Power of One Blog http://powerofone.brianbiery.com Shaping our Community Tue, 21 Mar 2017 04:38:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jervey Tervalon http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2016/10/jervey-tervalon/ Tue, 04 Oct 2016 07:15:44 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=584 writer, professor, literary sage, cultural recorder, working class hero, father As the literary director and founder of both Literature for Life and LitFest Pasadena, Jervey’s vision is to make Pasadena a city that has a vibrant literary culture that serves our public schools and our working and middle class families. With these organizations he is […]

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Jervey Tervalon and his daughter at their home

Jervey Tervalon and his daughter at home

writer, professor, literary sage, cultural recorder, working class hero, father

As the literary director and founder of both Literature for Life and LitFest Pasadena, Jervey’s vision is to make Pasadena a city that has a vibrant literary culture that serves our public schools and our working and middle class families.

With these organizations he is exploring offering writing camps that do extensive creative and expository writing development that prepare our public school students for high school, college and beyond.  Ideally, the goal is to lay the seeds that will create the Rose City Center for the Literary Arts, an institution that would parallel what the Armory does for the Visual Arts.

With a growing family, several community project brewing, a couple of new business ventures and teaching responsibilities, how/when do you make time to write a novel?

I guess it’s an example of counterintuitive behavior. I enjoy writing, fiction and nonfiction. It’s pleasure to be lost in a fictional moment or trying to organize my thoughts to make a complicated idea not so unwieldy.

At every point in my life where it seems my writing would suffer, having kids, long commutes, broken heart, I still did work. I have two novels on my hard drive. One is at my agent, the other I’m kind of doing an edit, but I’ve it edited too many times.

The problem with writing is publishing. The money, when it comes, makes sense of the work, but it also leads to wanting more and envy. I envy the success of other writers and it’s stupid and beneath me, but I engage in it. Oddly, the most beloved writer I know is Jonathan Gold. I don’t envy him, I enjoy his work and that share in the pleasure of reading. There isn’t the smell of desperation of those of us who came from competitive writing programs.

I can’t complain about a damn thing even if a safe fell on my head and squashed me like a water bug. Every good thing in my life comes from my writing and the habit of reading obsessively. I’ve had the good fortune to be paid to write about the black folks I grew up, about life in Santa Barbara, and Pasadena and now a memoir about race, children, and long distance courting–from Pasadena to Shanghai.

What stories of the world are so interesting to you that you want to write about them?  In other words, where to you find the threads of an idea or concept and then how do you begin to weave them into a novel?  What is your creative process?

I usually write about experiences that resonate with me over time.  Sometimes it’s something that happened to someone I know well.  My best selling book, Dead Above Ground was written in the voice of my mother about the murder of a cousin who fell in love with a handsome psychotic.  

My most recent novel, Monster’s Chef was from the point of view of an insane celebrity.    Though I ‘m not insane—fingers crossed!  I’ve known people who have had the experience of working with powerful crazy people.

It seems that there are more books than ever that are being published, however, with social media, 500 television channels, netflicks, and numerous other ways to entertain oneself, what is the status of reading literature in this country?

What I remember reading is that more people are reading books than ever, or at least books seem immune to the streaming music nightmare where those who creates recorded music can’t make a dime.  It’s incredibly hard to sell a novel and I’ve been fortunate to have sold a number of novels to major publishers, but it wasn’t for teaching and having a wonderful wife with a good job I’d be living in a refrigerator box.

What is the impact of kindle and audio books on the reading community?

It’s all good.  However readers want to experience a book is fine with me.  I read books on my phone but it’s not fun.

Our city has several programs intended to inspire reading among our citizens and to highlight the talents and efforts of writers (One City One Story, LitFest, etc.). What are your thoughts about the impact each is making on the members of our community?

One City, One Story is great!

What we try to do with LitFest Pasadena is to create an event that reflects Pasadena.  At least half our panels and readers are of color.  Diversity is becoming ever more important to be taken seriously in the arts and sciences.  Exclusion generates anger and misunderstanding.  It needs to be confronted and defeated by goodhearted folk. 

We aspire at LitFest Pasadena to have the most diverse literary festival with the best writers.    Diversity and quality are entwined.  Most writers of color have read white writers all of their lives and now we’re showcasing the rest of humanity.

If you could, what changes would you make to these programs to expand their reach and influence?

Require that literature taught be using diverse writers as possible.  Students engage more readily when they see themselves in what they read.  And encourage school districts to use local presses.

Our local school district is working on improving 3rd grade reading scores, what are some strategies you would suggest to accomplish that goal?

Bring excitement and joy to the teaching of reading and lighten up on expectations of short term progress.  Kids at Waldrof schools usually learn to read in later grades and do great.  Not all kids decode text at the same rate, but inculcating a passion for story has the best potential to make a nonreader become an enthusiastic reader. 

Big testing is about money and crushing teachers.   We need to respect teachers and pay them and create the environment to do the best instruction.

What is the role of collaboration in education and in idealcircumstances how would it be manifested?

To do the best work you need to be open to change.  If teachers want to try to collaborate that’s great.  If they don’t, that’s fine.  The cookie cutter approach is the enemy.  Kids and teachers are unique in how they instruct and how they learn.  Variety is necessary in nature…and it’s necessary in education.

You have a small child so how have you incorporated reading and literacy into her life?What are some suggestions you have for parents to provide solid early childhood education for their kids?

Our house is filled with books. Houses filled with books have children who want to read.  If a parent values literacy chances are so will the children.

Parents need to show that they value education so that the child values it too.  To some degree we need to educate parents on how to be better educational parents/educational partners.

What was the process like to publish your first book? How did you overcome those challenges?

I had a great literary education, studying with Marvin Mudrick, Robyn Bell, and Max Schott and the College of Creative Studies at UCSB and then with Oakley Hall at the MFA program at UC Irvine.  I sold my first book, Understand This, and that was my thesis in the MFA program to William Morrow.

Within the realm of writing, what other genres or artistic endeavors are you interested in accomplishing?

I would like to have my books adapted for film. 

Also, I’ve started Literature for Life, a literary magazine that reflects the diversity of California with wonderful well-known writers like Jonathan Gold and Janet Fitch, and great work from unknown writers.  We create curriculum for all the work and now have the pleasure of seeing it used in the classroom.  

My wife, Jinghuan Liu Tervalon and I have started a press, Locavore Lit.LA and with Amok books will commence publishing in the next year.

What is the role of the writer with respect to social justice issues?  As a chronicler of events, or as an activist?

My books I write as I read them.  I don’t control them as much as they control me and write themselves.  I do write enjoy writing political essays for various publications; LA Times, LA Weekly,…

What are you reading right now?

A great novel: “The Sympathizer”Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

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Luis Ituarte http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2016/08/luis-ituarte/ Mon, 08 Aug 2016 05:42:19 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=565   citizen artist, statesman, catalyst, community organizer, culture identifier, humorist, basketball player Luis Ituarte has had a storied career, one that has avoided traditional labels and one that is rooted in the notion that art should always have some sort of social benefit or impact.  He has been a leader in cross-cultural art projects that […]

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Luis Ituarte

Luis Ituarte models one of his pieces of art at “La Linea Curva”.


citizen artist, statesman, catalyst, community organizer, culture identifier, humorist, basketball player

Luis Ituarte has had a storied career, one that has avoided traditional labels and one that is rooted in the notion that art should always have some sort of social benefit or impact.  He has been a leader in cross-cultural art projects that emphasize collaboration and cooperation, rather than competition.  And he professes that the real impact of the artistic experience is in the context in which it is created, rather than the object or the outcome.  Luis continues to explore the range of artistic experiences with a variety of upcoming exciting interactive projects which you will learn about in this article.

Below you will find his thoughts about trying to survive as an artist to the value of international art projects to using art to “do good”.  As a neighbor and a collaborator I have had the opportunity to cross paths with Luis regularly in recent months, so here are some of the highlights from those informative and inspiring conversations:

From your experience what is the value of art to society?

Art is a product of society and society projects itself through the arts.

Can you tell the story of playing basketball as a kid and how that experience shaped your world view?

In 1957 when I started middle school in Tijuana, Mexico, I was 14 years old. The most exciting thing for me about starting what you call junior high was playing basketball, the thing was that you have to be in a team by the first month of classes, (September). I was so eager to play and I asked over and over to be accepted into one team. Can I play? Can I play? I guess, that because I was so eager no one paid attention to me and I ended up not being in a team at the end of the month. I guess that if I had just sat and observed someone would ask, “Do you want to play with us?” But, I was so persistent in asking that nobody paid serious attention to me.

I panicked, so I concocted an idea. The school was out of town and a bus would pick us up at downtown, “C” street in front of a jewelry store, “Joyeria Inda” that also sold sporting goods. The owner, Mr. Inda, was a friend of my father. Mr. Inda’s store was the only one at the time that sold Wilson leather basketballs. I talked to him about buying one on installments and I paid $5 as a down payment. Mr. Inda, because he knew my family, suggested that I could take the ball with me. I said no. Because my plan was for him to put the ball in the window with a note that said “Reserved for Luis Ituarte.” He agreed. I talked to Mr. Inda on a Sunday and on Monday (first day of October) the ball with the sign was in the window, and by that Friday I had seven of the best players who wanted me to organize a team because we would be the only ones with a leather basketball. So I did.

