A Doug's Life: 'First Lady' Carmelita Keeps Positive Outlook

Update: Carmelita Rood has been transferred to Country Villa Murrieta Health Center, 24100 Monroe Ave. in Murrieta. She can be reached there by phone at 951-200-7120.

You might call her the First Lady of Menifee. She was, at least, one of the first ladies I met after moving here 14 months ago,.

One of the first, and definitely one of the most special.

In many ways, Carmelita Rood is the face of Menifee. If you've been involved in community affairs at all, you surely have met her. At age 86, she has both a rich history of community service and a positive energy that lights up anyone she meets.

Soon after coming to work at Menifee 24/7, I attended a Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce function with my wife Kristen. We were barely through the door when this bubbly little woman, petite frame and smile a mile wide, came up and took me by the arm.

"Welcome!" said Carmelita. "Are you new here? Let me take your picture."

Carmelita loves to take photos. Soon after moving to Sun City with her husband in 1978, she began writing and taking photos for the Sun City News. For most of the time since then, she has served as the unofficial historian for the Chamber of Commerce, taking photos at every event and compiling them into memory books.

"Carmelita Rood is a woman who all of her life has worked hard to make it to the top and on the way spent time mentoring many women," wrote Robbie Motter, another longtime community activist in Menifee, when nominating Carmelita for an award last year. "When she retired, she did not stop. She looked into her community to see how she could serve."

Yes, Carmelita has touched many lives in this town. That's why it was so sad recently when she stopped attending community functions. Last week, she entered Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta, where she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the liver and colon.

But true to her unwavering faith, she has placed her life in God's hands and is willing to accept whatever plan He has for her. Carmelita is scheduled to be transferred to a local rehabilitation facility this weekend to begin chemotherapy. She is convinced her remaining time on earth will be determined not only by the doctors' care, but by her own faith and the prayers of others.

Oh, and you know there will be lots of those.

"If I go tomorrow, I'm ready," Carmelita said. "But I do feel like there are still things I can do here. Menifee is going to be such a beautiful city and I love being a part of the growth. But whatever the Lord has planned for me, I will do."

Carmelita grew up in Jerome, Arizona, where her father worked in the mines. The family moved to Los Angeles when she was a young woman. She got a job in the finance industry and worked her way up to the position of executive secretary to the top two officers in the loan division of California Savings & Loan.

Retiring after 30 years service, Carmelita eventually settled with her husband in Sun City, where she immersed herself in the development of the community. Her list of contributions to the community includes:

33-year member of the Menifee / Sun City Woman's Club
Life member of Soroptimist International
14-year member of Kiwanis Club of Sun City
Past president of the Sun City Chamber of Commerce
Current ambassador and photographer for Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce
Involved with Sun City Concern
Worked at Kay Ceniceros Senior Center
Past board member of American Heart Association in Riverside

And most of all, just a sweet, loving lady.

"She is a woman of integrity, quality and a woman who every day makes a difference in someone's life," said Robbie Motter. "She shares information from her heart, and is always the first person to volunteer to help in an organizational project."

Carmelita says that her goal is always to be the first person to greet a newcomer at any community gathering. She allows no one to become a "wallflower," she says.

Her motto, as stated by Motter: "All in all, whatever you do, show that you love doing it, have fun and keep a positive attitude."

We will if you will, Carmelita. And we know you will.

House Fire Near Canyon Lake Leaves Four Homeless

Update: According to an additional report from Riverside County Fire, the displaced occupants were able to arrange shelter. Assistance from the Red Cross was not needed. The loss was estimated at $120,000 and the value of saved property at $50,000. Cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Four people were displaced from their home Saturday night by a fire that caused heavy damage to the structure in the 23700 block of Casa Bonita Avenue in Menifee.

The American Red Cross was notified for assistance for the two adults and two children living in the single-story, single-family dwelling. According to Riverside County Fire officials, the fire was contained to the attic but there was heavy smoke and fire damage to the house.

The fire was reported at 7:57 p.m. Five fire engines responded to the site, located north of Railroad Canyon Road and west of Goetz Road in the Quail Valley community. The fire was contained at approximately 8:33 p.m.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Memorial Service Scheduled Jan. 3 for Tom Carpenter

A memorial service for longtime Sun City attorney and Menifee community servant Tom Carpenter will be held Thursday, Jan. 3 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Vincent Ferrer Church, 27931 Murrieta Road in Sun City.

Carpenter died Dec. 27 at his home after a long bout with prostate cancer. He was 79.

A former Marine and graduate of the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, Carpenter was a partner in a law firm in Sun City for more than 40 years. He was also a charter member of the Sun City / Menifee Rotary Club and was involved in many other community organizations.

Carpenter is survived by his wife, Vicki; children Tom, John, Lisa (Moser), Drew and Renee (Johnson); and brother, Raymond Carpenter. Also surviving him are seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 2 from 4-8 p.m. at Miller-Jones Mortuary, 26770 Murrieta Road. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the MSJC Foundation or to Hospice of the Valleys.

City Council to Consider Agreement to Pave Holland Road

The Menifee City Council Wednesday night will consider a plan that would finally bring improvements to one of the most complex and controversial traffic problems in the city.

Council members will vote whether to approve an agreement with the City of Lake Elsinore to share equally the $89,622 cost of paving a dirt portion of Holland Road. Approximately 1,200 feet in length at the border of the two cities, this narrow stretch of bumpy road has been a growing cause of concern since Herk Bouris Elementary School opened in August.

Originally a tractor path for local farmers and still a private road owned by four property owners -- including council member Tom Fuhrman -- this portion of Holland Road is one of the few routes to Herk Bouris Elementary, which is just across the Elsinore border.

In September, the City of Menifee announced it had established the right to pave that portion of private road because of a legal standard regarding prior public use of private property. The work still had not begun by the time rainstorms made traffic there even worse in December, resulting in a call to action by concerned citizens.

