet the cultural needs of program participants; and promote standards of fairness and equality in employment practices.

In Riverside County, 49 percent of the participating restaurants are minority-owned, Arballo said. Restaurants can receive up to $66 percent day—$16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch, $28 for dinner, and up to $5 for incidentals. Some have their patrons order directly off the menu, while some don’t; some restaurants deliver daily, while others deliver multiple meals three times per week.

To meet the needs of their customers, each restaurant has been in close contact with the people they are serving, to learn about the special dietary needs the clients may have—like food allergies and diabetes—as well as their physical limitations. For example, Michael Fietsam, of Great Plates Delivered participant PS Underground, said one his customers has lost her fingers, so their chef devised special plating for each of her meals to ensure she can dine with dignity.

The restaurants have faced challenges essentially doing a large catering job every day.

“We originally received a list of clients in cities throughout the valley; we asked if we could limit our deliveries to clients closer to Eight4Nine, ensuring faster service and fresher product,” Rhine said. “Once we had a local client list, we could plan the logistics of daily deliveries. We deliver breakfast, lunch and dinner daily between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. We have been in the catering-events business for many years, so we simply adopted this program as a daily catering event and kept the logistics pretty simple.”

The program also ensures that some of the most-vulnerable members of our community have someone checking on them on a regular basis. Early on, one of the restaurants’ delivery people realized a client’s refrigerator wasn’t working, and the restaurant helped connect that client to services to get that fixed.

Robb Wirt, of Bongo Johnny’s, said the impact of Great Plates Delivered has been “immeasurable”—both to his business and the clients Bongo Johnny’s has been serving.

“Everyone has been so kind and appreciative—so many positive vibes,” Wirt said. “One guest says, ‘This 70-year-old retired teacher feels like a princess or like I have won the lottery, to experience your wonderful food. Thank you.’ … Another said: ‘I know we have said it before, but it deserves repeating over and over again: Thank you. Your staff and you are making this isolating period tolerable. Not only can we stay safer by not having to go out to the grocery stores numerous times a week; we also have a joyful moment each day as our delicious, healthy and well-presented meals arrive.’"

All of the restaurateurs we spoke to said they’re happy to participate in the program as long as it’s funded.

“Without community, we wouldn't be here,” Wirt said.

For more information on the county’s Great Plates Delivered program, call the Riverside County Office on Aging at 800-510-2020. For more information on the Rancho Mirage program, call 877-652-4844, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story.

Published in Features & Profiles

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced that eligible seniors throughout California could immediately get three free restaurant meals per day delivered to their door.

Yet a week later, not a single meal has been delivered, and tens of thousands of Californians who have tried to sign up have been left disappointed, confused and maybe even hungry.

During his press conference last Friday, Newsom said counties and cities were ready—but in reality, most were caught off-guard: Most didn’t know that such a program was under consideration. Now they are scrambling to identify restaurants and eligible seniors before federal funding runs out on May 10.

It’s the latest example of how Newsom has announced an ambitious coronavirus response plan before details were hammered out—and in this case, even before the agencies recruited to carry it out were notified.

Under the governor’s plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the cost of the meals, which would cost up to $66 per person for three meals per day. The state will cover another 18.75 percent. That leaves about six cents out of every dollar to be paid by cities and counties. 

Of California’s 5.7 million seniors, about 2.4 million might qualify for the program, according to UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey. If half of them enrolled, the total federal, state and local costs could reach more than $2 billion per month.

To be eligible for the free meals, seniors 65 and older have to meet certain income qualifications. People between 60 and 65 also qualify if they are at high risk or provide proof they were exposed.

Cities contacted by CalMatters, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, declined to say when they will be able to start the deliveries to seniors.

Cash-Strapped Cities and Counties

In cash-strapped cities and counties, officials said they are reluctant to sign up without knowing how soon they’ll be reimbursed, and whether funding will last past May 10.