We called our team “Pinguinos” (Penguins) because we were short, (some of us were not yet fully developed because of our age). I got sponsors to pay for T-shirts, organized a “Tardeada” (an afternoon dance), and got a trainer for the team (one of the top players from 3rd grade). Two weeks later we had our leather basketball and in March of the next year we played the finals against a team from the 3rd grade. We lost, but that was the first time that a team from 1st grade ever got to the finals. This experience marked me for the rest of my life. If you become familiar with my life story, you will find this pattern over and over again, my wanting to do something for me and end up doing something for others.

What is ‘alley art’ and how will it work in your neighborhood?

Alley Art is a gathering of Artists from Pasadena and Altadena who will meet at a “tailgate fashion” picnic to create and develop relationships while doing outdoor artwork, poetry readings and/or hangout doing diverse social activities in an environment supported mainly for the purpose of artists to relate and get to know each other and in this way create an urban public venue to strengthen enduring relationships and join a community of artists in search of an artistic identity for the region.

These events will be at Banbury Alley, (200 block, West Mountain Street between W. Mountain St. and Lincoln Ave. Pasadena CA. 91103), with the support of the Flintridge Center where I am the artist-in-residence. The prelude of this event will be on August 21, 2016 and will continue once a month in May, June, July and August 2017 (the third Sunday of the month).

Describe a ‘poly painting’ and its structure. What was the genesis of that project? How many have you created and where are they?

The purpose of Poly Painting is to create a visual history of a moment of a relationship.

Under the auspices of COFAC, I produced and directed groups of up to eight people each to create 6 x 20 ft. sized paintings (or murals) within the context of a happening in which food and music are part of the environment.

The experience that participants have is one of getting to know each other in the process of creating, in one day, something that they don’t normally do. This experience will produce a common history and the painting (mural) is a testimony and remembrance of that time. This experience validates my statement that “in art the value is in the context, not in the object.”

You participated in an international art project called ‘el túnel’ which featured an art museum on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. Please describe the impetus for the project and how it manifested itself. What has been its accomplishments? And what is its current status?

The building where La Casa del Túnel: Art Center is located was built in the 1950’s by Gabriel Moreno Lozano, a lawyer, Renaissance man and legendary figure of the City of Tijuana. In later years, a tenant of the building, without knowledge of the owner, dug a tunnel (approximately 150 ft.) under the house, across to a parking lot in the USA. and engaged in illegal activities. On July 8, 2004, the tunnel was discovered and most of the parties responsible were caught, arrested and imprisoned. Today, after three years of litigation, the owners, heir of Moreno Lozano, liberated the building and decided to provide a space for COFAC for the establishment of an international center for the arts. For more information www.cofac101.org/casa.htm As a result of an Annenberg Foundation grant to COFAC, we were able to retrofit the building (almost reconstructed) and finally, in 2008, we had the “official” opening.

Adolfo Nodal, Luis Ituarte and Gerda Govine Ituarte, co-founded “La Casa del Túnel: Art Center” which opened in 2008 in La Colonia Federal. The impetus was inspired by the following:

1. In 1996, “Bajo El Mismo Sol” (under the same sun) was born (by Adolfo Nodal, former General Manager of the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles) and Luis Ituarte, Coordinator of International Affairs in the Department. I also commuted weekly between Los Angeles and Tijuana. The spirit of this program was not to compete with artists or putting the two cultures in competition, rather to emphasize relationships between artists and administrators.

2. In 2003, Consejo Fronterizo de Arte y Cultura, (COFAC) a 501c(3) the brain child of Luis, was formed in Los Angeles and subsequently became an Asociacion Civil (Mexican non-profit) in 2009 in Tijuana. Prior to this time, Luis met over a three-year period (1995-1998) with a group of artists, cultural promoters, journalist, and filmmakers from Tijuana B.C., Mexico and Los Angeles. Prior to COFAC’s non-profit status as a 501 (c) 3 on July 28, 2003, numerous activities were organized. From 1996-2003 all of the activities of COFAC was presented under the umbrella of a project named “Bajo el Mismo Sol,” which was sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles and the Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura de Tijuana. Under the umbrella of this project more than 50 activities were presented in both cities, for example, “Poetas Por Pintores” (Poets for Painters), a two-year exchange program in which poets in Tijuana were performing in Los Angeles and painters from Los Angeles were exhibiting in Tijuana in 1996. The next year, 1997 painters from Tijuana were exhibiting in Los Angeles and poets from Los Angeles were performing in Tijuana.

3. “La Casa del Túnel: Art Center” was opened under our leadership from 2008-2011 with an international (Los Angeles and San Diego County and Tijuana) board chaired by Al Nodal as Gerda and I lived in both Pasadena and Tijuana. La Casa received funding from the U.S. and Mexico. In 2012, the operation of the Center was turned over to The World Beat Center, a non-profit organization in San Diego. However, we continue to be involved in the arts and culture scene of the “mega metropolis” of Los Angeles County, San Diego County and Tijuana.
The above is a brief snapshot. “La Casa del Túnel: Art Center” is an international bridge that garnered world-wide coverage and support. Our fingerprints are on the soul of the arts and culture scene in Tijuana and we continue to maintain our friendships and relationships.
COFAC, a 501( 3 ) art and culture non-profit has had many events sponsored by the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division, “Cool Succulent Mural,” ArtNight, bringing La Ballena de Jonas, a band from Tijuana to Pasadena, and two other performance groups during ArtNight. As of July 2016, COFAC is the sponsor of “Poetry Within Reach” (Gerda is Producer/MC)) as a result of an NEA grant to the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs and partner Side Street Projects. This four-week event recognizes nine published Pasadena poets, known as the Pasadena Rose Poets. In addition, COFAC, has organized another group of poets to read at Lit Crawl LA NoHo event on October 26, 2016. We continue our amazing and interesting journey as we stay involved and give back without reservation to bridge borders and stay on course finding and creating art and cultural involvement outside lines of demarcation. Among many things, Luis is a Citizen Artist and Gerda is a Citizen Poet.

You have worked with artists all over the world, particularly in Latin America.  What was the recent event you attended in Cuba and what were it’s the outcomes?  With improvements in relations between these countries what new opportunities are there for collaboration between Cuban and U.S. artists?

In 2014 I assembled a group of artist friends (one from U.S., one from Canada and one from Mexico) who were experimenting with “noise” (sound improvisations) with the intent of producing memories that interact with the audience. We called the group Noema. (no-poem). The focus of this group was the promotion, documentation and publication of “sound” pieces. This experimental group concentrated on impacting the audience in creating memories provoked by the sounds they hear. We ask the audience to share their experience at the end of the performance.

We were recommended to and subsequently invited by the organizing committee of the Cuban Biennale to perform during the event in 2013. For more information go to: www.noema.mx. In my experience, and with the new developments of curing the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, the opportunities for artists in the United States are great because due to the restrictions of the embargo and the scarcity of art materials. Cuban artists are amazing in using what is available, namely, found objects or producing their own art materials basic resources. This is inspiring for us who are accustomed to going to the art store and getting what we need.


Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence


For centuries the artist’s challenge has been how to create art and simultaneously feed him/herself. How have you managed to stay prolific over the years and pay your bills?

Basically there are two kinds of artists, the ones who are born artists and the ones who make themselves artists. I think I belong to the second category and somehow I have been able to get myself employment in the cultural arena, which has given me the opportunity to sustain myself as an artist. Art is an activity that requires investment of time and money. And, depending sometimes, some artists have more ability to nourish their art than others. Somehow that is reflected in the end product. Basically, I have been just lucky.

Where do you find inspiration for your artistic endeavors?

In the relationships that I have with people and the environment that surrounds me and my obsession to create some good.

What types of public art projects have you been involved with over the years and what are you most proud of?

I have been involved in many public art projects since 1972 in three countries (Mexico, Canada and U.S. The following are the most important public art events in which I have been involved in this region, Pasadena, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana).

  • Mural, “Todos Los Ninos Son Tuyos (All the Children are Yours), East Los Angeles, CA, 1991.
  • Team member, (semi-finalist), Martin Luther King Memorial Project, Cal Trans/City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission, San Diego, California, 2006.
  • “Poly Painting” Murals, 1.- Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena, 2.- Scott McKenzie Child Care Center, 3.- Flintridge Foundation, 4.- Art Center College of Design, 5.- Art Walk Pasadena and Artist Group 2007-2009.
  • Created the non profit Consejo Fronterizo de Arte y Cultura (COFAC)/Border Council of Arts and Culture, Pasadena, CA, 2003
  • “Cool Succulents” Mural Project, Individual Artist Grant, City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Department, (Digital mural on weather resistant plastic installed on exterior wall of Pasadena Fish Market Restaurant) Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena, California, 2009.
  • Project Director, Casas Arte Home Intervention Project, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Tijuana, Mexico and Highland Park, CA, 2009-2011.
  • Co-participant, Performing Public Space, Economy of Gesture (human directional spinning) “Lo Que Resiste Persiste,” Downtown Los Angeles, CA, 2010.
  • Curator/Producer, Community Beautification Project: 32 barrels of fruit trees distributed to community in Colonia Federal, Tijuana, Mexico in collaboration with the Fallen Fruit Group, Los Angeles, CA. 2009.                                                                                         

I am most proud of the work done in Tijuana, as Co-founder, Developer and Curator of La Casa del Túnel: Art Center right on the border between Mexico and San Diego.

