Community

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In rural Tulare County school libraries are small, and in many towns public libraries are nonexistent. While eBooks and eReaders continue to be one of the hottest trends in education, these same small towns often struggle with a persistent digital divide between the haves and the have nots. But as Ezra David Romero reports, officials with the Tulare County Library system are now using a different sort of  technology to help improve literacy and help kids develop a lifelong love of reading.

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Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

A local organization has developed a bilingual storybook – or fotonovela, in Spanish – to educate Fresno County residents about human trafficking.

The book is, “something they can take home, use, read, re-read, share it with others, share it with their families,” said Margarita Rocha, executive director of Centro La Familia Advocacy Services, as she introduced the book this morning at the Mexican Consulate in Fresno. “It’s a very powerful tool.”

It’s designed like a comic book, with bright pictures and quote bubbles. But the subject matter is serious. 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

A statewide renters’ rights organization has filed a class action suit against JD Homes Rentals for operating what it calls ‘slum’ rental housing in Fresno. FM89’s Rebecca Plevin reports:

Jesucita Esteves grew up in one of JD Homes’ rental homes.

ESTEVES: “We were living in ugly conditions. Our rooms were full of mold. Our carpet wasn’t even carpet anymore, it was like dirt. It was nasty.” 

Fresno ranks as the nation's 24th most livable city for those under 35, according to a new ranking by the website Vocativ. The city rated high for its cost of living and relatively youthful population.

The second book in ‘Homegrown,’ Valley Public Radio’s book club about the San Joaquin Valley, is ‘What You See in the Dark,’ by Dinuba native Manuel Muñoz.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The craft distilling industry, much like the craft brewing industry, is taking off across the nation. The trend is on par in the San Joaquin Valley as well, a region where experts say there are more unauthorized distillers than legal – a sign that the region may see a boom in legal distilleries just like it has with craft beer.  And when Governor Brown signed AB 933 in September, craft distilleries in California came out ahead with the newly gained ability to offer tastings.

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Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

  This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving. This once-in-a-lifetime holiday, that’s being called Thanksgivukkah, won’t occur again for another 70,000 some years, according to experts.

Andy Karsh, owner of Karsh’s Catering and Zen Wok Fusion in Fresno’s Tower District, developed a special menu that combines the rich culinary traditions of the two holidays. He’ll teach us how to cook these dishes during Valley Edition on Nov. 26.

 Tursket (Turkey and Brisket)

‘What You See In The Dark,’ by Dinuba native Manuel Munoz, is the next book in Valley Public Radio’s ‘Homegrown’ book club.

The novel follows a director and actress who arrive in Bakersfield in the late 1950s to film a movie at a motel along the old Highway 99. Meanwhile, a love affair between the motel owner’s son and a Mexican-American woman becomes dramatic and deadly. The story is tied to the movie ‘Psycho,’ which includes scenes filmed along the 99 between Bakersfield and Fresno.

Mariner Books

California's Central Valley will be forever linked in history with the story of the Dust Bowl. Cities like Bakersfield and Fresno were the final destination for many who fled Oklahoma and nearby states during the 1930's - an era of dust storms, drought and the Great Depression. But what about those who stayed behind? And did John Steinbeck get the story right in his novel "The Grapes of Wrath?"

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

For almost a year, Nancy Holmes and Sinamon Blake were neighbors in a homeless encampment in downtown Fresno.

But city employees bulldozed their camp a few weeks ago, in an effort to rid the city of illegal structures. The two friends, and the other residents of their camp, scattered. Nancy and Sinamon ended up on a huge, dusty piece of land outside the city's jurisdiction.

“I didn’t care for the path that Sinamon found us, but damn, we were safe,” says Nancy, 61, a borderline diabetic with asthma.

She lasted there for about two weeks.