Mariposa County Human Services Department Director Chevon Kothari learned about the program for the first time while watching Newsom’s press conference a week ago. Now her county, on track to burn through 70 percent of budget reserves by July with hotel and sales tax revenue from Yosemite Valley ground to a halt, is leaning against offering the meals to seniors. At least two other rural counties are in the same situation, Kothari said.

“This may be a really good thing for communities who can afford to front the costs and risk not getting that reimbursement, but for communities who don’t have the wiggle room to part with those funds, it could be too much risk,” said Kothari. She added that her agency is meeting the food needs of seniors in other ways.

If a city or county has, for instance, 10,000 seniors participating, the local government’s portion of the cost of the meals would exceed $1.2 million per month.

Los Angeles County has about 712,000 seniors who may be eligible for the free meals—so its portion could be $88 million per month. For the state and federal government, that cost could reach $1.3 billion per month.

Some representatives of cities and counties across the state, who learned about the program at the same time as their residents, expressed frustration that Newsom saddled local governments with immediately delivering on his big promises to hungry seniors, but provided little guidance.

But they were hesitant to publicly criticize the governor in light of their cries for help from the state to address looming budget deficits driven by the epidemic that have already led to employee furloughs.

One representative from a statewide association of local agencies called this Newsom’s “modus operandi” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are these great ideas about starting different initiatives, whether it be this program or others, and it seems like the governor always announced it before it probably should be talked about or before the details are worked out,” said the representative, who asked not to be identified, because the organization wanted to stay in the administration’s good graces.

‘Absolutely a Good Thing’

However, state and county leaders commended Newsom for paying attention to the need for food assistance among vulnerable seniors who fall through the cracks of other programs.

“It’s absolutely a good thing,” said Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association. “We expect to engage post haste with the administration about the specifics for launching.”

During his Facebook Live announcement, Newsom said “this program goes into effect immediately,” and he urged seniors to call 211 to sign up.

And they took him up on it. Operators at Interface Children and Family Services, which fields 211 calls from 40 counties that cover almost half of Californians, said more than 7,000 people called right after Newsom’s announcement—a spike from the weekly average of 10,000 calls.

“We were telling them we didn’t have further information,” said Kelly Brown, director of the call center. “That’s what we’re continuing to do now.”

A Win-Win-Win, Newsom Says

Here’s how the meal program is supposed to work:

Local governments pay restaurants up to $66 to cook and deliver three nutritious meals per day to eligible seniors. Those seniors must live alone or with another qualifying senior. They can’t already receive other federal-nutrition programs like food stamps or Meals on Wheels, and they must earn less than $74,940 for a household of one, or $101,460 for a household of two.

“Even if it’s hundreds of thousands that take advantage of this, just in weeks, you’ll see millions and millions of meals part of this program,” Newsom said.

Newsom touted it as a win-win-win, sending much-needed dollars to struggling restaurants, filling an urgent need to feed people scared to leave their homes, and generating tax revenue for cities.

Newsom said he expected that the sales tax that the cities will collect from the meals will “should more than offset the local costs.” 

Restaurants are eager to jump on board, said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

“As soon as the governor announced this creative new program, we received a flood of emails and phone calls from restaurateurs wanting to take part,” Condie said.

Several large cities expressed enthusiasm. San Francisco has already contracted with a food-truck network to cook 10,000 meals for people under medical quarantine and has begun to recruit more restaurants, said a spokeswoman. The Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services said it is “ramping up quickly.”

Locally, the Riverside County on Aging has launched an interest form for both interested restaurants and seniors via its website.

Funding Questions Could Be Deal-Breaker

Newsom called the program “a real opportunity for rural California as well.”

But small and rural counties facing precipitous drops in revenue may find it difficult to muster even the 6 percent—let alone fronting 100 percent and waiting to be reimbursed, said Paul Smith, vice president of governmental affairs for Rural County Representatives of California.