It appears as though you are as creative as ever with multiple projects being conjured up in your mind simultaneously.  So what ideas do you have for upcoming programs; projects, exhibits, and

I am very excited about a project called “Alley Art.” (See answer above).

Also, I am supporting my poet wife, Gerda Govine Ituarte’s endeavors in helping to publish her books, create the art work vignettes, travel with her here and overseas, and, presently, with her new amazing project, “Poetry Within Reach” with the Pasadena Rose Poets comprised of Pasadena-based poets with an emphasis on civic participation. I am planning a conference of artist couples from Tijuana, San Diego and Los Angeles (Pasadena) sharing their experiences about the creative process and how they manage to survive.

This fall I begin a three-month residency, September through November, in Cleveland sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation/Creative Fusion Residencies to participate in the “Ingenuity Fest” September 23-25 in Saint Clair Superior, create a Poly Painting and help organize a “El Dia de Los Muertos” Festival (Day of the Dead).

And this is my second year as the Artist-in-Residency at the Flintridge Center.

Generally we perceive artists to be solo practitioners locked away in an isolated studio painstakingly creating art hour by hour alone. However, much of your art has been developed in a collaborative space where others are contributing to the creative process with you. What is it about working with others that is so powerful and fulfilling to you?

As much as I love spending some time alone in my studio, I am always concocting ways to come out of it. I believe it is part of my nature and that has allowed other people to perceive me as a “Citizen Artist,” of which I am very proud because that allows me to create a dimension between the abstraction of my painting and the reality of life. I collaborate with artisans and other artists to fulfill that inter-dimension that makes me somewhat unique.

Do you have any suggestions for other artists, especially young ones, on how to practice your art and not compromise your values?

You could be an artist by not compromising your values. This means that you have to be genuine in what you do and try to reflect yourself in what you do in your art. I don’t like to patronize young artists by telling them what to do. Art is not a profession; it is a way of life. You should do what you have to do to survive in that life.


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Mark Rice http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2016/01/mark-rice/ Sun, 10 Jan 2016 21:17:51 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=552   master gardener, educator, nature’s advocate, community organizer, visionary Mark Rice has been planting seeds in and around Pasadena for more than a decade.  His favorite activity is to teach kindergarteners the fun of playing with worms, sticking their hands in mulch, and seeing how interconnected life is.  If he had his way, every school […]

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Surrounded by sugar cane at the Altadena Community Garden.

Surrounded by sugar cane at the Altadena Community Garden.


master gardener, educator, nature’s advocate, community organizer, visionary

Mark Rice has been planting seeds in and around Pasadena for more than a decade.  His favorite activity is to teach kindergarteners the fun of playing with worms, sticking their hands in mulch, and seeing how interconnected life is.  If he had his way, every school and home would have a learning garden that functioned as a place to grow plants, food and more connected citizens.

Here is our recent conversation which features art in gardening, climate change, Pasadena Learning Gardens, collaboration and the future of the planet:

What is the mission of Pasadena Learning Gardens? What have been some of its most valuable accomplishments?

The mission was originally to help communities reconnect to nature and our food, and evolved first to building resilient communities and later expanded to helping us reconnect to our communities, our selves, our place, and our time.

Over the years we’ve supported the birth and rebirth of multiple learning gardens and have taught hundreds of adults and children to grow food and understand why “real” food is healthier than “franken” food. We’ve also facilitated a number of community dialogs looking for ways to collaborate to identify common goals and use local expertise to provide solutions that profit driven systems are not delivering.

Tragically, we found that our culture’s scarcity thinking impedes collaboration and this needs to be changed. This is made more painful in light of what we’ve learned in the garden, from bees, to microorganisms, to whole systems that make up nature – nature models collaboration in ways we must strive to understand let alone emulate.

How would you describe the trend in recent years for the development of urban community gardens? What has been the driver for their creation?

Historically necessity has been a big driver. Food access, food security, financial concerns have all been significant drivers. Ironically / wonderfully, this has led to the building of community. In the UC Master Gardener Victory Garden Classes we offered, I came to realize that it was the community that emerged; with its shared sense of meaning and identity, empowerment, and a re-connection to natural systems that ended up being the greatest benefit we offered. The same is the case in many community and school gardens, especially those that are largely community supported.

In addition, many families have converted their front yards to growing edibles, how much land does a family need to grow a significant amount of food at home? Can you live off the land in the city?

It’s possible to get a lot of food from four beds that are 3×6 feet. Four, because to maintain production it’s important to rotate crops and this makes things easier. A number of people do harvest a significant amount of food off their land in the city but it is a full time job. I’ve found it is best to grow the things that you love and are more difficult to attain (because of price or availability). Again, more than food, it is an issue of empowerment. 

You have mentioned many times the joy you receive while working with children in elementary schools. What is it about those moments that are so extraordinary?

Kids are amazing. I find that working with kids in a garden reveals an enthusiasm and openness that brings me significant hope. Our curriculum is based on microorganisms in the soil and in our gut and the profound level of interconnectedness this demonstrates.

If we can change the trajectory of our youth towards informed consumption and a little humility when it comes to nature, the benefits over that child’s life to the child and society are significant. Kindergartners in particular have proven to be capable of great focus and presence, something that I’ve found much less of in our city run high schools.

Nature certainly has suffered due to human impact, how might we better connect city dwellers to the environment to understand more intimately the outcomes of our actions?

This gets right to the heart of the issue as I see it. I think we do understand the outcomes of our behavior and work extremely hard at avoiding this truth and rationalizing our behaviors.

We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction where for the first time in history life is being exterminated by a group that is part of life. I witness diabetic moms sneaking candy bars, school nutrition “experts” bringing fried food to share with overweight parents, troubled kids suffering from obesity being “rewarded” with candy and sodas, and people who survive this life by indulging in outrageous consumption – I think the future will judge us harshly.

And I deeply appreciate how ingrained this behavior is, in me and the world. Overwhelmed? Not sure what to do? Lot’s of us in that club, but we need a new one.

How has climate change impacted gardeners?

We pick the plants and can replace even trees so gardens can adjust. However, for instance, last year most people had terrible pest problems with their tomatoes due to the high temperatures and this year there will be almost no apples grown in our neck of the woods due to last winter’s heat.

For nature there is a bigger issue as it can’t be managed as closely. For example, we have lost millions of trees in California due to the drought, this has also caused all pines to under produce sap which makes them much more vulnerable to fire and pests, so we really can’t even calculate the size of the loss.

Where do you go to find a place of rejuvenation?

Do you have processes that you use to re-center and re-energize yourself?

I find solace in music, art, meditation and community. In each case I look to experience the connection that I find at the root of all life. I used to be a very enthusiastic meditator looking to attain some level of enlightenment.

Now, while I still find meditation of great value in cultivating a more calm consciousness and giving me more focus, I have also seen that we are aware of this connection (the enlightenment that I pursued) and my goal now is to stop working so hard to not see it. I love a great meal with friends, but curiously am finding that I need to look into the darkness – in my personal and collective life – with equanimity and compassion if I’m to really re-center myself.

Would you describe yourself as an artist? If so how does artistry manifest itself in community gardening?

For a number of years I was very involved in facilitating small groups, one of which was The Artist’s Way. Working through the materials it became clear that nurturing and adjusting the flow of a group’s interests and concerns was something that I loved and was my creative outlet. I now believe that we are all called to honestly communicate what we are experiencing and I’ve challenged myself to paint, draw, write and play more music.

Who has influenced your thinking about working with nature and why?

I grew up in Northern California and have spent a lot of time in the Sierra’s between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, and frankly nature has taught me the most about nature. I have always admired John Muir and his finding that by going out he was going in. I love Michael Pollan’s work and used the video of Botany of Desire with many groups. I studied Environmental Ethics at UC Santa Cruz as an undergrad and think highly of Thomas and Wendel Berry, Annie Dillard, and more recently I love what Prince Charles has written, in particular his small book “The Future of Food”.

For someone who generally kills plants instead of causing them to thrive, what suggestions do you have for a brown thumbed person to grow at least some of my food?

It’s really all about being a little ahead of the curve. Putting the right plant in the right spot at the right time makes life much easier. There is no way to cram for a garden, other than perhaps buying plants instead of growing from seeds, though the later is much more cost effective (especially as you can save seed) and provides access to many more varieties.

Now if you seem to have the feared black thumb of death, I’d recommend starting small, some herbs and a couple things you really like. And document what you do (when and where you planted the crop, what variety you grew, and what problems arose. Then you can get much more helpful assistance from a local nursery or the Master Gardener helpline.

The stress of our intense summers also necessitates more vigilance and perhaps growing some kale over the winter will be more satisfying. Also, I have a “gardening” tab on my website PasadenaLearningGardens.org with lots of Southern California specific gardening tips and resources.

How do we as humans figure out how to work together effectively in small groups without killing each other in order to solve the complex problems that we face these days?

Another hat I wear is the Garden Coordinator for Hathaway Sycamores where we work with emotionally challenged youth. These kids have helped me see that our primary hope is to cultivate a more connected existence and this comes from owning and releasing a lot of painful memories. Time in nature, time in silence, time in honest community, all seem to help us cultivate a greater level of emotional intelligence and focus, these being what I see as a priori skills that seem sorely missing in our educational systems.