City officials hope to receive approval by the city council and have the paving project completed by mid-January. That would still leave the area with a road barely wide enough for two lanes, with no sidewalks for pedestrians, and with poor sight lines because of severe dips in the road.

But at least it would be a start, says neighborhood resident and former mayoral candidate John F. Smith, who recently organized the group Citizens for Honest Government.

"The safety of our children has been compromised for far too long, as a result of the city’s failure to act on the severe hazardous conditions on Holland Road that we have had to endure for years," Smith wrote in a press release distributed on behalf of the group.

This is only the latest chapter in a story that has had more twists and turns than the road itself.

Wednesday's meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 29714 Haun Road in Menifee.

Dog Microchip Clinic, Grand Re-Opening Set for Jan. 5

This event takes place at 33605 Field Road in Winchester.

Longtime Sun City Attorney, Resident Tom Carpenter Dies at 79

Tom Carpenter, an attorney in the Menifee Valley for 40 years and one of the pioneer community servants in Sun City, died Thursday at his Menifee home after a long bout with prostate cancer. He was 79.

The last surviving charter member of the Sun City (now Menifee) Rotary Club, Carpenter was a fixture at community events. Although he retired from the Sun City law firm of Swan, Carpenter, Wallis and McKenzie in 2006, Carpenter continued to serve for years as a judge pro tem with the probate department of the Riverside Superior Court.

Virtually everyone who was involved in community service in the Menifee area knew Carpenter. In 1995, he received the Citizen of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce for his 25 years of commmunity service. Two years ago, he received the Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award.

A member of the Rotary Club since 1966, Carpenter was a proud member of the service organization. In recent years, he enjoyed serving as judge in the club's "court," in which fines were assessed members for dubious rules infractions in order to raise funds.

Carpenter was always proud of Sun City's heritage and often referred to the Menifee Rotary Club by its original Sun City name.

"You realize how fast our history can get lost," Carpenter said in an April 2012 Menifee 24/7 feature article. "Certain people in the city want to disassociate themselves from the term Sun City. B.S.! As long as people are alive who remember Sun City, that's the way it should be referred to."

A former U.S. Marine and graduate of the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, Carpenter began his legal career in the midwest and came to Riverside in 1966 after being recruited by a law firm in the newly developed community of Sun City.

Carpenter spent the next 40 years specializing in estate planning, trust and probate law. In addition to his service through the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, he was active in the Hemet Hospital Foundation, Valley Health System, Boy Scouts and many other organizations.

Other recognition he received for community volunteer leadership were the Glen Goodwill Leadership Award (Menifee Valley Medical Center Foundation, 1997); Roger Brubaker Leadership Award (Hemet Hospital Foundation, 1998); and Business Community Award, 2011 (business community pioneer, City of Menifee).

Known for his sense of humor, Carpenter would often laugh when recalling how people would say of him, "How do you know when Tom is serious? When his mouth is shut."

In the April Menifee 24/7 article, Carpenter spoke candidly about how he and his wife Vicki viewed life in light of his battle with cancer.

"I'm reconciled to the inevitable," he said at the time. "Vicki and I are in lockstep on this. We've seen too many cancer patients clutching at straws and making their life more miserable. Quality of life is what it's all about."

Carpenter is survived by his wife, Vicki, and children Tom, John, Lisa (Moser), Drew and Renee (Johnson), and brother, Raymond Carpenter. Also surviving him are seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the MSJC Foundation or to Hospice of the Valleys.

Menifee 24/7 Adoptable Pet of Week: Blackie Boy

Menifee Chamber of Commere Mixer is a Casino Night

EMWD Clears Funding Hurdle in Quail Valley Sewer Project

Contributed Content

In response to its years-long effort to bring a modernized sewer system to an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, Eastern Municipal Water District recently cleared a major funding hurdle as part of its Quail Valley sewer infrastructure project in the city of Menifee.

The $1.93 million grant recommendation was ratified by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority commission on Dec. 18. It will be presented with SAWPA’s Recommended Project Portfolio to the Department of Water Resources in March 2013 for funding consideration.

EMWD is the lead agency on the project and is working with Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, the cities of Menifee and Canyon Lake, the County of Riverside and the non-profit Quail Valley Environmental Coalition (QVEC).

The grant recommendation is the first in several steps that must play out over the course of the next year before the funding is finalized.

The $1.93 million grant application must be given final approval by the Department of Water Resources. That decision is not expected until late 2013.

EMWD, in collaboration with its QVEC partners, is exploring a variety of other funding options for the expected remaining costs of the project.

Bringing a modernized sewer system to the area is vital to improve public health in the region. Homes in the area are dependent on failing septic tanks, which can frequently leak harmful waste into the surface and groundwater. That contaminated water impacts public health and the environment throughout the entire region, including Canyon Lake.

EMWD Director Ronald W. Sullivan, whose district includes the Quail Valley area, described the funding as vital.

"This is a major step forward for this project," said Sullivan, who also serves on the QVEC advisory board. "Should this project come to fruition, it will ensure that our entire region is protected from the public health risks that are caused by these leaking septic systems."

Heritage High Honor Society Students Perform Service Projects

Contributed Content

Just before the holiday break, members of the National Honor Society at Heritage High School participated in 50 different individual service projects exemplifying part of the school’s LEGACY objectives of Generosity and Leadership.

With intent to inspire their peers, National Honor Society students promoted their extensive commitment to community service by creating poster projects representing their efforts. These were displayed across the campus to promote volunteer service work and to show various opportunities young people have to help make a difference in their communities.

Projects were diverse and called upon each National Honor Society member to use their talents and personal interests. Projects focused on such subjects as peer tutoring, hospital volunteering, assistance in animal shelters, veteran support, and cleaning up local parks. Each student selected an individual service project that appealed to their personal interests and put their unique talents to good use.