After several recent disasters in Mariposa, Kothari said she’s learned that FEMA often takes 12 to 24 months to reimburse, if at all.

“If you don’t document (spending) just in the way they (FEMA) need it documented … you could risk not getting that back,” Kothari said. That’s not a risk many localities can take, she said, especially given the administrative burden for counties with small staff and vulnerable residents so spread out that they might live an hour away from the nearest restaurant.

Asked about the timeline for reimbursement and the local costs, Newsom acknowledged that the program could be “anxiety-inducing” for cities and counties. But, he said, as “a former mayor, it would have been music to my ears to hear a program costing about 6 cents” for every dollar.

Expedited reimbursement for half of the federal funding may be available upfront for localities that apply for it, said Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesman Brian Ferguson.

“If we can put food in the belly of even one vulnerable person, it’s something worth doing,” Ferguson said. 

Another red flag for some localities: the meal program funding will expire soon, unless FEMA grants an extension.

According to a state document for local officials, the funding runs out on May 10, “unless the public health need ends sooner or an extension is granted by FEMA. … While it is anticipated that, upon successful program execution, the State will request an extension, there is no guarantee it will be granted.”

Newsom did not respond to a CalMatters’ question at his Wednesday press conference about the May 10 deadline.

“By the time I get this set up and start to provide services and socialize it with my community … is the program going to come to an end?” Kothari asked.

Jackie Botts is a reporter with CalMatters. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

Published in Local Issues

About a month has passed since the first restrictive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt here in Coachella Valley—and no group has been affected more than the valley’s seniors, who are at a much higher risk for serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

In turn, the valley’s senior centers have taken on a daunting task: Finding ways, with suddenly depleted budgets, to serve their clients remotely—many of whom are already battling loneliness and isolation.

“When all the centers shut on March 16, we started on our call-back list,” said Laura Castillo, the director of nutritional and operational services for the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs. “We were on the phone with clients, sometimes 45 minutes to an hour, just talking to them.

“This (COVID-19 crisis) has created a real issue for a lot of our seniors. They’re scared. They don’t know where to go or what to do. They haven’t been given directions on anything, and half of them don’t know what’s going on. They don’t understand why there’s no toilet paper at the stores. They don’t understand why they can’t get eggs. So … we talk to them.”

Over at the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert, executive director Jack Newby said his clients are facing similar problems.

“One of the things we’re doing is calling every one of our members,” Newby said. “We have over 2,000 members, so we’re working our way through the alphabet, basically. We’re contacting them to see how they’re coping.

“We have a program called Problem Solving Strategies, which is a counseling program designed for short-term situational issues and to help people solve those problems. What we’re finding from (those contacts) is that, the longer this shelter-in-place order stays in place, the more frustrated people are getting with having to stay at home. You know, they’ve read the books; they’ve walked the dog a million times—so much so that now the dog is hiding in the corner. They’re starting to feel the stress of being at home alone. … One of the most serious issues that seniors and older adults face is isolation and the loss of their social network. So, for our senior members, it’s as if, a few weeks ago, their best friend suddenly passed away—that social network that many of them built after their spouse or partner passed away was suddenly just gone. So, we’re doing everything that we can.

“We’ve started doing a daily Facebook live video at 11 a.m. to help keep people exercising. In fact, we’re trying to turn our Facebook page into a virtual senior center. Some studies show that isolation among older adults can be as serious as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, in terms of health consequences. So that’s why we’re here (as a senior center)—to keep people active, engaged and exercising. Suddenly, that’s not available.”

Many people also depend on the area’s senior centers for much of their nutrition. Castillo said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Mizell Senior Center to alter its routine in many different ways, both in terms of Meals on Wheels clients and members used to getting meals in person at the center.