I also have been working with the Ojai Foundation and their “Council” process where we integrate traditional indigenous processes with an awareness of our current understanding of psychology and neuroscience.

This has been the big eye opener for me. Plants in nature, along with organisms in the soil and above it, collaborate with an efficacy that shames many human organizations I’ve witnessed, and for me it highlights the impediments presented by our egos and self image.

How do you feel today about the future of the planet?

I often claim to be a long term optimist and believe / hope there is truth in the cliché that it is darkest before the dawn, because frankly it’s pretty dark. It is a tragedy what is going on with many of the human constructed systems we have in place. Education, food production, transportation, healthcare and big pharm, even spiritual development, etc. etc.

The hubris that we know better than nature, with the primary driver being profit, needs to be more fully examined. I see kids on the fast track to diabetes drinking multiple sodas, I see people driving personal trucks to go to the market or church, I see food that no one even a hundred years ago could imagine, and I think of the environmental degradation and human oppression my comfort relies on.

That said, while I don’t see the dawn I do see an amazing array of people who care deeply and are putting their backs and their dollars into finding new solutions. I tell the kids that every time they have something to eat they are voting, for their health, for the environment’s health, and for balance in our economy. I really believe that the solution is deeply linked to honestly connecting to our communities, our environment, our society and ourselves.

Surrounded by grapefruit in Altadena.

Surrounded by grapefruit in Altadena.

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Mary Donnelly Crocker http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2015/09/mary-donnelly-crocker/ Tue, 15 Sep 2015 05:36:12 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=528   defender of youth, health care expert, visionary leader, crisis counselor, mom x 3 + 1 MDC as she is known by many in the community has been at the helm of Y&H for nearly 26 years and is thrilled about the opportunity to open up a new office which will allow the organization to […]

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Young and Healthy's director Mary Donnelly Crocker at their new office.

Young and Healthy’s director Mary Donnelly Crocker fights for health care for kids in our community.


defender of youth, health care expert, visionary leader, crisis counselor, mom x 3 + 1

MDC as she is known by many in the community has been at the helm of Y&H for nearly 26 years and is thrilled about the opportunity to open up a new office which will allow the organization to better serve the community.  These types of fresh, positive challenges motivate her to stay excited about the work after all these years.  And, of course, who wouldn’t want to help provide quality health care for children who are un- or under-insured?

Below you will find her thoughts about issues ranging from nonprofits in our city to health care to leadership from a recent interview I had with her:

Normally as an elementary school student one isn’t thinking about growing up one day to be executive director of a youth serving health care organization, so how did you end up at Young and Healthy?

When I was a kid, my catholic school always had these visiting missionary nuns come and talk to us. They were doing work with the poor in Peru—so strange I can still even remember the town they worked in. These nuns were pretty adventurous and pretty mesmerizing for a kid in a plaid skirt. As a kid—I wanted to be a missionary—-but not the preachy-kind—the cool nun kind who dug latrines and taught kids how to read. Maybe I got my wish (not the latrine digging part—never dreamt about that)—I just stayed at home to do it…..and I never even been to Peru.

I think my dad was a big influence too—he was a staunch catholic and although our theology differed quite a bit—he actually acted on what were called the “Corporal Works of Mercy”… he consisted modeled these things in a thousand little ways:

To feed the hungry.
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned.
To bury the dead.

But— my career started off teaching preschoolers and the doing some of the hardest work on the planet. I was a Certified Child Life Specialist at Huntington Hospital for about ten years. It was there that I really learned about kids and health care. I was on the psycho-social team there and helped kids and families cope with everything from a simple set of stitches to death. I never knew what my day would be—but I did feel very ALIVE working with families at the worst possible moment of their lives. It was exhausting, exciting, heartbreaking , thrilling and fun –all at the same time. It turned out that I got “pretty good” at dealing with death and dying…..but that also takes its toll.

Just when I could feel the burn out coming on at the Hospital—Young & Healthy was being birthed. At the first interview—I wasn’t even nervous—I was just checking it out, after all. When I was asked back for a second interview—I was a wreck—because then…I REALLY, REALLY wanted the job…Here I am 26 years later.

What is the state of nonprofits in our community today?

Nonprofit work is not for sissies. This is hard work that often, to the outside world looks on as an EASY or a FLUFF job. I have never worked so hard.☺ I think nonprofits are always precarious…and the “halo effect” that nonprofits once had—is long gone. Nonprofits are scrutinized, and evaluated in some similar ways to the for-profit world—but we will never have the same kind of resources available to us as they do.

Recently there has been a spate of closures or reductions in scope and staff due to funding issues. Are those due to an overall downturn in the economy, or do we just have too many nonprofits in this city?

That’s a really tough question—each one of those closures had a secret backstory that no one outside the staff or board really knew.  It could have been a simple lack of competent leadership, or a board that couldn’t muster their fund-raising selves, a change in a major funding source—or just bad luck.

During the worst of the recession some nonprofits folded, some made cuts so they would close and some held on to their old ways but couldn’t survive even when the economy improved.

Pasadena DOES have a lot of nonprofits—too many? Who knows—it is such a subjective question I am not sure any amount of research could answer that.

Obviously fundraising is a primary task of any executive director, what have you done to make that job fun and effective?

You may have noticed—I am a little goofy and kinda homespun.  I am happy that I have found a place that appreciates some of the ways I do things (at least I think they do—ha). So baking bread for a donor I know loves banana bread—or taking cookies to another—all make sense to me in how I steward donors.  I am pretty comfortable in my own skin, at this point of my life and it feels natural and easy to relate to donors in personal ways….I try really hard to connect—and find out what is important to them—not just what is important to Young & Healthy.  

So while I always talk about Y&H in my conversations with donors—I might also talk about the sierras, dogs, grandkids, their latest surgery. Getting to know people makes it fun and interesting for me.

Raising money is something I feel like I am ALWAYS, ALWAYS trying to better…I read a lot—got to workshops…try out new techniques…I never take fundraising for granted—it is hard and fragile at the same time—needs constant attention.

In nonprofits leadership is important for stability, name recognition, maintaining clear vision, so is there a formula or template for both recognizing when leadership should be changed and for how that process should be accomplished?

Why do you ask such tough questions my friend?

When leadership is changed is really a function of the board—but I think as long as the nonprofit leader keeps it fresh—new ideas, energy , mission keeping…moving the organization in the direction agreed upon by the board and staff—then it’s all good…it could be 5 years or 30 years—so individual.

I actually have done quite a bit of research on succession planning—Y&H has a game plan for which covers both the “hit by a bus” scenario and a planned retirement.

I think one of the most difficult questions is how can E.D. avoid burn out—that could seriously affect their ability to successfully lead.

Should health care be considered a right in this country? If so what would that look like? If not what structure of health care coverage would enable our society to be as healthy as possible?

Probably not a surprise—I am a big fan of health care for everyone—maybe that is a right. While the ACA is far from perfect—I think it has many elements of making it health care MORE accessible to all. BUT—having health insurance does not guarantee that you can actually see a doctor—but it does help. It a perfect world—accessing health care would be far easier for people to understand—lack of understanding is one of the biggest barriers to care.

How has the Affordable Care Act impacted the work of Young and Healthy? How have you adapted to the changing landscape in medical insurance coverage?

The ACA is a game changer—however it does not change our basic mission—we want people to have ACCESS to care….the new programs available thru the ACA is one more tool that people have —for a better chance of accessing care.

That said—it has changed our day to day work. We still do what we have always done—link low-income , underserved kids with volunteer doctors…but in addition, we are now assessing every single child and family to see if there is a fit for insurance…if there is—we facilitate their enrollment.

This meant that our staff and board had to decide to make this shift, look for money, become certified, partner with other agencies, enroll, trouble shoot, evaluate and then start all over the next year.

Understanding the ACA…and understanding it in a way that I can teach it to others—has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, we have other staff who know it COLD—and can teach anyone from an attorney to an non-English speaker who cannot read in any language—what the ACA means to their daily life. The first year of the ACA was downright nuts—but now—it is calmer and easier.

Please explain how you have managed to convince over 100 local physicians, dentists and other medical care professionals to donate their services? What inspires them to give back in this way?

We actually have 350 professional volunteers and over 213 community volunteers—cool huh?

I don’t think it is all that hard—you just have to tell the story well—there are vulnerable kids right under our noses—and YOU can help. Most people cannot turn away from a sick or hurt child—we just need to make it easy for them to say yes.  Y&H simply puts a structure around caring and action. One doctor says, we took the “hassle factor” away from volunteering. We try and make it easy for doctors to say yes.

We also go out of our way—BIG TIME—to make sure our volunteers feel appreciated. Personal calls from the staff are the norm—adorable written thank you notes from the kids and special recognition at Thanksgiving and during national volunteer week are all steps we take to demonstrate our gratitude.

But REALLY, REALLY—I think the doctors say yes to kids because they are genuinely good & caring people—we are just able to capture it.

How does collaboration factor into your work? Obviously you wouldn’t be able to serve your constituents without the support of doctors, but who else are you collaborating with and what strategies do you use to keep those relationships healthy?

Again—I think in some was part of it is simple—I like people, find them smart and interesting and believe we can do more together than apart.  I think there is both more work than we will all ever get to and enough power to share. Sharing power is one of the hallmarks of great communication and collaboration…and when it works it REALLY works. I try to “play nice in the sandbox” by listening, sharing ideas, giving credit away.