Teresa Austin, a Heritage High School junior and Japanese-born American, chose to teach local children her Japanese language and culture at the community library. She then extended this idea to an after-school seminar, where she shared her language and culture with her high school peers.

Teresa enjoyed teaching as much as her students enjoyed learning.

"It was so rewarding to share my heritage with young people interested in Japanese
culture," said Teresa. "It was a fun learning experience for everyone involved. I also hope to have spread some international understanding!"

Kayla Chan, an HHS senior and professionally-trained Polynesian dancer, chose to serve her community by assisting in a local retirement home. She entertained the residents by performing her hypnotic style of traditional dance. Residents and employees of the facility were grateful and impressed by the fantastic show Kayla gave.

She hopes by sharing her work with the elderly, some of her peers may be inspired to do the same.

"How satisfying it was to see the huge smiles on the faces of the senior citizens," said Kayla. "I have lots of friends with many talents and hope they will want to perform with me next time. The folks loved it!"

The National Honor Society encourages students to make a difference in the world through community service.

"Through these individual service projects, our members have made a positive impact on our community with hopes to have inspired fellow students to do the same," said Courtney Ziani, Heritage High School’s National Honor Society advisor.

The National Honor Society was established in 1921 and is the nation's premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. Chapter membership challenges students to develop further through active involvement in community service and honors excellence in scholarship, leadership and character. Today, almost 1 million students participate in activities of the NHS with chapters found in all 50 states and internationally.

For more information about the National Honor Society, visit www.nhs.us

Merry Christmas From the Staff at Menifee 24/7!

Western Eagle Foundation Food Bank Throws a Christmas Party

More than 400 children and adults from throughout Southwest Riverside County -- including 35 families from Menifee -- took part in a Christmas party Saturday at the Western Eagle Foundation food bank in Temecula.

Western Eagle, the largest food bank and food assistance center in Southern California, provides low-cost food boxes and many other discount items year-round to anyone who walks through the door. On this day, however, a few hundred people who registered in advance were treated to Christmas gifts and photo time with Santa Claus.

"Every child here today got toys, face painting, time on a jumpy, and high-end toys were given away in a raffle," said Steve Johnson, warehouse manager for Western Eagle Foundation.

Johnson estimated that more than 1,000 people showed up on Saturday for the party or to shop in the store, which features aisles full of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy items, virtually every type of grocery item and all kinds of furniture, books and other things.

Western Eagle partners with the Salvation Army, U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton and other entities in gathering donations and distributing items. The store is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on the weekends at its huge warehouse, located at 40940 County Center Drive in Temecula.

For $25, customers can buy a large box full of dry box food items, including vegetables, rice and beans and cereal, plus a box of dairy items. Other items are offered a huge discount prices. There is no income verification needed to shop there.

"There are many people we partner with to make this happen," Johnson said. "It's done out of love."

Menifee Church Group Entertains Mall Shoppers With Flash Mob

Shoppers at the Promenade Mall in Temecula got a pleasant surprise Saturday afternoon when members of a Menifee church group sprang up out of nowhere to sing Christmas songs in a flash mob performance.

More than 40 members of the Menifee Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sang portions of "Little Drummer Boy," "Go Tell it on the Mountain" and "O Holy Night" to the hundreds of shoppers who gathered around, many filming the event with cell phone cameras. Most of the church members were scattered around the area in street clothes, but one young man played a snare drum, a woman played the flute, and Joshua Bigelow -- producer of the event -- was disguised as a janitor.

After performing in the middle of the food court, the flash mob showed up again outside the mall by the giant Christmas tree, and again later in front of JC Penney.

Church members organized the flash mob after seeing video of a similar performance on YouTube. Kevin Ruffner showed the video to Bigelow, who organized the event with the help of Musical Director Jackie Blood. The group rehearsed the event in advance before "taking the show on the road."

Santa's Workshop is a Big Hit With Children of Menifee

Denise, the mother of a 10-year-old loaded down with gifts on a very special day, had tears in her eyes as she looked around the room.

"Just the fact they came here and did all this work right before Christmas, when I know they've got their own stuff to do," she said. "Giving of their time like this ... I don't know how to thank them."

The smile on her son Matthew's face was all the thanks needed Saturday for the many volunteers who helped present gifts to children of low-income families in the Menifee area at Santa's Workshop. The charity event is the cooperative effort of the Menifee Battalion of the Riverside Fire Department, Lake Menifee Women's Club, Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, Menifee Valley Community Cupboard and many local businesses.

Close to 1,500 area children passed through the halls and auditorium of Quail Valley Elementary School throughout the day. All had pre-registered and were qualified as low-income in advance by the Community Cupboard. Children got to pose for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus in addition to selecting gifts from tables loaded with thousands of donated toys. At other stations, the kids got to color in a personalized memory book, play a bean bag toss game and select additional gifts from tables of books, puzzles and other items.

Debbie Manion was one of many representatives of the Lake Menifee Women's Club, the largest contributor to the effort this year. Thirty members of her group donated countless hours in placing more than 70 distribution boxes around town, where gifts were collected, then picking them up and sorting the items.

"It's so awesome," she said about seeing the joy of the children. "It's worth all the hours we put in. To see everything come together is so exciting.

"I saw one little boy who had an armful of gifts, but the thing he was most excited about was that he had a teddy bear with a bell on it. He was jumping up and down just because of that teddy bear."

Many toys were collected at local fire stations in connection with ABC Channel 7's Spark of Love program. Toys that are not given away at this event will be stored for presentation to children in need throughout the year. In addition to the many toys, more than 40 bikes were given away on Saturday.

"I made six or seven trips to bring everything from the fire stations over here," said Capt. Leonard Grill of the Menifee Battalion and coordinator of the local Spark of Love campaign. "People came to the fire stations and dropped off toys by the carload. The Women's Club went to the Toy District in L.A. to pick up items. It's amazing to see how it all came together."

