20 years ago, Paul Doyle had a thousand dollars and a dream…to start a newspaper that would print “Only positive stories.”
Stories that were uplifting. Stories that were inspiring.Stories that covered the people, places and events that make Sonoma County the greatest place on the planet.
He called it the Upbeat Times and instead of charging for that paper, he would give it away for free. You'll find it in doctor’s offices, coffee shops and yes, even at the front desk of our radio station.
For keeping that positive spirit alive and well, we now nominate Paul Andrew Doyle as another Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
When Pearl Fischer was six years old, her teacher, at the Healdsburg School, told her about children that don't have clean water. Instead of playing or reading or going to school, those children spend their day finding clean water and carrying it home one jug at a time. That was the moment when pearl started her website called “Pearl Builds A Well”
Now at the ripe old age of 7, Pearl has built four wells in the Congo and there are more on the way.
For bringing clean water to the children in Africa, we now add Pearl Fischer’s name to our growing list of Hometown Heroes.
So what do dog catchers do in their time off? Shirley Zingler rescues animals.
A graduate of Santa Rosa High School, she always loved animals. She became a Sonoma County animal control officer to help animals in trouble.
She wrote a book called "The Secret Life of Dog Catchers."
And even started a rescue operation called The Dogwood Animal Rescue Project. So far, she has saved over 500 animals.
Because of her lifelong dedication to our furry citizens, we now put Shirley Zingler's name on our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Ed Harmon retired from teaching, he didn't stop changing lives. To keep kids from skipping school he started throwing Mountain Mikes Pizza parties. The catch? You've got to have a 90 percent attendance record to be invited. Ed found that rewarding someone for good behavior, worked better than punishment. And the kids who have attended his pizza parties agree.
So, on behalf of all the students who stayed in school and received their diplomas, we now add, Ed Harmon's name to our list of Sonoma County Hometown Heroes.
A cat stuck in a tree seems a little cliche, but it is exactly what happened to Marvel Gray. Her cat had been stuck on top of an 80 foot redwood tree for two days. Everywhere she turned, no one was able to help her, until Phillippe Garcia of Windsor asked if she needed some assistance? As soon as Marvel said yes, Phillippe started climbing – higher and higher he went, until he disappeared into the branches. Minutes later he was climbing back down with her baby in his arms.
Now, on behalf of Marvel and her cat, we add the name of Phillippe Garcia to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Sonoma County animal lover, Odessa Gunn, heard about the YULIN Food Festival where dogs are featured on the menu, she booked a flight to China.
After 17 hours on the plane she arrived to discover that every horrible thing she had been told was real.
Odessa was able to save ten of those dogs and bring them back to the wine country where they are being adopted as the family pets they were meant to be.
For saving the lives of our four-legged friends, we now add Odessa Gunn to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Bananas At Large
Thousands of stories have been told about the Sonoma County fires.
From the amazing heroism of the people who fought them, to the everyday heroism of our friends and neighbors. And then there was bananas at large...
Bananas, as they are affectionately known, is where musicians in Sonoma County go for their instruments.
Before the smoke had even cleared, Bananas was giving away strings, cords, amplifiers, guitars and drums to musicians. And they did it for free.
Terry Saunders from The Dylan Black Project said if it wasn't for them, his music would have gone silent.
Because they kept music in Sonoma County alive, we now recognize Bananas at Large as a Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
At Piner Olivet Charter School they don't call him Jules, they call him Mr. Strasser.
Every day for the last 25 years, any child who didn't feel comfortable eating at the regular school lunch tables, knew there was a safe place to go – Mr. Strasser’s classroom.
He opened his doors to make his classroom a secure place, where students can eat lunch and be themselves.
He has a way of making every child feel loved and not alone.
So now, for the many kids in Sonoma County who wonder what being a “true hero” is all about,
we now recognize Jules Strasser as a Sonoma County Hometown Hero.
There's a Christmas tree standing at the gates of Paradise, and it is all because of Ronnie Duval.
One of the few things that survived the Camp Fire is a brown stone wall as you enter the town of Paradise with the word “Welcome” on it.
Next to that sign is a 12-foot Christmas tree covered in tiny, blinking, solar powered lights and it’s there because of Ronnie Duval.
He lost his home in the Sonoma County fires and understands better than most, that you haven't lost everything, until you lose hope. And that Christmas tree has become a symbol of hope.
For bringing hope to Paradise, we now award Ronnie Duval our thanks for his gesture of kindness and add his name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Art Ibleto was born in Italy. As a teenager he put his life on the line again and again as he fought against the Nazi’s and fascists. After the war, he came to America in search of a better life.
He worked in the fields picking vegetables, drove trucks and worked in a factory. In 1974, as a project for the Sons of Italy, he started his “Spaghetti Palace“ at the fairgrounds and grew that business into what is now known as the Pasta King.