At last count we collaborated with 58 different places in our community—but some of the institutional partners include: PUSD, PASADENA PUBLIC HEALTH, HMH, FULLER, PCC, churches, and lots of other NPO’s.

Of course people respond to people, so what is your secret to attracting talented and caring staff members and then keeping them for years on staff?

I like working with people who are smarter than me—I LOOK for those people. I try to appreciate them for what they bring to Y&H that I do not—maybe it is the ability to correctly forecast our financial situation or understand the thousands of rules of Medi-Cal. Each staff person and board member brings unique gifts to the organization. I feel it my job to help them discover their gifts—use them well and then NOTICE.

I hope that they know that I view them as individuals with hopes, dreams and challenges—some about work—and some outside of work. Everything is connected and whenever it is feasible, I hope I can offer support for both.

I hope that the staff thinks that I listen to them, and that I view mistakes as learning opportunities and that each of their contributions makes the organization whole.
Oh—and we try to have as much fun as possible along the way. If we are not laughing at lunch together—it’s a bad day.

What was one of your greatest challenges as an ED and how did you respond to it?

Hands down the most recent recession. The funding faucet turned off, almost overnight—we had to make incredibly difficult financial decisions. I went to dozens of “pop up” workshops on how to handle everything from finances to communication, to staffing.

Ultimately we cut our budget by one-third and laid off three really competent staff members.  Although I am aware it was awful for them—it was also the worst thing I have ever had to do. Although I intellectually understood we had to do it to survive—it was heartbreaking for me to know what pain I was delivering to three people who were great at their jobs.  I hated every moment.

Because Nice Matters!

Because Nice Matters!

What motivates you to stay in this position after over 20 years?

Need and change. Every time I hear about one of the families we have helped—and what they have endured in their private struggles with poverty—and then how we helped–I get reenergized….to know that we provide practical help , in the most nurturing ways and provide a tiny bit of hope—well, that’s hard to beat.

Y&H changes all the time—we bend, we flex, and we stretch to newly discovered community needs and gaps in service. And for me—that it a good thing—I can get bored when things are too easy—new challenges keep me awake and alert.

What do you love about the job?

That we can be creative in how we solve problems.

That we ASSUME that there is a solution.

That I kind of get to “travel” in many worlds in my own community. I have been in the living rooms of the poorest people in our community—seeing firsthand the horrid effects of poverty on families….AND I have been in the living rooms of some of the wealthiest of our community.  

My job allows me to make connections between those worlds—and affecting change and generosity. I get to see the worst and the best of our community—sometimes in the same moment…and that is pretty cool.

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Robert Gorski http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2015/08/robert-gorski/ Mon, 17 Aug 2015 06:41:51 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=508   advocate, protector, guide, researcher, test pilot The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on July 26.  Robert Gorski has worked to ensure that the intent of this legislation is implemented since its inception.  He was hired just prior to the passage of the ADA by the City of Pasadena to […]

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Robert Gorski at the Pasadena Chalk Festival '15

Robert Gorski at the Pasadena Chalk Festival ’15


advocate, protector, guide, researcher, test pilot

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on July 26.  Robert Gorski has worked to ensure that the intent of this legislation is implemented since its inception.  He was hired just prior to the passage of the ADA by the City of Pasadena to be its first accessibility coordinator in 1989 and has served in that position ever since.

While Pasadena was becoming one of the more accessible cities in the country, the City was recognized in 2005 by the National Council on Disability for its accomplishments.  Robert’s vision for developing better access for persons with disabilities has benefitted all of us through the implementation of curb ramps, accessible parking spaces, improved crosswalk controls, assistive listening systems, equal opportunity for employment, and many other advances that also work to improve our society’s attitude towards persons with disabilities.

Pasadena is extremely fortunate to have a person of his commitment and ability in this position. 

Here are a few of his ideas for furthering the work of the ADA:

What recent accomplishments are you most proud of and why? 

Near completion of the 2010-2015 transition plan for addressing access issues in City facilities.

Installing 3 more Assistive Listening System in City facilities and having funds approved for 3 more Systems at Villa Parke Center.

Year-long-worth of generally small-scale activities that celebrate ADA25 and educate the community about the ADA, ranging from carrying an ADA25 banner in the Black History Parade to addressing 1,500 at a Levitt Pavilion music concert.  

The largest activity was repleatedly displaying the ADA25 emblem on the Rose Bowl’s video boards before a concert attended by over 50,000.


What are you doing in your work that is different from 10 years ago? 

Less time and energy on architectural barriers in City facilities

More time and energy devoted to insuring programs and services are accessible.


What is the state of persons with disabilities and how is this different from the past? 

Employment is one area where little if any progress has been made.

Funding for community programs and government benefits programs that support independent living is considerable less nowadays.

People with disabilities have more personal freedom and greater ability to go where they want and participate in the life of their communities.


What else can be done to better serve persons with disabilities? 

The human services community and governments at all levels must start planning for an increasing senior population that will be increasingly disabled, with impaired hearing being a very common disability.

A new service is needed to help people with disabilities with the physical effort of searching for accessible and affordable housing. Many people with disabilities lack the energy and personal transportation for effective searching. For those that do, searching is often an arduous task.


What would you like to accomplish prior to retirement?  

Putting together a 2016-2020 Compliance Plan (successor to the about to be completed 5-year transition plan) that will address issues missed in the transition plan and new requirements, for example, for accessible curbside parking and accessible pedestrian crosswalk signals.

Conduct a round of small-group training seminars for City staff on accessible meetings and public events.


Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?  If so, please describe why and how you would change that effort?

Volunteered to do an accessibility assessment of the entire Rose Parade that might have prevented a recent costly accessibility complaint.

Advocated harder in 1991 that a re-landscaping project for Central Library should include an accessible entrance to the building’s Walnut Street entrance.


Chatting with Tom Coston at this year's Chalk Festival.

Chatting with Tom Coston at this year’s Chalk Festival.


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Ann Erdman http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2015/07/ann-erdman/ http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2015/07/ann-erdman/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 05:58:16 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=491 writer, info-gatherer, spokesperson, sage, woman-about-town Ann Erdman served as the City of Pasadena public information officer, also known as the Pasadena PIO, for 22 years and in that role strategically managed community outreach, media relations, social media and crisis communications. She served as the Palm Springs PIO before moving to Pasadena and began her career […]

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Doo Dah '12 Grand Marshall Ann Erdman with Queen Rosie.

Doo Dah ’12 Grand Marshall Ann Erdman with Queen Rosie.

writer, info-gatherer, spokesperson, sage, woman-about-town

Ann Erdman served as the City of Pasadena public information officer, also known as the Pasadena PIO, for 22 years and in that role strategically managed community outreach, media relations, social media and crisis communications. She served as the Palm Springs PIO before moving to Pasadena and began her career in the mid-1970s at a major advertising and public relations agency in San Diego. She retired in 2012 after a 38-year career and remains active in the Pasadena community.

Here are her thoughts on all things Pasadena and the state of local government today.

How would you define community? How is it strengthened?

Community is a place that is made dynamic by a diverse population motivated to grow, learn and solve issues together. Community is strengthened when the foundation and the voice are shared by everyone who wants to take part in this constantly evolving process. In Pasadena, this diversity is quite impressive and includes young and mature, haves and have-nots, public/private/nonprofit sectors and of course a variety of races and ethnicities. Great things can happen when people come together over shared issues, regardless of whether each person has the same opinion about an issue.

After many years of working city halls and sitting at the edge of decision-making, who really runs our government?

When it comes to state and federal government levels, the seats of decision making are far away from the populaces they serve. But local government truly can be a collaborative effort because seats of local government are always in the very same cities as the populaces they serve. Pasadena is so fortunate to have so many civically active residents who serve on commissions and tasks forces, are active in neighborhood associations, serve on nonprofit boards, come to town hall meetings and enjoy public events all over town.

With that said, local government in Pasadena is a partnership and a process that often begins with an issue that everybody, from elected officials to residents to business owners to city staff, have opportunities to weigh in on. It’s not always quick or simple or comfortable, but I think most Pasadenans see this as a good thing. Of course if there is an expected outcome of a policy change, new legislation or a code amendment, the final step in this process is a vote by city council members, which is always taken in open session after abundant public comment that often has been preceded by weeks, if not months, of community engagement. This process is a long-held tradition in Pasadena.

Have you witnessed examples of individuals and small groups of people who have managed to change public policy? If so what strategies did they use to be successful?

A change in public policy often begins with people and organizations in the community articulating needs, concerns, wishes and opinions to their respective council members or to the council as a whole. I have seen change occur in a variety of ways, and sometimes people are on opposite sides of the fence. This wouldn’t be Pasadena otherwise, right?!

There are plenty of day-to-day examples. One that was outside the traditional process is the Playhouse Plaza at the southeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and El Molino Avenue that began as a plan for an enormous commercial building that was wildly incompatible with surroundings in the Playhouse District in terms of height, mass and design. The proposed size outscaled the maximum square footage allowable in Pasadena for a structure of its type, and potential environmental impacts, including traffic, were very troubling to many. When a majority of the city council greenlighted the development, ignoring the Planning Commission’s recommendations, and certain zoning and design requirements were waived in what many considered a benefit to the developer’s interests, contentious discussions ensued at City Hall and in the community as everyone dug in their heels.