“Meals on Wheels (represents) both of our (nutrition) programs rolled into one,” Castillo said. “We deliver food to congregate sites, which includes most of our senior centers in the Coachella Valley, and then we home-deliver meals as well. In the home-delivered aspect, the changes mostly (involve) our drivers, who are being very conscientious about social distancing. They’re trying to make sure that (our senior home-delivery clients) don’t look sick or troubled by something that’s going on. Also, they wear gloves and face masks, and they have sanitizers in their vehicles.

“The food hasn’t stopped (being prepared) and provided by us. The only challenge in making the food is that, during this pandemic crisis, the deliveries from our food providers have changed, and I find myself substituting in our menus more frequently than I used to before. Our congregate (on-site meal offerings) have completely closed down. Now nobody comes into our building on a daily basis except for our nutrition staff and our senior management. We do still make meals for our congregate clients, but now we have a drive-through set up to distribute them. We give our seniors the food to-go while they’re still in their vehicles. That program runs Monday through Friday every week, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Also, we still provide (meals) to the Cathedral City (Senior Center), which does a pickup-and-go service for their senior clients as well. We also (support) programs at the Indio and Coachella senior centers, as well as the Desert Hot Springs senior center. So we’re still trying to feed all of our seniors the way we did before.”

The Meals on Wheels program is still functioning, albeit with extra precautions—and the number of clients is growing.

“Our (Meals on Wheels) clients were home-bound anyway,” Castillo said, “but we facilitate the program for the Riverside County Office on Aging, and this has brought to light a lot of seniors who are mobile, but really can’t go anywhere now, because they have underlying health issues, and they need to stay home. This has created a big ripple effect where we, along with the Office on Aging, had to come up with a new plan. Now all the applications (for new services) have to be funneled through the RCOA, and we are adding new clients at a rate of about three a day.”

Over at the Joslyn Senior Center in Palm Desert, Newby said the coronavirus has created an increase in demand—and a more stressful environment for his Meals on Wheels drivers.

“It’s volunteers who are making our deliveries,” Newby said, “and as a result, we have to be constantly aware of (the well-being) of our volunteers. If anyone should become ill, or not feel comfortable doing their routes, then we need to replace them. We’ve been able to keep up with that so far, but that’s one of the challenges that we are facing. Currently, we serve between 60 and 70 (clients) a day, and we have gotten new requests for Meals on Wheels service from clients over the past weeks. We keep (our drivers) at about 12 clients per route, so we are reaching capacity—and considering adding an additional route, too.”

At the Cathedral City Senior Center, executive director Geoff Corbin said the center is determined to keep its nutritional-outreach efforts operating at full strength during the crisis.

“We provide two essential services during the pandemic,” Corbin pointed out. “One is the lunch program, which is now extended into weekend, and the other is our food bank. With our lunch program, we’re one of the few sites that offers it five days a week. So it’s become very important to the people who use it.”

However, the Cathedral City Senior Center has had to transform the way in which its food bank—something Corbin referred to as “an essential service”—gets food to clients in need.

“It used to be that our large activity room would be turned into what looked like a Trader Joe’s. In fact, Trader Joe’s is one of our biggest sources of food, other than FIND Food Bank,” Corbin said. “Every Saturday and Sunday, we pick up van loads of food (at Trader Joe’s) that’s about to date out, and it goes into our Monday food banks. They’re donating tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of food products annually. But, right now, that (walk-through food bank) is suspended. Still, all the folks who come by and pickup curbside meal service (on Monday) will get a couple of pre-packed bags of food now.”

The closures of the senior centers’ physical locations has led to dramatic revenue losses—and the three centers have joined forces to overcome that and other obstacles.

“The Joslyn Center, the Cathedral City Senior Center and the Mizell Senior Center have been working together and meeting regularly for the last month or so,” Newby said, “first in person, and now via teleconferencing. We share information, and all of these nonprofit senior centers share the same concern. This epidemic hit at the peak of our season, which helps provide us with the resources to make it through the summer, quite frankly. During the summer, our electric bills go up to $5,000 a month, and our income is reduced. So we’re all working together to share resources regarding grants that are available; information about the Small Business Association loans that are becoming available; (and reaching out) to local foundations and encouraging them to make emergency grant funding available to senior centers. Our own executive committee has been meeting every week for the past month to work on these various issues and develop a cash-flow analysis. We’re being sensitive to the foundations, because so many of them who provide funding have their funds in investment accounts—and we all know what’s happened to those in the past few weeks. It’s similar to what happened in 2008, and it’s come very suddenly.