In the world of sports,  controversies over logos aren't unusual. The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have long been the subject of protests from Native American groups. Even high school teams aren't immune from such issues. But closer to home there’s another sort of debate over the logo for the sports teams from Fresno State - the Bulldog. In this case the debate isn’t about alleged racism, it’s about violence, and a street gang that has appropriated the logo for its own use. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Do you know that moment when you’re driving north on Interstate 5 through the Tehachapi Mountains when the wide expanse of the San Joaquin Valley comes into view?

On a clear day, it’s an impressive sight. But next time you’re there - look around. Most of what you see, from the hills down to the valley floor is a part of the Tejon Ranch –the largest privately owned piece of land in California.

And it’s here – right at the base of the mountains, where Interstate 5 and Highway 99 meet that developers from the ranch are planning a new town – known simply as Grapevine.
 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Generations of Fresno residents have heard stories about the mysterious underground world of Fresno's 19th century Chinatown. Was it a world of illicit activity, with a network of subterranean tunnels? Archeologists with the state's high speed rail authority are hoping to shed some new light on this dark and forgotten part of Fresno's history. 

Last week archeologists gathered in Fresno’s historic Chinatown to sift through soil with a hope of unearthing century-old artifacts just yards from the future bullet train.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Up and down the valley, many cities have historic signs or archways which welcome visitors to town. Modesto's arch promotes a city filled with "Water Wealth Contentment and Health." Clovis proudly proclaims itself as the "Gateway to the Sierras," and Bakersfield makes a bold statement with its arch off of Buck Owens Boulevard. Fresno has its own historic archway, but as FM89's Joe Moore reports, it may soon need a new home.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

 Cinnamon has lived in a make-shift structure near the grain silos, west of Palm Avenue and H Street, for more than two years. She says the homeless encampment there is different from others that have cropped up in downtown Fresno.

“We’re not a camp, we’re a neighborhood, a family,” she said. “We all look out for each other.”

The encampment has rules. For example, the residents decide – together – if a new person could move in.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The City of Visalia is known to many as the small town with the good restaurants on the way to the giant sequoias. Its bustling downtown district is home to a thriving music scene and dozens of shops and entertainment venues. But less than a mile to the north, in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Lincoln Oval Park is home to a much different Visalia. It’s ground zero for the city’s homeless population.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The first of two long awaited California Veterans Home’s opened today. Over 200 veterans, advocates and their families toured the Fresno Veterans Home. A similar event will be held in Redding next Friday.

Construction of the Fresno veterans home began during the spring of 2010, but the project stalled due to a lack of funds.

In 2011, Henry T. Perea introduced The Veterans Home Savings Act to restore funding to the project. The Fresno home cost an estimated $250,000.

Road Trip To Collect Dust Bowl Stories on 75th Anniversary of 'Grapes of Wrath'

Oct 2, 2013
Dorothea Lange / National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics

A group of artists is gearing up for a cross-country road trip that will end in California. It's part of a project to mark the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Steve Milne reports.

The trip starts Friday in Oklahoma, retracing the path the Joad family took along Route 66 in "The Grapes of Wrath" with stops in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

For most of the past century, the building that sits on the southwest corner of Fresno and G Streets in downtown Fresno has been passed down from generation to generation.

“My family has owned the property since right after the turn of the century,” says Gary Lanfranco , owner of the Cosmopolitan Bar and Grill. His father passed along the restaurant to him in 1968.

“In 1933 when prohibition was repealed my father and uncle came here and started The Cosmopolitan Tavern, previous to that it was a boarding house.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A fire and explosion inside a food vendor's trailer at Fresno Christian High School sent two men to the hospital and injured another on Friday night. 

Just before 6:30 p.m. a blast from a 20-gallon propane tank sent shrapnel as far as 150 feet across Alluvial Avenue. The explosion ripped off the roof and the sides of the trailer, where vendors were serving food prior to the start of a football game on campus. Officials with the Fresno Fire Department say that prior to the explosion employees detected a propane leak and a fire.

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