On one side were Pasadena Heritage and some citizens who expected new development would follow the rules of the Central District Specific Plan as well as the General Plan that the community had spent so much time and care helping to define and refine during a long-term, comprehensive community engagement process. On the other side was the developer IDS, the Playhouse District Association, the Chamber of Commerce, some city staff and some council members. The group Pasadenans for a Livable City was formed in 2009 and a lawsuit was filed, claiming in effect that in approving the project, the council had ignored rules governing downtown development. A judge agreed and a settlement was reached to downscale the project and bring an architect on board with expertise in historic-district compatibility. (Part of the settlement was a joint press release that can be found here http://www.cityofpasadena.net/EkContent.aspx?theme=Navy&id=8589935396&bid=2970&style=news ) Now the five-story complex features art deco-influenced architecture that complements its surroundings, a view corridor to the iconic Pasadena Playhouse on the El Molino side, appealing courtyards and open space.

Yes, the process to get to this result was long, messy, uncomfortable and controversial, but now everyone on both sides agrees the new project is a win-win in every respect. And from a policy standpoint, rules for downtown development will be followed in the future.

What are some common mistakes community members make that weaken or undermine their efforts to influence decision-makers?

Pasadena would not be the remarkable city it is without community participation in decision-making processes. It never happens in a vacuum in this town. Our local environment ordinarily fosters respect when people of all viewpoints come to the table, but there occasionally are some who simply do not want to — or for some reason cannot — work well in that milieu.

I have seen it all, including people who go into relentless, nagging complain-a-thons instead of initiating two-way conversations, as well as people who incessantly bang the drum of conspiracy theory. Believe me when I say these are exceptions in Pasadena and certainly not the rule, but it does happen.

People will always disempower themselves when they focus solely on what is wrong and whose fault it is instead of focusing on what can be done collaboratively to make things right.

The recent embezzlement in our city severely damaged the public’s trust in City staff members. How could such a large sum of money go unnoticed for so many years?

It went unnoticed for two reasons. One or more people in the review and approval pipeline in two departments at City Hall looked the other way over a number of years, whether intentionally or not, when nearly 300 fraudulent check requests allegedly were submitted by a management analyst in the Public Works Department for payments of about $6.4 million, and nearly every one of the check requests should have been a red flag. Second, the fund from which the payments were made was somewhat obscure in the greater scheme of things and for whatever reason was not audited in a meaningful or regularly scheduled manner. The money in the fund had been deposited from the underground surtax paid by electric customers in Pasadena. There was complicity among three or four key people and it was evil.

Local government in Pasadena works very hard to be transparent in all of its business practices, and this scheme was the worst possible breach of the public trust.

What must government do to rebuild the public’s trust?

It’s already happening. Once the criminal actions were suspected in May 2014, a subsequent forensic audit revealed serious irregularities in the fund, and four people were arrested once the District Attorney’s Office developed an iron-clad case. Those people are in the process of being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the City of Pasadena recently launched a civil lawsuit seeking return of the money embezzled from the fund. Some employees were put on administrative leave pending the results of a thorough investigation that is ongoing, and some people, including two department directors, were dismissed. A special task force made up of local experts in our community, such as attorneys, accountants and business executives, has been conducting public meetings monthly (the next meeting is Tuesday, July 7, at 5 p.m. in the Grand Conference Room at City Hall) and when their work is complete later this summer they will provide a report with recommendations for strengthening City Hall’s financial administration and internal controls as well as minimizing future risk.

Another indication of that mistrust is low voter turnouts. Other democratic countries have much higher rates of participation in elections. What would you suggest to improve our voter participation?

For some reason people turn out for national elections in much greater numbers nationwide than for local elections, even though decisions that directly affect their lives and their communities are usually made at the local level.

How to convince more people in Pasadena to vote? That is a very good question. I have heard suggestions ranging from legally requiring everyone to vote to initiating public shaming for those who don’t. I would not be in favor of either.

The dichotomy between Pasadena’s civically active populace and low voter turnout is a hard one to reconcile. Despite registered voters receiving door-to-door contacts, direct mailers, phone calls, reminders in traditional media and on social media, etc., the response was negligible in Pasadena in the most recent election.

I wish I had an answer to this dilemma.

What was your favorite part of serving as a Public Information Officer? What about this position is so critical to the public’s awareness of how local government operates?

A lot of my job involved writing and participating in day-to-day meetings, but my favorite part of being the Pasadena PIO was interacting with the many sectors of the community. I enjoyed being present at community events, interacting with constituents at City Hall, on the phone, via email and social media. Pasadena is my city too, and I always considered it an honor to be a public servant and meet a community need for outreach and communications.

What was the most challenging story you covered as a PIO and why?

I could relay so many examples of challenges and controversies. One that has always stood out in my mind is when former mayor Bill Paparian and his family went to Cuba for a week in 1996 as guests of Fidel Castro’s communist government. I had my orders not to send anything out to media until their plane departed from Mexico City to Havana. Once the wheels were in the air, I faxed out a brief news release that had been reviewed and approved by Phil Hawkey, the city manager at the time. I knew there would be a firestorm.

The next order of business for me was to begin anticipating questions from local, national and international media. Although Mayor Paparian had called me the night before he and his family flew from LAX to Mexico City to let me know he had received the OK from the U.S. State Department to make the trip, I didn’t have much detailed information. There is no Cuban Embassy in the U.S., so Jose Luis Ponce, an official with the Cuban Interest Section of the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., became my go-to guy for day-to-day information. Daily media inquiries came from as far away as Spain, Russia and Israel, and of course local, regional and national media were all over this story as well.

One day I learned from a reporter in London that Mayor Paparian had been a guest speaker at the Politburo (Cuba’s Congress) and made some remarks that were perceived, according to the reporter, as critical of the U.S. When asked to comment, all I could say was I had not seen the speech and Mayor Paparian was representing himself and not the City of Pasadena.

In the meantime, Cuban immigrants in the U.S., from Florida to L.A., were hopping mad about all of this and filled the council chamber when Mayor Paparian returned. The testimony carried on until the wee hours of the morning, and print and broadcast media packed the chamber as well.

I don’t know of another PIO in the U.S. who has ever dealt with this kind of issue, and it certainly was a learning experience that kept me on my toes every minute of every day and night for a week and beyond.

Was it difficult to maintain confidentiality on some issues that you felt the public should know more about or are the filters that are in place appropriate for what is disseminated to the community? If so, please explain how you responded to that challenge.

First, the Pasadena PIO is a confidential employee of the city manager and, as such, is privy to information that may not yet be public record or part of a public process. Second, the California Public Records Act allows clearly defined exemptions to information that is allowed to be disseminated to the public, and the Ralph M. Brown Act allows narrow exemptions to public participation in government meetings. I realize this is not always what people want to hear, and certainly transparency is the best practice, but there are exceptions that pass the legal litmus test. When it came to withholding information, it was never my style to be a rigid stonewaller. Whenever there was information that was not yet public, I did my best to provide as much background information as possible for context without revealing information that was protected under the CPRA or the Brown Act.

One example was a community panel appointed by City Manager Michael Beck to interview semi-finalist candidates for the position of chief of police in 2010. The national search had been an open and transparent process for months, but of course that process was closed to the public during actual interviews with candidates. In addition, the names of panelists were kept confidential until their work was completed to protect them from being influenced by people who otherwise may have lobbied for their favorite candidates.

In the meantime, some community members and a certain local daily newspaper editor cried foul, insisting that the public had a right to know the names of the panelists in advance. There was also misinformation on the community grapevine that this was a selection panel, which it absolutely was not. It was an interview and review panel that provided their recommendations to the city manager for bringing the list of semi-finalist candidates down to a manageable number of finalists for his one-on-one interviews.

When their day-long work was complete, the panelists’ names and affiliations were posted on the city website that afternoon and I sent out a news release to media and community.

So often we hear the term ‘transparency in government’ and we expect to hear the truth as taxpayers and members of the community. How would you define this phrase and how does it play out in your experience?

Transparency and accountability in local government are critical in Pasadena and every city. With the rare exception of information that is not yet public, anyone can find just about everything related to the business of the City of Pasadena on the city website (www.cityofpasadena.net) — from decisions at council meetings to compensation of city employees to every aspect of the investigation related to the embezzlement, and thousands of other pages of information.

What was your most rewarding moment as a PIO?

Boy, that is a difficult question to answer because every day of my 22 years as the Pasadena PIO was rewarding. I very much appreciated it when someone would take time out of their day to send me a thank you note for a particular article in “Pasadena In Focus,” a show on KPAS or simply walking them through an issue over the phone.

I would not trade my time as the Pasadena PIO for anything. It is gratifying to me that some people refer to me as the Pasadena PIO emeritus.

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Elizabeth Pomeroy http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2014/11/elizabeth-pomeroy/ Mon, 10 Nov 2014 06:39:42 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=480   writer, publisher, teacher, school board member, grandmother It’s been a busy decade for all of the original featured individuals since they had the opportunity to be included in The Power of One. (2003). Elizabeth has continued her exquisite publishing enterprise, Many Moons Press, which has now published an impressive nine titles, all on Southern […]

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Book Talk at the Old Mill, San Marino

Book Talk at the Old Mill, San Marino, 2014


writer, publisher, teacher, school board member, grandmother

It’s been a busy decade for all of the original featured individuals since they had the opportunity to be included in The Power of One. (2003). Elizabeth has continued her exquisite publishing enterprise, Many Moons Press, which has now published an impressive nine titles, all on Southern California history and nature. The most recent is a new edition of the 1923 classic, The Southern Sierras of California, by Charles Francis Saunders: containing memoirs by that Quaker botanist as he explored our San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains in the 1910s and ‘20s.