“The senior centers depend on donations, class fees, memberships and all of that, during this peak season time of year when the snowbirds are here and taking advantage of our services. Suddenly this year, on March 16, all of that came to a screeching halt.”

Corbin said he’s spending a lot of time looking for funding.

“Our maintenance and cleaning costs have gone up, and we still have to keep the building (running for the slimmed-down programs) and keep it staffed,” he said. “… We’ve lost all of our earned income. We made all that money playing bingo and mahjong and other games where people pay activity fees. So, our earned income has absolutely ground to a halt, and our contributed income is suppressed—and we don’t have large reserves, so we are in crazy fundraising mode. Just a couple of days ago, we applied for $10,000, which is the limit of what we could (request) from the Desert Healthcare District’s emergency funding option. Now I’m trying to put together a response to the SBA for a Paycheck Protection Program (loan) which, if we were eligible for that loan and got it, could keep a portion of the payroll going. We do have a ‘donate now’ (link) on our small MailChimp list, and believe it or not, we raised $750 from that, which is something we have not done. We will do more in terms of community fundraising as we move along.”

Castillo said the Mizell Senior Center had to lay off 10 staffers.

“I know the financial (realities) are always an issue,” Castillo said. “Right now, I can only keep the development director on, but I can’t afford to keep her staff on. How can I? All of our (in-house) programs are shut down, because the center is closed.”

Castillo said that despite the tough times, seniors should know there’s help available to them—whether or not they’ve been senior-center clients before.

“Right now, my main concern is that we’re still able to serve our seniors and bring on any other seniors who have concerns about food insecurity at this point—and there’s so much of that going on within the senior community,” he said. “Any seniors looking for help should call 800-510-2020. It connects them to the Riverside County Office on Aging, and they’ll get guidance there as to whether they can come on our program, or whether they can pick up food vouchers. They’re doing a lot for our seniors.”

For more information on the Mizell Senior Center, visit For more information on the Joslyn Center, visit For more information on the Cathedral City Senior Center, visit

Published in Local Issues

You live across the country from your parents. You’re raising your children and are wondering how you’ll send three kids to college in a few years. You take pills for some chronic conditions and worry that one major medical crisis might wipe out your retirement plans. You live modestly, in a small middle-class home, and you have no desire to move.

On your visit to the desert to visit Mom and Dad, you plan to play a little golf and relax. But you notice that Dad’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be; he doesn’t drive at night anymore—and you’re not so sure he should be driving at all. His legs aren’t as strong as they once were; he used to love to walk but now cramps up after only a block.

Mom is still playing bridge with her friends, but she is having trouble remembering things (in fact, she tells the same story over and over again), and no longer has the energy for housework. You realize the dishes aren’t really clean, and some food long past its expiration date is in the refrigerator. You worry about her management of medicines.

How long, you wonder, will it be before they’re going to need some help or supervision to continue living independently? Who will take them to the doctor? Do they need emergency-alert devices in case they fall? Who will oversee their medicines? Who will make sure they’re eating well? And how are you going to initiate the conversation about care without starting World War III?

Say hello to the current “sandwich generation”—the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) currently in their 50s and 60s, with children still at home or boomeranging back home. They’re preparing for their own retirement, often with aging parents in their 70s and beyond who need help, but don’t want to admit it. According to Baby Boomers R We, a Pew Research Center report indicated that “one in every eight middle-aged Americans … is currently caring for at least one child and a parent under the same roof.” Not surprisingly, 75 percent of those family care providers are women.