As 10-year-old Matthew showed off his Solar Robot, microscope and crystal growing kit, he talked about what Christmas Day would be like for him.

"I'm going to look in my stocking, see my presents, and give my mom a big hug," he said.

Sun City Residents Celebrate "Christmas with the Core"

More than 200 residents of the Sun City "core" community of Menifee gathered in Webb Hall Saturday night for a celebration of the Christmas season.

Participants in the "Christmas with the Core" program enjoyed a turkey dinner, served by youth affiliated with the Menifee Rotary Club. Many door prizes were given away and entertainment was provided following the meal.

Greg August, city council representative to District 1, attended the event along with fellow council member Tom Fuhrman, who came dressed as Santa Claus. Many local businesses contributed gifts for the prize drawings.

Rosemarie ElRite, president of the Sun City Civic Association, greets guests at the "Christmas with the Core" event Saturday night.

Provecho Provides Breakfast, Gifts for Victims, Children

Provecho Grill in Menifee opened its doors Saturday morning to provide breakfast for members of a local women's shelter and gifts for their children.

Santa Claus greeted the little ones and posed for photos, musicians entertained the crowd and presents were provided as a special treat for the children on Christmas morning.

Provecho owner Rosie O'Connor, pictured above with members of her staff and some of the employees' children, was a gracious hostess for those in need at this special time of year.

Menifee 24/7 Adoptable Pet of the Week: LaVerne (LaLa)

Name: LaVerne (LaLa)

Breed: Chihuahua

Age: 9 months

Gender: Female, spayed

LaLa's Story: All LaLa wants for Christmas is a home of her own. This sweet puppy LaVerne, who has been nicknamed LaLa, is as cute as a button with a personality to match. Weighing only 5 pounds, she is petite with delicate features. She has been spayed, vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped. She is already housetrained and crate trained. LaLa is a friendly, loving little companion dog who gets along well with kids, cats and other dogs.

Adoption Agency: Rescue and Rehome, a small private rescue located in the Quail Valley/ Menifee area and serving Southwest Riverside County. Animals are shown by appointment.

Adoption Details: $150 adoption fee to help reimburse for the expense of neuter, vaccinations, deworming, and any needed veterinary care. An adoption contract is required. Local adoptions only; within a 50-mile radius of Quail Valley/Menifee in Southwest Riverside County because we deliver animal to its new home.

Contact: Email rescueandrehome1@gmail.com or call (951) 244-3215.

Menifee Chamber of Commerce Students of the Month

Pictured left to right are December’s Students of the Month; Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, Superintendent, Perris Union High School District; Grant Bennett, Perris Valley Chamber of Commerce; Dorothy Wolons, CEO, Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce; Sandy Thai, Perris High School; Kimberlee Heuer, Paloma Valley High School; Anthony Castillo, The Academy; Jorge Esmerio, Heritage High School; Mayor Daryl Busch, City of Perris; Councilman Greg August, City of Menifee; and Councilman Julio Rodriguez, City of Perris.

Each month during the calendar school year, the Menifee Valley and Perris Valley Chambers of Commerce collectively present their prestigious Student of the Month awards to four outstanding local high school seniors. December’s hard-working students have a lot to celebrate beyond the holiday season. Nominated by their teachers and faculty at each campus, the chosen students are standouts who possess integrity, a love of learning, ability to persevere and overcome challenging circumstances, and dedication to community service.

Perris High School: Sandy Thai

Principal Dr. Lynne Sheffield describes Sandy as a quiet leader who is both liked and admired by her peers. Her Spanish teach, Mr. Espinoza, proudly shares that in three years having Sandy as a student, she has never missed a homework assignment. She continues to challenge herself to learn and succeed and maintains a 4.2 GPA, all while playing sports and participating in the academic decathlon.

Sandy has struggled with the loss of her mother but has still continued to flourish. She plans on attending college, where she will major in chemical engineering and continue to give back to her community.

Paloma Valley High School: Kimberlee Heuer

One of Kimberlee’s teachers, Ann Campbell, describes her as an exceptional student who is extremely enthusiastic about learning. As a student leader for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, she has helped to enact positive changes at her campus.

Kimberlee shared she is very passionate about helping others to succeed and she likes encouraging her peers to excel. She plans on attending either Cal State Fullerton or Cal State San Marcos, where she will study toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

The Academy Community Day School: Anthony Castillo

Anthony’s teacher, Joe Rossi, explained how hard Anthony has worked to get to where he is in his education, learning to take action rather than react after the fact. He has strived for success and currently holds the highest grade in his class.

Anthony shares that there was a rough patch of poor decisions in his past but he working ever so diligently to get his life back on track. He plans to continue his education and to eventually study to become an attorney.

Heritage High School: Jorge Esmerio

Jorge’s counselor, Melina Gonzales, says that while he has only been at Heritage for a year, he has already proven to be an amazing and determined young man. When he first came to Heritage, he did not speak English and since then, he has come a long way, showing eagerness to learn. He has a nearly perfect math grade and participates in the National Honor Society.

Jorge humbly shared how difficult it has been to leave his family in Mexico, but how grateful he is for the recognition and his education. He hopes to attend UCLA, where he will major in engineering and math with a goal to work for NASA.

All of these students absolutely shine and their community, facility, and proud families commend them for the excellence. If you wish to learn more about the Student of the Month Program, contact founder Sally Myers at 951-506-8024.

A Doug's Life: Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

One of the innovations -- and greatest challenges -- of online journalism is the ability of readers to comment instantly on published articles.

Remember the days when print ruled the newspaper world? If you disagreed with the author or a story or simply wanted to throw in your two cents' worth, your only recourse was a letter to the editor. You had to list your full name and phone number for verification purposes, then wait days or weeks to see if your letter would be published.

Now, all you have to do is crank out a couple sentences and hit the "submit" button. In most cases, your comment will be attached to the published online article within the hour.