In 2012, she also completed the book San Marino: A Centennial History, which has just received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

With book projects like this one, Elizabeth continues to blend her fascination between history and nature onto the written page.

In other areas of her life, she was elected to the School Board of the Pasadena Unified School District in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012. Serving as a school board member has been by far her main civic dedication and work for the last nearly six years.

In addition, she keeps up her Sierra Club attachment and occasionally leads hikes for this important organization. And new ideas for writing projects are constantly piling up around her very active desk.

Her desire is to keep all of these “flames” burning, certainly for the next ten years! And for her it’s been a joy to stay connected with fellow people from The Power of One.   Thus, she is very happy that Brian Biery is carrying on this blog so that the inspiration continues.

Riding in the Latino Heritage Parade on Washington Blvd. '14

Riding in the Latino Heritage Parade on Washington Blvd. ’14

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Dr. Donald Thomas http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2014/11/dr-donald-thomas/ Sun, 02 Nov 2014 22:34:24 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=473       Dr. Don Thomas – Power of One   One might think that coming up with the idea for one of the most significant non-profits in town over 20 years ago would be enough for anyone’s personal satisfaction. For Dr. Don Thomas, however, that was only a beginning, the first in a series of […]

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Lineage Dance Studio in Old Pasadena August '14

Lineage Dance Studio in Old Pasadena August ’14

Dr. Don Thomas – Power of One


One might think that coming up with the idea for one of the most significant non-profits in town over 20 years ago would be enough for anyone’s personal satisfaction. For Dr. Don Thomas, however, that was only a beginning, the first in a series of exceptional social justice initiatives that have not only transformed our community, but other parts of the world as well.

Since his retirement from emergency medicine at Huntington Hospital, he has continued to stay busy.  He has accompanied UCLA medical students to Honduras and Nicaragua providing short-term medical clinics in rural areas.  He has worked in clinics in communities near the U.S. – Mexico border assisting families to access quality health care in a place where often it is a luxury that many can’t afford. In addition, Dr. Thomas often picks up shifts at a community health clinic serving poor families in East Los Angeles and in downtown clinics where the homeless and those in rescue missions are cared for.

The projects that are closest to his heart these days are in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world.  Since 2002 he has spent two months each summer in this country in South Central Africa volunteering in rural clinics and with village projects that enrich the lives of children.

Since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, Sub-Saharan Africa has been devastated by this horrific disease. With millions across the continent who are HIV positive, effective medical assistance is urgently needed.

Since his first visit to Malawi 13 years ago, Dr. Thomas has been inextricably linked to the people of that beautiful country which tragically has been wracked by disease and poverty. With each visit he brings other volunteers, both medical professionals and laypersons, who work hand in hand with the local villagers and clinics to make striking changes. Health education and treatment is provided to reduce the deaths from AIDS, malaria and from maternal deaths during childbirth.  They assist in programs that empower women economically and educationally. AIDS orphans are fed. Girls who otherwise would not be able to stay in school have hope through education.

Dr. Thomas and his wife Mary initially went to Malawi in 2002 with the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), which started work there in 2001. GAIA is dedicated to providing basic health services, including prevention and care, in Malawi villages and by training health care personnel in this country which is desperately short on physicians and nurses.

In July of 2014, Dr. Thomas’ extraordinary work was honored by GAIA by the naming of one of its new mobile health clinics in rural southern Malawi. The new clinic will serve thousands of residents in the Phalombe District, a district with one of the highest HIV rates in the country. The Dr. Don Thomas Family Clinic will join a fleet of 6 other mobile clinics operating in Malawi. Their charge is to close critical gaps in health coverage in a place where extreme poverty and long distance deny residents regular access to health care.

Recognizing that the reach of this devastating disease is not limited to medical treatment, but also affects the fabric of the family and the tribe, Dr. Thomas and his colleagues have expanded their vision for support. In addition to health care, they also provide assistance for family reunification, mental health treatment, and, most importantly, primary and middle school education.

Dr. Thomas states that he returns each year from Malawi rejuvenated and hopeful. He is astonished by the resilience, courage, grace and love of the Malawian people. Even under such dire conditions they remain steadfast in their faith, and are unwavering about the path they travel. The desire to create a healthier future for all Malawians is the destination of that path, and Dr. Thomas will be there to walk it with them.

Dr. Thomas and Hilary Thomas at Lineage Dance

Dr. Thomas and Hilary Thomas at Lineage Dance

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Hilary Thomas http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2014/07/hilary-thomas/ Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:40:29 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=464   dancer, philanthropist, educator, director, visionary, mother… As with many of the individuals featured in the Power of One, clarity of vision is a characteristic that has guided Hilary Thomas throughout her extraordinary career.  The nuances of non-profit work and running a dance studio were not necessarily anticipated in 1999, when she created Lineage Dance Company. […]

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Movement starts at an early age at Lineage Dance.

Movement starts at an early age at Lineage Dance.


dancer, philanthropist, educator, director, visionary, mother…

As with many of the individuals featured in the Power of One, clarity of vision is a characteristic that has guided Hilary Thomas throughout her extraordinary career.  The nuances of non-profit work and running a dance studio were not necessarily anticipated in 1999, when she created Lineage Dance Company.  Nevertheless, the desire to support other fledgling non-profits and to provide arts programming that would be accessible to all were definitely priorities from the start.

Knowing the challenges that there are in identifying consistent funding for the community based programs, Hilary and the other members of Lineage Dance have used their talents to raise nearly $200,000 for numerous nonprofit organizations.  In addition, understanding the reality that many people in our community can’t afford to attend dance, ballet or musical performances, she has prioritized offering high quality programs at a very reasonable price.

One of the other important features of the LD model is the use of dance and movement in therapeutic ways.  From seeing choreography as therapy, to offering classes for persons with Parkinson’s Disease, Hilary is dedicated to finding ways for dance to raise the spirit and strengthen the soul.

Now that Hilary and the other members of Lineage Dance have started families, the studio has become a nursery for a new generation of dancers, artists and movement therapists.  Her daughter is already learning how to glide through this special place with grace and elegance, just like the children of the other members of Lineage Dance.  These kids are learning to dance with the same passion, creativity and commitment as their mothers do.

Conversation with Hilary Thomas about the untapped power of dance and what it means to create greater awareness and support for the arts: 

How did you fall in love with dance?

That is a tough one to pin down.  I was told I was dancing before I could walk. . .I guess it was just inherent in me from the start.

Certainly there are millions of dancers in the country, but very few of them have started their own dance companies.  What inspired you to form one?  What is your vision for LD and how has having a space in Old Pasadena assisted with the achievement of that vision?

It was all rather accidental.  I wish I could say I had this amazing vision from the start and just followed it.  In reality, I just love dance. . . and I love my community.  I wanted to be able to support the amazing work going on through various nonprofits but didn’t have a cent to my name.  So I just decided to put together a performance to benefit Young and Healthy – an organization that was particularly close to my heart because of my dad’s involvement in it.  That was back in 1999 and I never dreamed that it would lead to the Lineage that exists today.  I think my biggest problem has always been that I am addicted to creating and choreographing.  Because of this addiction, I keep moving forward, always saying yes when an opportunity presents itself, and push ahead with my wacky dreams, no matter how unattainable they seem.

For years we talked about opening a Performing Arts Center.  I never ever imagined it would actually happen but for whatever reason we were crazy enough to do it four years ago; it was the best move we ever made.  It has certainly been tough – there is no doubt about that.  But the magic that happens in the space really floors me on a daily basis. Between the healing happiness emanating through every member of the Dancing with Parkinson’s or Stroke Recovery class and the incredible musicians, artists, and dancers constantly being able to share their work, it is a privilege that I get to call this place my home.  It somehow seems even more special to me now that I can share this home with my two year-old daughter and see it all through her eyes.

Obviously, as with most non-profits you and your colleagues are not earning a living from participation in LD, so how have you managed to stay so connected to your art and find other ways of paying the bills?

Oh man – it has been pretty hairy at times.  Just when I’m ready to throw in the towel, something incredible happens.  A new donor comes along or we receive a new grant that gives us a new sense of hope.  Honestly I don’t know how we have managed to keep the doors open but every year we get a little stronger and I have faith that we aren’t going anywhere any time soon!

Our community is rich with non-profits, certainly some would see that as a disadvantage, so how have you collaborated with other organizations and what has been the impact?

Aside from having so much fun connecting with and getting to know new nonprofits around town, I find that as an artist, I’ve been incredibly influenced by the work of these organizations.  The majority of our performances have been created in partnership with a nonprofit organization – whether it be one that works with breast cancer support, Parkinson’s research, suicide prevention, or arts education.   As collaborating organizations, we are able to double our audience, double our impact, and really create events and awareness that we are proud of.

Funding issues aside, what would you consider to be your greatest challenge as a non-profit?

It’s hard to find anything that we struggle from that doesn’t lead back to funding as the fundamental issue. . . I suppose our problem is keeping up with ourselves.  There are so many amazing ideas that come through our doors on a daily basis.  As I mentioned before, I’m kind of a “yes” girl when it comes to cool ideas so having the resources, staff, and time to keep on saying yes can be challenging.