This role reversal presents some big challenges: Elders don’t want to admit they need help, especially to their children, and they fear losing control of their own lives. How do you make sure aging parents are getting both the care and the dignity they deserve, and manage your own needs and obligations at the same time—especially if you don’t live nearby?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the top three fastest-growing occupations through 2018 will be personal care aides and home health workers, with occupational and physical therapists not far behind. These professionals—often with extensive training, but sometimes they’re people who are merely willing to do the work—are critical to making sure Mom and Dad get the support they may need, especially since each generation is living longer. So how do you find what you need for your parents here in the desert if you live in Oshkosh, or Baltimore, or Vancouver, or San Jose?

The Riverside County Office on Aging is a good place to start. Authorized under the federal Older Americans Act and the Older Californians Act, this agency provides funding and leadership support to help service providers who work with seniors and adults with disabilities. They provide referrals for those who wish to remain at home, as well as programs for family caregivers. Their HelpLink staff can connect you to services and care specialists at 800-510-2020.

Local small service businesses have begun to fill the need for assistance with personal and health-care oversight. Fairly new on the scene are professional geriatric care managers or consultants, who can plan and coordinate programs to support and improve the quality of life for aging individuals. They often come from nursing, social work or gerontology backgrounds, and are expected to have extensive knowledge about the costs, quality and availability of services in their communities. After a detailed assessment, they generate a plan that may include recommendations about housing, home care, nutritional needs, daily activities and even financial or legal assistance.

Another resource in the Coachella Valley is ACT1 (Aging Community Team), a nonprofit group that brings together 67 local organizations and individuals who provide services to local senior and disabled populations. Among the members who are “Supporting Seniors Through Community Teamwork” are businesses that offer specialized residence facilities, in-home care, medical supplies, health and fitness activities and legal or financial services, as well as organizations that run errands, prepare meals, see to personal hygiene and do light housekeeping. Several ACT1 companies specialize in relocation services: They will pack up, conduct sales, and set up a new household, including hanging the pictures. ACT1 also sponsors scholarship grants and recently awarded assistance to nine local students who plan health-related careers.

Needless to say, support services are not free. Even though professional caregivers are not highly paid, 24/7 oversight gets expensive, and geriatric care managers who can help you sort through all the service providers are not covered by either Medicare or Medicaid (a major flaw in our seniors’ health-care system, as is the lack of coverage for long-term care … but that’s a subject for another column).

So let’s say you look into all the possibilities and realize you really have no choice: Mom is going to have to come live with you, and you’ll figure out which kid will sleep on the couch. Or you’re going to have to move in with Dad and put your career or your relationship on hold for a while. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right?

Since the baby boomers—who have set cultural trends ever since they were conceived—are right in the middle of all this, let’s at least find the silver lining.

Baby Boomers R We is happy to tell you that there are some real positives to being in the sandwich generation. “First and foremost may be a renewed sharing of family values. … Our children might learn some family history from their own grandparents, not to mention some valuable life insights. In turn, our parents may no longer feel isolated or abandoned just because of age, in fact feeling more connected with day-to-day life and events. Everyone can celebrate family moments, and cherish them for a lifetime.

“Another positive could be the pooling of resources, whether by desire or economic necessity. The down economy in recent years has likely deflated the value of portfolios and property alike. … The pooling of remaining resources could make them stretch much further. In cases where the numbers are more favorable, it might make sense to add onto our own home or to relocate to new accommodations. Besides meeting an immediate need, dwellings that provide in-laws quarters’ may very well have an enhanced value in the future.

“After all, we may be the first generation to be sandwiched, but we’re certainly not going to be the last!”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

If you belong to any local business or social organizations, you’re familiar with the practice of honoring students by giving out scholarships at this time of year. Almost every group raises money to support education for local students.

Some groups identify students to be honored based on a student’s volunteer time with that organization. Others accept applications from all students and evaluate their achievements to select scholarship recipients. Yet others require students seeking scholarships to show their understanding of or support for the group’s interests.

