El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Ana Nita

What looked like a typical family picnic gathering at Wells Park in El Cajon last Sunday afternoon made the local, national and international headlines only few hours later, with the social media on fire due to the dozens of constant live feeds from what was actually a protest to end a food ban targeting the homeless.  Back in October 2017, the El Cajon City Council voted 5-0 to prohibit sharing food on public property as a preventive measure against Hepatitis A virus outbreak that killed 20 houseless citizens and infected 577 people throughout San Diego County so far, with

This is a story about the little engine that could. This is about Shrek fighting off the dragon with Donkey’s help. Okay, if you must have a “once upon a time” intro, let’s say that this is a story about an old town whose precious daughter loved books so much that she begged her father to build a bigger and better castle to store all of her treasured collections. Her books, audio books, DVDs, magazines, new computers, activity rooms and a bigger parking lot. And she wanted to share it with everyone. It was her dream.

Eastbound Bar & Grill, a Lakeside staple, is unusually packed for a rainy Monday night as the community came together to support the local Sagebrush 4-H chapter. A percentage of the proceeds for the night will finance kids trips to national conferences as part of their leadership training within the organization.

What seemed to be just another day at the Lindo Lake park on Saturday morning, with children riding their skateboards or playing around, with people walking their dogs or doing their morning run, it was also a day of giving for a small, but determined group of Lakeside folks who used the last hours of the year to do good for their community. Lindo Lake park is a daily refuge for many homeless people who come here for the shade, safety, the chairs and the tables they can use to eat, to connect with the nature and, hopefully, with other people.

“My mom and I came up with the idea to collect books and place them around the city,” said Cydney Hansen, a 17 years old senior at River Valley Charter School in Lakeside. Hansen was approached by a senior at El Capitan High school, Connan Roosa working to complete the last step before being admitted as an Eagle Scout – a project that shows leadership and being active in the community. The perfect partnership was created and the idea of building a little free library took shape.

The news of the generous donation hit early this week when Pastor Brandon Grant of Rise City Church in Lakeside emailed the Friends of the Library board members to inform them about the congregation’s decision to donate $40,000 toward building the new library in town. This donation is “a portion of our annual Christmas Offering” that took place on Dec. 17 at the church, as Grant mentioned.

Friday, Dec. 15, was no ordinary Pajama Day at the Rancho San Diego Elementary School. Few fifth graders and their leading teachers were gathering over 230 new pajamas to box them up and donate them to the homeless children temporarily housed by the Interfaith Shelter Program. Two teachers, Karen Plunk and Amanda Flickinger, had the idea to engage the students in the Pajama Project, guide them to run it and also write a skit about the whole campaign.  

“This is a wonderful way to bring in the holiday season. You don’t feel like you had Christmas until you started with 'Handel’s Messiah,'” said Pat McAfee during the intermission of “Sounds Good” winter concert performed on Sunday by the San Diego Festival Chorus and Orchestra (SDFCO), a non-profit organization based in East County. McAfee is an alto soloist who started out as a cellist, “but then I gradually went to voice, I had a wonderful teacher and it turned out I had an operatic voice, so God was good to me.”

On Saturday, Moreno Valley in Lakeside was taken over by the laughter and joyful screaming coming from the kids running around in dirt, swinging in rubber tires hung from trees, trying to hit aluminum cans with bows and arrows, riding ponies, having their face painted, playing with balloons and just being children in a heaven like place facing the West side of the El Cajon mountain range.

While hundreds of people celebrate Holiday Lights in downtown El Cajon on Saturday, hundreds of others were disobeying a recent city council ordinance to ban feeding the homeless, by doing just that—feeding them at Wells Park for the second weekend in the row. “We will be back in a month, while other organizations will come back every weekend,” said Dashiel MacTavish with Food Not Bombs San Diego, the non-profit who organized the protest.