Many dancers feel that there is a certain ‘look’ that they must possess in order to be successful.  You have commented before that your company is not concerned about its dancers fitting a particular mold physically, so what is your perspective on the high expectations that are placed on dancers to look a certain way. 

Growing up as a ballet dancer, body image was really all it came down to in the end.  If you didn’t have the right body, you would never be able to make it as a professional dancer, no matter how good you were.  That is a really tough way to form your sense of self-worth.   Today, I’m so grateful that I’m able to do what I love and not worry about having to fit into a certain mold.  I find that I’m only interested in watching dancers who show true passion while they are moving – no matter what they look like.

How are dance and choreography used as therapy?  In the past year you wrote and directed a dance performance/play that deals with mental illness, so how have you used your exceptional talents to deal with personal emotional/psychological issues?

For me dance is therapy.    Choreography is therapy.  Sometimes I think I use it too much as a way of processing difficult or painful experiences.   However, it is extremely effective for me and pushes me in ways that regular therapy can’t seem to touch.  When someone close to me passes away, instinctually I know that I need to create a dance before I can even begin to process my grief.  When I hear a story that moves me powerfully, I process my feelings through choreography.  That choreography doesn’t always make it out of my head, but something about its existence is comforting to me.

Your father is one of the most recognized and influential people in Pasadena, how has he shaped your view of the world?

My dad is always surrounded by incredible people.  Creative people.  Philanthropic people.  Funny people.  Brilliant people.  He has a way of connecting all these people and unifying them to create positive change in the world.  I think without realizing it, I followed his path by creating a space where wonderful people could congregate and spark all kinds of exciting artistic and passionate endeavors.   Many of the people I collaborate with today are “his” people.  People who know Don Thomas know that if he introduces you to someone, that someone is very likely to become a big part of your life in the future.

Can dance save the world?

As much as I’d love to say “yes” it feels like too bold of a statement.  What I can say with complete certainty is that dance makes the world a better place.  On a daily basis I see how dance brings healing to people suffering from chronic illness, allows audiences to access emotion in visceral ways that words can’t convey, encourages people to move and express in ways that fuel the soul, and brings a pure joy to people of all ages, all levels, all abilities.

A dancer knows how to use the space allotted to her.

A dancer knows how to use the space allotted to her.

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Fausto De La Torre http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/2014/07/fausto-de-la-torre/ Sun, 13 Jul 2014 05:15:15 +0000 http://powerofone.brianbiery.com/?p=457   advocate, trainer, mentor, big brother, father, coach… In the Villa Parke Community Center in Pasadena there is a secret that has been quietly brewing for many years. If you asked most of the city’s residents what it was, they couldn’t tell you. But I can. Literally hundreds of youth and young adults have been […]

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Encouraging a boxer at a recent Villa Parke Community Center boxing show.

Encouraging a boxer at a recent Villa Parke Community Center boxing show.


advocate, trainer, mentor, big brother, father, coach…

In the Villa Parke Community Center in Pasadena there is a secret that has been quietly brewing for many years. If you asked most of the city’s residents what it was, they couldn’t tell you. But I can. Literally hundreds of youth and young adults have been trained as boxers over the last 15 years there, many of whom have gone on to various levels of success in the sport. Hard work, dedication, character, desire, determination are all traits that these young men and women hone in this unique gym. For some this is the point of salvation, of intervention, of leaving a life of poor decisions behind and never looking back. For others, this is a religion, complete with passion and ritual and clarity of focus that reminds one of a person on a pilgrimage.

It could be said that the lynchpin to these accomplishments is one man, but humbly he would say otherwise. That, instead, it is a team of committed men and women who devote their time to the athletic development of neighborhood kids who have already been knocked down a few times in their lives. Fausto De La Torre is the backbone of the VP Boxing Program where he focuses his energies on building outstanding boxers out of kids who might end up in gangs, on drugs, or in a cemetery. Boxing saved his life, so he wants it to be a similar pathway for others, away from lives of desperation and hopelessness. To look at his boxers you would say that he is doing well with that objective. Even though few in our community know that this program even exists, Fausto has placed dozens of young people on the road to success.

Conversation with Fausto De La Torre about his deep connection to the sport of boxing:

How did you become involved in the sport of boxing?  How did it shape your youth?

As an over active and troubled youth I found my safe haven in the boxing gym where I could release all positive and negative energy. I learned self-discipline, confidence and commitment with the hopes of having the opportunity to fight my way out of the neighborhood.

Boxing is a controversial sport, so from your perspective what are the positive outcomes for those who pursue it?

On an amateur level there is plenty of opportunity for youth to participate in local, regional, and national competition that ultimately leads to the Olympics. On a professional level there is “fame and fortune “.

For most in the community there is little awareness about the existence of the boxing ring at one of our city’s community centers. With this in mind, please describe the boxing program at the Villa Parke CC?  For example, how many youth/young adults does it serve and what programs, including shows/matches, does it coordinate?  In what ways has the program contributed to the boxers’ lives?

The Villa Parke Boxing Program offers a variety of courses geared towards health and fitness through boxing.  Training focuses on preparing youth and adults for competition on a local, regional and national level. We also offer courses focusing on Olympic-style boxing techniques for health and fitness in a fun, non-contact environment, which helps in developing social skills, self-confidence, leadership, character and sportsmanship.

We have over 300 active members witch include 12 active elite boxers and we also run an after school boxing program. In coordination with PAL (Police Athletic League) we also offer a basic skills development course. Every summer we also offer our Olympic-Style Training summer camp.

For some of our boxers, it has been a life changing transformation from the direction their lives were headed. Boxing has given them an opportunity to focus on their life-long goals and has allowed them to build character and discipline that they can apply to everyday life.

What are some of the accomplishments of your boxers?  Are any of them Olympic hopefuls?  How many other boxing rings are there in the region and how does your program compare to theirs?  Do you have any plans for expanding the program and if so could you describe them?

Out of our program, we have had two Olympic representatives in 2008.  We continue to strive to make the Olympic team and bring home some medals back to the City of Pasadena and Team USA. We have won numerous regional state and national titles with hopes to continue competing and succeeding on an international level.  We currently host 3 local level boxing shows a year and have hosted the Regional Silver Gloves for the past three years.

There are 5 local Private Boxing Programs that offer personal training but are not active and competitive in the amateur boxing circuit.

 We continue to strive to offer the newest training methods in conditioning, fitness, and health. There is currently a fundraising campaign to expand our boxing gym facilities to further accommodate the demand of the community.

Being one of the most demanding sports physically, what are your strategies for making sure that your boxers are in the best shape possible?  In many other sports, like football, there is a period of rest between games, so what is the normal frequency for matches for boxers and how do you make sure that your boxers get the break they need between matches?

A boxer’s regiment is very important as it includes one of the healthiest diets, plenty of rest, physical fitness, and consistent training of boxing techniques.

Prior to competition they peak at all levels of training, fitness and diet. After competition they take a couple days off of training in the gym and return back on a light training schedule. The schedule is only increased once they are ready to compete again.

Obviously, the WWE is very different from boxing, but for some there is confusion about the distinction between boxing and ultimate fighting.  Because of the UFC, has professional boxing had to change its structure in any way in order to maintain popularity; has it become more like ultimate fighting?

 In the professional circuit, boxing has made no changes as it is still the most viewed and produces the highest paid athletes as opposed to UFC. Boxing is a classic sport that has been around for many years and will always continue to stand on it’s own.

Even though the UFC is a strong competitor for professional boxing, there is still a huge audience for boxing matches as shown by the recent Mayweather fight in Las Vegas and numerous other title bouts.  Why do you think that boxing still has such a large following?  What is it about the sport that captures the attention of so many?

 I believe the true fan understands the art and the technique needed to, for example, make an opponent miss, counter a punch; it’s a human chess game.

 The reason the sport of boxing captures the attention of so many, I believe, is because it has always been a poor man’s sport that brings fame and fortune to those deserving of it. Your success in this sport is based on your commitment and life long dedication.

For many community members safety is a key issue in the sport of boxing, the boxers you train all wear head-gear and body cushions but even so they endure numerous punches and other types of pain.  Do you feel that the sport is safe, particularly for pre-teens, and what other systems are there in place to make sure that no one is seriously injured?

As I always assure the parents and participants that join our program, the precautions that our program and USA Boxing takes to prevent any kind of serious injury include a minimum of six month training before any contact. All require safety equipment (headgears, mouthpiece, no-foul protector, 14 oz gloves} and supervision by certified coach at all times. They are also required to pass a physical examination clearing them from any health issues. During competition there are pre-physicals, and physicals after competition. A doctor is present during the duration of competition to provide aid if needed. Referees and judges are also trained and certified on a yearly basis.

Are there any other facts or anecdotes about boxing or your program that you would like to share with us?  What thought would you like to leave in the readers’ minds?

 There have been kids whose circumstances set them up to fail and I have been instrumental in redirecting that path. My life long dream was to be a gold medalist, and it continues to be my goal to help one of my participants accomplish that dream.  That would be the icing on the cake for me, I feel like I’ve already succeeded in this sport and as a coach with knowing that I have touched and affected the outcome of a few boxers’ lives.

Silver Gloves Belt, Villa Parke Boxing Program

Silver Gloves Belt, Villa Parke Boxing Program



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