The Palm Springs chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), for example, required applicants to write an essay detailing their support for women’s rights and their intention to use their continuing education to further that support. When I led that group in the early 1990s, we instituted the Barbara Wade Salm Scholarship, endowed by a former member, which is currently administered through College of the Desert.

Last week, I learned that the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) planned to hold a meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rancho Mirage. The featured speaker was attorney Bardis Vakili, from the ACLU of Southern California, who proudly announced the ACLU is opening an office in San Bernardino to provide more coverage in the Inland Empire on issues like voting rights, police conduct and immigration.

The meeting also marked the ACLU’s end-of-season scholarship awards to local students. While the discussion of the ACLU’s efforts to protect voting rights was interesting and informative, what impressed me most was hearing the backgrounds and aspirations of the four students honored.

Robert Rippetoe is graduating from Xavier College Preparatory High School. Xavier, a private, nonprofit school, has tuition and fees which generally are beyond the reach of many local residents. However, their stated goal is that “no qualified student will be denied admission, or once enrolled, be compelled to leave because of verifiable financial need.”

Xavier senior Rippetoe has been involved beyond academics in the literary magazine and the Junior State of America. He is on the JV swimming team and the varsity water polo team. He has also been president of the Robotics Team. What more can one say about a student who claims calculus and statistics are the subjects he enjoys? Rippetoe is enrolled at Colorado School of Mines and wants to pursue engineering, specializing in earth sciences. Perhaps he’ll bring his skills back to save the Salton Sea!

Rebecca Farhi is graduating from Cathedral City High School, part of the Palm Springs Unified School District. She is a California Scholarship Federation Sealbearer, due to her scholastic achievements. Farhi is an athlete in cross country and track; is active in YMCA’s youth and government program; and participates in CCHS’ gay-straight alliance. She is planning to begin college here at home at COD and then hopes to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley for a degree in environmental or political science. Maybe both.

Diana Espinoza is from Indio High School and graduating in the Top 10 of her class of more than 400 students. Academics are not her only claim to fame: Espinoza is also a top athlete, one of the best distance runners in the Coachella Valley. She has helped Indio’s cross-country team win the Desert Valley League finals during the past two track seasons. Espinoza is also a musician (oboe and flute) and active in the Associated Student Body. She participates in the Indio Public Library’s story time, and plans to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara, majoring in library science and education.

Bridgid Elliott-Pope is heading to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles to pursue her passion for art, majoring in visual communications, after she graduates from Palm Desert High School. Born in the Coachella Valley, Elliott-Pope says she was influenced to love reading by her parents—both teachers. She has traveled around the United States and recently spent three weeks in Europe. “I try to be loving in every aspect of my life,” she says, “even in the smallest of endeavors.”

These students demonstrate the qualities we hope all high school graduates will embody: seriousness about their studies, involvement in extracurricular activities and ambition. Although they have very different backgrounds and interests, they all express the hope to make a difference, not only for themselves and their families, but also for their communities.

One of the first scholarships given by Palm Springs NOW was to Fran Ferguson, who returned to school to complete her education after a divorce, while raising two children. Ferguson subsequently spent five years as executive director of Shelter From the Storm, the local shelter for battered women and their children, and then moved on to be the eastern region manager for the Riverside County Office on Aging for 15 years prior to her retirement in Palm Desert. NOW took great pride in Ferguson’s use of her education to make a difference locally.

With all the talk of failures in our educational system, it’s easy to forget how many students are out there plugging away to make a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. It’s also easy to forget the educators who are helping them, motivating them, preparing them.

We need to continue to support all of the organizations that give out scholarships to local students to help them to attain their dreams. In the words of local ACLU president Brad Oliver, upon congratulating this year’s ACLU scholarship recipients: “We want you to use your education to make a difference, and we want you to come back home.”


Published in Know Your Neighbors