Now, at over 90, he still works every day, donating food, time and money to almost every charitable event in the county.
Because of his lifetime of work, helping others to live the American Dream, we now add Art Ibleto's name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When Allyson Ahlstrom was in school she stared a project called "Threads for Teens." Her goal was to help girls to build their self-esteem and confidence by starting a special store filled with name brand fashion clothing...except everything in her store would be free.
Girls wearing poorly fitting hand me downs could walk out, looking and feeling confident, in styles and brands that they could never dream that they could afford.
For changing lives, giving hope and making the seemingly impossible, possible we now add Allyson Ahlstrom’s name to our list of Hometown Heroes
It is said that kids don't read papers anymore, but they do read this one. It's called “Kids Scoop” and was started by Vicki Whiting.
She had taught her own kids and then decided that ALL kids needed a way to explore reading and writing. Some of the kids that have been reading her paper have become leaders, teaches and even members of the City Council.
Because kids do everything on the internet, she started her own website. She still prints the paper for free so that they can get into the hands of every child .
Because of her untiring devotion to the children of Sonoma County we now add Viki Whitting’s name to our list of Hometown Heroes.
When you are a child, and learning to read, reading out loud can be daunting. That gave Jo-Ann Yates an idea – why not read to a dog?
A dog is not judgmental, a dog does not correct you if you make a mistake and best of all a dog is a real good listener.
At Healdsburg, Windsor, Rincon Valley, and Rohnert Park Public libraries every week children read to volunteer dogs.
It is all part of a project called the 4 Paws Learning and Wellness Center, and it is because of her work to help the children of Sonoma County read, we now add Jo-Ann Yates’ name to our list of hometown heroes.
Mary, Maria, Paula, Betty and Molly Murphy McGregor
In 1980, there were NO smart phones and there was No internet.But that didn't stop Mary, Maria, Paula, Betty and Molly Murphy McGregor on their mission to uncover the amazing strides woman have made.
They traveled the dusty corners of America to shine history's light on women, because back then there were very few books about women and the few there were, hadn't been checked out in over ten years.
They lobbied congress for an official Women's History Day, then week and finally “Women's History Month,” knowing that the more people knew the history of women, the easier it would be for all of us to be kinder to each other.
For their tireless work creating and running the National Women's History Project created in Santa Rosa, California, we now add all their names to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Kerry and Sally Sorenson
They call themselves the Garbage Patch Kids.
Every Thursday along the banks of the Russian River, you will find Kerry and Sally Sorenson picking up trash from homeless camps.And while they are cleaning up, they are also checking in on the people who are living on the margins of society, to make sure they are healthy and fed.
They don't get paid for it, they just do it, because at one time, both of them were living out of their cars too.
For cleaning up, reaching out and extending a hand of kindness, we now put Kerry and Sally Sorenson's name on our list of Hometown Heroes.
It's 3 AM. The phone rings. Someone in Sonoma County is about to give birth, and Rosanne Gephart is there to help. She wasn't happy with the way mothers and their babies were treated during and after childbirth, so nine years ago, Rosanne created Better Beginnings, a non-profit organization that has provided help for hundreds of women who are having difficult labors, young moms, and moms without family support. She also manages Better Beginnings' free breastfeeding support program, which provides in-home visits and several support clinics or "breastfeeding cafes."
For Rosanne, "peace on Earth begins with birth!" KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add Rosanne Gephart to our list of Hometown Heroes.
Northern California Fires
The Northern California fires have changed our lives forever. But where would we have been without people like:
KZST and Sam's For Play Cafe now salute these brave people, as well as the firefighters, volunteers, law enforcement officers, and many other unsung Hometown Heroes who kept us safe and gave us hope.
The eighteen-mile long Petaluma River is an important wildlife habitat. It's also a favorite spot for sixth grader DJ Woodbury and his dad, who cherish the time they spend together fishing, checking out swans, or enjoying a lazy ride in their 16-foot aluminum boat.
When DJ, a student at Live Oak Charter School, was assigned a community project, he remembered seeing garbage floating along the banks of the river and decided this was the perfect opportunity to help. Over the next three months, DJ and his dad filled their boat with more than a ton of televisions, tires, tennis balls, bottles, cans...and even used syringes!
For making Sonoma County a better place to live, KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add DJ Woodbury to our list of Hometown Heroes.
One in sixty-eight American children has some form of autism. Victoria Cahill's brother has it, too. But what Victoria did, as her senior project at Windsor High School, has changed much more than only her brother's life.
She realized that special students like him felt left out of school events that the rest of us took for granted. Because Victoria enjoyed her high school prom so much, she took inspiration from her brother to create the "Justin Cahill Special Needs Prom," and over the last four years, hundreds of students have had the chance to experience THEIR senior prom, making memories that will last a lifetime. KZST and Sam's for Play Cafe now add Victoria Cahill to our list of Hometown Heroes.