If you behave yourself, that is.

Most blogs and news websites -- including this one -- require your submission to be approved by an editor before it is published. This allows us to protect innocent eyes from those angry comments full of #%&#@(*!?*% and other inappropriate or offensive language. Submissions may also be rejected for other reasons, which we'll discuss in a minute.

Like many other websites, Menifee 24/7 allows readers to submit anonymous comments. This increases interaction among readers who otherwise would be afraid to voice their opinion. On the other hand, it allows folks to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, which sometimes seems unfair.

In short, it is a privilege that can enhance community interaction, but only if handled responsibly.

With the new year approaching and an opportunity for a fresh start, it's a good time to review our policy on reader comments. We love hearing from you and welcome a free exchange of ideas, but certain rules must be followed.

-- As is stated at the bottom of every article, anonymous comments containing personal attacks, name-calling, or of a loud, offensive, or derogatory tone, will not be allowed on the site. Obviously, this is subject to interpretation. You'll have to trust me on that one. I'll make the call.

-- Readers are encouraged to add their real name to their submissions, but that doesn't guarantee you more freedom to blast someone else. We welcome opinions, but not verbal assaults.

-- You will be allowed to state your opinion about an individual or an organization, but you are not allowed to make claims that cannot be proven. If you accuse someone of something and I can't verify it, your comment is rejected.

-- Comments are not edited. Either your comment is posted as is or it is rejected. I will not reword your comments or eliminate parts of it.

As we move forward in the evolution of this website, readers will continue to play a key role. We value your opinion and want to encourage constructive discussion. We ask only that you think before you type and consider the feelings of others.

If you have any questions about our policy on reader comments, email doug.spoon@gmail.com.

New Jr. Golf Classes Offered at Menifee Lakes Country Club

Menifee Lakes Country Club has added new junior golf classes to their repertoire of offerings beginning in January 2013. They will now offer PGA Sports Academy Jr. Golf Clinics with classes being held every Wednesday from 3 to 5 and Saturday from 1 to 3 throughout the month.

There are three levels of instruction for every experience level. Each class will cover pertinent golf skills, physical skills, personal fitness and nutrition, sportsmanship, rules and etiquette, course play, and will also include an assessment. Not only will students learn the sport of golf, but will also take away important life lessons.

Level I Class: $99.00
Level II Class: $149.00
Level III Class: $169.00

For more information contact the Golf Shop at Menifee Lakes Country Club at (951) 672-3090 Ext #107, or register online at Active.com.

Menifee Lakes Country Club
Website: Menifee Lakes Country Club
29875 Menifee Lakes Drive
Menifee, CA 92584

Donations Accepted for Santa's Workshop Charity Event

Donations are still being accepted for the Menifee Santa's Workshop, an event affiliated with the Spark of Love Toy Drive, scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 22.

For the past six years, the Menifee Battalion Spark of Love Toy Drive has put local firefighters together with the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce and Menifee Valley Community Cupboard to present gifts to underprivileged children in the area. Families apply to participate through Menifee schools and fire stations. Applicants are screened by the Cupboard and selected families are invited to visit with Santa.

At the Workshop, children get their picture taken with Santa, they pick out a present or two, they receive games and stuffed toys, make ornaments and snack on cookies and punch.

Members of the community assist by contributing toys to the fire stations and donation boxes located through out the community. New and used bicycles are collected to be refurbished and raffled off at the Workshop. Various groups assist at the event as organizers, attendants, transportation assistants, elves, and numerous duties that are required to make the event an enjoyable experience for all.

Cash donations also are accepted by the Community Cupboard for items not otherwise provided (cups, cookies, photo paper, bicycle helmets, tape, glue, paint, etc.)

Those wishing to donate toys or make a cash donation should contact the Community Cupboard at 951-301-4414. Toys may also be dropped off at fire stations in Menifee.

Donations Still Needed for Menifee Christmas Dinner

The organizers of the Menifee Christmas Dinner are still in need of some food donations in order to prepare for the Christmas Day Event described above.

Jimmy Canales, event organizer, stressed that everyone is welcome to the dinner -- not just the needy. Anyone who doesn't want to be alone on Christmas and would like some warm food and fellowship is welcome.

For those wishing to donate food for the event, the following items are still needed:

10 ea Carved Turkeys
10 ea Carved Hams
11 ea ½ trays (10lbs) Mashed Potatoes. No special recipes.
26 ea ½ trays of stuffing (2 boxes)
19 ea ½ trays of Corn (4 cans per tray)
25 ea ½ trays of Green Bean Casserole
14 gallons of Brown Gravy
28 ea ½ trays of candied yams
7 ea Desserts (pies, cookies, cakes)

Please deliver your prepared food to Marion Ashley Community Center, 25625 Briggs Rd. Menifee, Ca 92585 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 24. Use disposable foil “Half Trays” for the food and disposable containers for the gravy.

To schedule your donation, please contact:

Mieke Jacobs at: askmieke@yahoo.com,
Whanda Madrid at: ehealthsupplies@yahoo.com,
Friend us on Facebook “Menifee Christmas Dinner”

Holiday Gift Offers from Elevate Fitness Studio

Did you know the folks at Elevate Fitness Studio had a softer side? Check out these offers from their Splendore Day Spa:

Today, Wednesday, Dec. 19 only, get 30 percent off on these Spa Product Specials:

-- Whish Body Butters in three luscious scents: Almond, Pomegranate and Lavender. The richest purest body butter you will ever use! No more dry, ashy skin. Enjoy rich hydration that lasts all day.

-- Olivella body products imported from Italy. Gluten-free, pure, fresh-scented body products infused with fresh olive oil.

-- SOI: Soy-based lotion candle makes the best gift! Imagine burning your favorite scent, then dipping your hand in the warm wax and using it as lotion. It's a parrafin dip for your body! Scents available: Holiday Spirit, Mistletoe, Mandarin Cranberry, Rosemary Lavender, Pomegranate and Pear.

-- PooPourri - Just "Spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know." That's all we're going to say. (PS: It's our best seller).

In addition, Elevate Fitness Studio has this personal training gift certificate offer: 10 Personal Training Sessions for only $250 (Normal Value $500)*

This offer includes:

Menu planning

Functional Movement Screen to determine muscular imbalances

Nutritional guidance

Program design that includes PreHab, Flexibility, CORE Strength, Progressive Resistance and Metabolic Training Program

On-going accountability and support

Comfortable, friendly, and fun environment

Limited Time only. Valid Dec 18-24, 2012

Call Elevate Fitness at 951-301-4499 or visit them at 29683 New Hub Dr, Suite D, in Menifee to take advantage of this offer.

Elevate Fitness uses tried and true training and nutrition programs customized for your current fitness levels, orthopedic & cardiovascular history and fitness goals.

"I’ve lost about 10 pounds, dropped two pant sizes, and gained muscle. I’ve never felt so strong, especially my legs and core. The staff at Elevate is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME! They can custom tailor your workouts and nutritional plan to help you meet your specific goals, regardless of your age or fitness level."
-- Christine Porter

Menifee Citizens Group Formed to Protest 'Lack of Action'

A school bus and other vehicles try to travel safely across a flooded stretch of Holland Road on Tuesday.
A group of concerned citizens led by a former mayoral candidate is protesting what they consider to be inefficient and dishonest conduct by Menifee city officials.

John F. Smith, who withdrew from the race for Menifee mayor prior to the election, is coordinating the formation of Menifee Citizens for Honest Government, which he says has about 100 members so far. In a press release sent to Menifee 24/7, Smith claims that city officials continue to ignore and lie to residents about promised improvements within the city.

The primary focus of the group at this time is the condition of a stretch of Holland Road west of Murrieta Road. A 1,200-foot, hilly and narrow stretch of dirt road has for years been considered a safety hazard and has become a hot topic since the opening of Herk Bouris Elementary School last August.

Many Menifee school children have been assigned to Herk Bouris, which is across the city limits in Lake Elsinore. To get there, school buses and cars must travel a bumpy, narrow road with poor sight lines and numerous potholes. During a rainstorm, the lowest sections of the road become flooded.

Such was the case on Tuesday, as cars and buses slowly maneuvered around potholes and through bodies of muddy water close to a foot deep. As a reporter took photos and watched the flow of traffic Tuesday afternoon when school let out, several impatient drivers created an even more unsafe situation by speeding around the slower vehicles.

Smith, who lives in the neighborhood and has a daughter attending Herk Bouris, is frustrated that the city's promise to pave that stretch of road has not been carried out. Nearly three months ago, the city announced in a news release that it had solved a complex legal issue concerning private portions of the road and would work with Lake Elsinore officials and developer Pardee Homes to get the road paved.

"Pardee Homes has the equipment staged right there," Smith said. "They told us the paving was slated for mid-November. We keep getting excuses."

Smith said that during a recent rainstorm, his wife's vehicle stalled in the flooded low point of the dirt road. In trying to maneuver out of the hazard, she blew a tire. Smith had to have the car towed out.

Rob Johnson, interim city manager, said the plan to work in conjunction with Lake Elsinore to get the road paved remains a priority. The work has been delayed, he said, because of changes of city staff members in both cities and recent rainstorms.

"A week and a half ago, we bladed the road in preparation for making the improvements," Johnson said, referring to a process of smoothing out the potholes. "Then it started pouring. We may have to put down some gravel to fill in the holes until we can get the weather we need to do the paving."

According to Smith, all this should've been done long ago, before the rains came.

"I'm just grateful nobody has been killed there lately, but it's bound to happen," he said. "I campaigned for changes, but even this new council is blowing smoke. We're fed up."


Citizens of Menifee, this is a call to action!

The safety of our children has been compromised for far too long, as a result of the City’s failure to act on the severe hazardous conditions on Holland Road that we have had to endure for years. This chronic failure is a blatant disregard for the safety of our citizens. Our elected officials collectively and individually swore an Oath To Protect And Serve All the Citizens Of Menifee but continue to fall short on this obligation.

We have been told for over four years that Holland Road would be paved. Given interim date after date and yet, we still have no paved road. Many of us received notices in June 2012 that our child would have to attend Herk Bouris Elementary in Lake Elsinore. As we know, Holland Road is the most efficient route to access Herk Bouris and Lake Elsinore and it is not realistic to take Newport Road through Canyon Lake in order to arrive at Herk Bouris.

We began to inundate the City and school district regarding our concerns traveling this dangerous road. We were granted a public forum in order to address our grievances and were assured Holland Road would be paved prior to school opening. This too has proven to be a blatant lie.

During the 2012 Mayoral race, candidates stated this was a serious safety issue and approval to pave Holland Road had been reached and was slated for mid November. Once again, another deceitful lie by desperate, unethical politicians willing to compromise integrity in order to manipulate your vote!

Holland Road has claimed lives in the past. How many more must die before this city will act? Ask yourself:

Do you value the lives of your children?

Have you sustained damages to your vehicle over the past four years?

Are you tired of being lied to by city officials?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, We, The Menifee Citizens For Honest
Government, urge you to contact John F Smith at scosmith589@gmail.com or 951-609-5841.


Suspects in Homeland Robberies Caught at Border Crossing

Four juveniles accused in two incidents of robbery and assault in unincorporated Homeland were caught Tuesday at the San Diego border crossing as they tried to re-enter the U.S. after fleeing to Mexico, according to a Riverside Sheriff's Department report.

The three male juveniles and one female juvenile are accused of a Dec. 14 crime at the intersection of Leon Road and Allen Avenue. Around 6 p.m., police said, the victim was assaulted and robbed of money and credit cards by suspects who fled on foot.

On Monday, Dec. 17, the same suspects were accused of a robbery near Leon Road and Fretwell Avenue. The suspects assaulted the victim with baseball bats, took his wallet and stole his vehicle. The victim was rushed to Riverside County Regional Medical Center, received emergency surgery and was stabilized in the Intensive Care Unit.

The suspects were apprehended Tuesday in the stolen vehicle as they attempted to gain entry back into the U.S. All four were booked into the Southwest Juvenile Hall on charges of conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, carjacking and attempted murder.

If anyone has any information regarding these robberies, they are encouraged to call Investigator Omar Rodriguez with the Riverside Sheriff's Department/Perris Station at (951) 210-1000.

Allison Becomes Third City Official to Leave in a Month

Don Allison, Menifee's city engineer, resigned his position Monday night, becoming the third high-ranking city staff member to leave since a Nov. 6 election restructured the city council.

Rob Johnson, interim city manager, said Tuesday that Allison resigned and was not fired. He would not discuss the situation further because it's a personnel issue. Jim Howell, acting public works director, will assume Allison's duties on an interim basis, Johnson said.

Johnson, the city's senior manager of community improvement and outreach, has served as city manager since Bill Rawlings reached a separation agreement with the city on Nov. 20 -- a couple weeks before Scott Mann, Wallace Edgerton and Greg August were scheduled to be sworn in as council members.

Then last week, city attorney Joseph Fletcher resigned, stating that the new city council "desires to be free to select a new city attorney." Julie Biggs, an attorney with the firm Aleshire & Wynder and a contributor to Mann's successful mayoral campaign, was hired as an interim replacement.

The positions of city manager and city attorney are the only two over which the city council has the power to hire and fire. Allison submitted his resignation to Johnson, the acting city manager.

During his time as city engineer, Allison had to answer to the city council and the public about several road and infrastructure projects. Many residents have expressed frustration with the slow progress of improvements on the Newport Road bridge and the proposed Holland Road overpass. One of Mann's stated priorities as mayor is to accelerate the Holland Road project.

Mann, who is out of town on vacation, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he learned of the resignation Monday night.

"It's a personnel issue, so I can't really discuss it," Mann said. "Department heads report to the city manager. I would refer all questions to Rob Johnson."

When asked whether he believed this would be a positive move for the city going forward, Mann said, "I don't know. All I can say is there have been more than several complaints about projects being delayed by this department."

Last-Minute Gift Idea From Provecho Grill

As Dec. 25 nears and the shopping window closes, you might be scrambling for last-minute gift ideas. Provecho is offering some awesome deals on their gift cards. And what could be better than the gift of an authentic homemade meal from Provecho?

Buy a $100 gift card and get a $25 gift card for free, or buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 gift card for free. Buy something for them, get a little something for yourself too. The ultimate give and get, because everyone loves Provecho. Take advantage of this limited time offer through Dec. 28.

Provecho Grill is open 7 days a week and features fun offers nearly every day. Stop in any day of the week for happy hour from 3 to 6; $3 margaritas, $4.75 sangria, and $2 Coors Light. Start the week with margarita Monday, when those favorite salty sweet cocktails are just $3 all day long. Taco Tuesdays offer $1 and $2 tacos all day too. And Wine Down Wednesdays feature half off bottles of wine, $3.50 house wine, and $4.75 sangria from open to close.

And finally, start (or end) the weekend with brunch at Provecho. With bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, and a full breakfast menu of authentic and american classics there is something for everyone at Provecho.

There is always something happening at Provecho, so a gift card from Provecho is sure to please!

Provecho Grill

26862 Cherry Hills Blvd.
Menifee, CA 92586
(951) 246-3200

Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Website: Provecho Grill
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Reader Survey: Your Chance to Tell Us What You Want to See

As we prepare for a new year, Menifee 24/7 is considering areas in which we can expand our coverage. You will soon see some changes we have already planned, but we don't want to move forward without your feedback.

So consider this your reader survey -- your opportunity to tell us what you like about our site, what you don't like, what you'd like to see more of (or less of) on Menifee 24/7.

Our goal is to be the main source for news and entertainment in Menifee and a forum for a free exchange of ideas and opinions among our readers. We will continue to promote local businesses through standing ads and "advertorials," helping to build our local economy while providing us with the revenue stream we need to provide you free, quality service. But we want to be much more than that.

We are constantly searching for the right mix of content for the Menifee reader. Some may be most interested in city government. For others, the priority could be club news, or Little League results, or more profiles of interesting people in the community.

The more you tell us, the better we'll be able to serve you. So please leave a comment here with your feelings about our site and what you'd like to see here. You may consider and address the items in the following list, or add others. And if you'd rather address us personally, you may email doug.spoon@gmail.com with your comments.

Thanks for your cooperation and for following Menifee 24/7. Happy holidays!

Items to consider:

Youth sports news
Crime news and safety warnings
City government
School board coverage
Highlights of local businesses
High school news
Elementary school news
MSJC news
Personality profiles
Arts and entertainment news
Coverage of local clubs
Coverage of surrounding communities
Staff columns
Guest commentaries
“Letters” to the editor
Reader-submitted content (news, photos)

A Doug's Life: Keeping the Faith in the Face of Tragedy

Tragedy touched our lives last week, both here and afar.

I didn't know Phyllis Fleming, a resident of the Sun City community in Menifee. But I do know that even at age 86, her life shouldn't have ended Thursday afternoon at the intersection of McCall Blvd. and Encanto Drive.

Fleming was a passenger in a car that was turning left from eastbound McCall onto northbound Encanto. It never made it. An SUV heading westbound on McCall ran a red light, witnesses said, crashing into the car driven by Fleming's husband and carrying her in the passenger seat.

This fatal accident had nothing to do with me, my family or any of my friends. Even so, it happened close to home. Worse yet, police reports say it appears to have happened because the driver of the other vehicle was under the influence at the time.

The next day, we heard the unbelievable story of 26 people -- including 20 first graders -- who were shot to death by a gunman who stormed into an elementary school in Connecticut.

And we're supposed to finish buying our Christmas presents and put on a happy face for the holiday season.

It's tough. Even though most of us have no personal connection to either tragedy, it tests our faith in humanity. We ask questions: Why would a mother drive drunk, especially with a 3-year-old in the car? Why would anyone shoot innocent children? What's happening in our world?

I have no answers to these questions. I have only the faith to continue on. Faith enough to drive down the street without fear that some drunk will end my life. Faith enough to let my grandchildren go off to school each day trust that they will be safe.

Yes, we should have discussions about things we can do to address these problems. As a society, we must do this. And on a personal level, we must each do our part to show our love and compassion for others and to maximize the safety of those around us.

As Menifee continues to grow, our traffic problems increase. Addressing this issue is a long-range process. Meanwhile, it is our obligation to drive safely and look out for others -- whether we're on busy Newport Road, McCall Blvd., or a dirt road in one of the rural parts of town.

We have many schools within the city limits, and some do not have the greatest access. There are few routes into many of them and some involve unpaved, narrow dirt access roads.

Again, the issue is being addressed -- but not quickly enough. What can we do in the meantime? Reduce speeds in school zones and watch more carefully for pedestrians. School security? It might not be ideal, but we can do our part by watching out for things that seem strange or out of place. We can volunteer to help in our children's classrooms, to provide as much support to the teachers as possible.

As for Christmas? Well, we can remember that this holiday season is meant to celebrate the spirit of love and caring that must be present in order for us to carry on in the face of tragedy. If we lose that spirit, the dark side wins. And that must not happen.

So as we continue in this holiday season, no matter what your religious beliefs are, hug your loved ones and do something good for someone else. Ours is not a perfect world, but it's all we have. Let's make the most of it.

Hospice of Valleys Offers Workshop on Family Storytelling

“Retired, Set, Go!” is a series offered by Hospice of the Valleys and Sun City Library.

The fourth installment of this popular series is entitled "Giving the Gift of Your Story." Do you want to give a unique and precious gift to your loved ones this holiday season? How about the gift of your story?

There is a strong national interest in family history and genealogy, and many persons are tracing their family trees and seeking to fill out the story of their own family and their own life. This workshop will give you hints and suggestions on how to tell your story and preserve it as a part of your family and community history.

Our next Retired, Set, Go! Meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, at the Sun City Library, 26982 Cherry Hills Blvd.

The event is free and the public is invited. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Hospice of the Valleys at 951-200-7800.

Menifee 24/7 Adoptable Pet of the Week: Tanya

Name: Tanya

Breed: Turkish Angora

Age: 2 years

Gender: Female, spayed

Tanya's Story: Tanya and her litter of four kittens were saved from euthansia at a local shelter. Tanya appears to be a beautiful Turkish Angora who weighs about seven pounds. She has the exotic wedge-shaped face with big bright green eyes and a soft, silky silver/gray coat.

Temperament and health: Tanya is a lovely, sweet, and mellow kitty who has been a great mother to her kittens. Now it is time to find a forever home of her own. She has been spayed, vaccinated, dewormed, and tested negative for feline leukemia virus.

Adoption Agency: Rescue and Rehome, a small private rescue located in the Quail Valley/ Menifee area and serving Southwest Riverside County. Animals are shown by appointment.

Adoption details: $50 adoption fee to help reimburse for the expense of spay, vaccinations, deworming, and any needed veterinary care. An adoption contract is required. Rescue and Rehome is looking for an owner who is willing and able to make a lifetime commitment to the care of this cat, which is anywhere between 15 and 20 years.

Contact: Email rescueandrehome1@gmail.com or call (951) 244-3215.

Website: Rescue and Rehome
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Woman Arrested on DUI Charge in Fatal Accident in Menifee

An 86-year-old Menifee woman died Thursday in a traffic accident that resulted in the arrest of the driver of the other vehicle on felony DUI charges.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, according to a Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. report. The woman was a passenger in a Saturn vehicle that was making a left turn from eastbound McCall Blvd. onto northbound Encanto Drive when the car was struck by a Chevrolet SUV traveling west on McCall.

According to police, the investigation determined that the driver of the SUV was distracted by her 3-year-old child in the back seat. Her vehicle entered the intersection against a red light.

The driver of the Chevrolet was determined to have been operating her vehicle while under the influence, police said. Melissa Dean-Baumann, 37, of Fallbrook was arrested and booked at the Southwest Detention Center for felony DUI, manslaughter, and felony child endangerment.

The driver of the Saturn suffered serious injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The passenger was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone who may have witnessed the collision or may have further information is asked to call the Menifee Police Department Traffic Division at 951-210-1000.

Holiday Gift Guide from Keller's Jewelers

Shopping for the perfect gift for a loved one can sometimes be, well, overwhelming. Local family owned Keller's Jewelers put together a beautiful gift guide full of sparkling presents for every price point to help you through the gift selecting process.

This quaint jewelry store offers something a department store never can, a personal touch and customer service from a real human being. Stop into their store for some one on one assistance picking out gifts for everyone on your list. Right now their sterling silver is 25% off and select diamond earrings are 35% off.

For your teen:

Crystal beaded bracelet, holiday special just $28.00 for the 5 bead or $38.00 for the seven crystal bead.

A heartfelt gift:

Sterling silver sideways cross 25% off, sale price $32.00.

For your wife:

14k white gold diamond swirl earrings 25% off, sale price $298.00.

For someone very special:

14k white gold diamond filigree ring, sale price $485.00.

Keller’s Jewelers
26010 McCall Blvd., Suite E
Sun City, CA 92586

Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Website: Keller’s Jewelers
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