Society for the Blind Wraps Up Fitness Challenge

By Kristin Thébaud  |  2017-12-22

Ramona Herriford learns adaptive judo from 2012 London Paralympian Katie Davis at Society for the Blind’s Paralympic Sport Event that wrapped up the group’s participation in the National Fitness Challenge. Photo courtesy Society for the Blind

Participates in National Fitness Challenge with Paralympic Sport Event

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - More than 30 kids and adults with vision loss across the Sacramento region came together in November to learn Paralympic sports at Society for the Blind in Sacramento. The all-day event was the grand finale to Society for the Blind’s participation in the National Fitness Challenge sponsored by the United States Association of Blind Athletes and Anthem Foundation. The Paralympic event included clinics in rowing, golf, judo and goalball, as well as lunch and presentations by athletes leading the clinics.

“This was a really exciting day as we had kids as young as 10 and seniors up to age 85 learning favorite Paralympic sports and discovering ways to stay active and competitive with vision loss,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “This was such a fun way to wrap up our hard work in the National Fitness Challenge.”

Society for the Blind finished seventh in the challenge out of 13 groups across the nation – and one of only three in California – that competed in the United States Association of Blind Athletes’ and Anthem Blue Cross Foundation’s fifth annual National Fitness Challenge. Society for the Blind and its competitors provided more than 300 blind and visually impaired youth and adults with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels and live healthier, more active lives. Other California participants were Junior Blind in Los Angeles and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the Bay Area.

When the National Fitness Challenge kicked off in Sacramento this past spring, participants who signed up with Society for the Blind had a number of physically challenging activities to look forward to. In efforts to increase participants’ levels and step counts, staff at Society for the Blind worked with dance instructors, personal trainers, judo instructors and more. In addition to raising their overall physical activity, participants became more aware of opportunities in their community.

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation: www.SocietyfortheBlind.org

Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a community-based organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind with a mission to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. For more information: www.usaba.orgwww.twitter.com/USABA or on Facebook as United States Association of Blind Athletes. 

In addition to grant funding, Anthem Blue Cross Foundation will provide volunteers at events across the state during the nine-month program. Local employees will have the opportunity to meet participants and help them achieve their health and wellness goals. 

Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Association promotes Anthem Blue Cross’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that the company serves. The foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program and its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges. 

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As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers there are things they should do now to get ready for filing season.

For most taxpayers, Dec. 31 is the last day to take actions that will impact their 2017 tax returns. For example, charitable contributions are deductible in the year made. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2017 count for the 2017 tax year, even if the bill isn’t paid until 2018. Checks to a charity count for 2017 as long as they are mailed by the last day of the year.

Taxpayers who are over age 70 ½ are generally required to receive payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2017, though a special rule allows those who reached 70 ½ in 2017 to wait until April 1, 2018, to receive them.

Most workplace retirement account contributions should be made by the end of the year, but taxpayers can make 2017 IRA contributions until April 18, 2018. For 2018, the limit for a 401(k) is $18,500. For traditional and Roth IRAs, the limit is $6,500 if age 50 or older and up to $15,500 for a Simple IRA for age 50 or older. Check IRS.gov for more information about cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2018.

Taxpayers should be careful not to count on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying other financial obligations. Taxpayers can take steps now to make sure the IRS can process their return next year.

Taxpayers who have moved should tell the US Postal Service, employers and the IRS. To notify the IRS, mail IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, to the address listed on the form’s instructions. For taxpayers who purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, they should also notify the Marketplace when they move out of the area covered by their current Marketplace plan.

For name changes due to marriage or divorce, notify the Social Security Administration so the new name will match IRS and SSA records. Also notify the SSA if a dependent’s name changed.  A mismatch between the name shown on your tax return and the SSA records can cause problems in the processing of a return and may even delay a refund.

Some refunds cannot be issued before mid-February. By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb 27, 2018, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

Some Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers must be renewed. Any Individual Taxpayer Identification Number not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years will expire on December 31, 2017. Additionally, all ITINs issued before 2013 with middle digits of 70, 71, 72 or 80 (Example: 9XX-70-XXXX) will also expire at the end of the year. As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits 78 and 79 that expired in 2016 can also be renewed. Only taxpayers who need to file a U.S. federal tax return or are claiming a refund in 2018 must renew their expired ITINs. Affected ITIN holders can avoid delays by starting the renewal process now.

Those who fail to renew before filing a return could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for some important tax credits. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions is available on IRS.gov/ITIN.

Keeping copies of tax returns is important. Taxpayers may need a copy of their 2016 tax return to make it easier to fill out a 2017 tax return. Some taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need to provide their 2016 Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI, to e-file their 2017 tax return.

Taxpayers who do not have a copy of their 2016 return and are existing users can log in to IRS.gov/account if they need their AGI. Otherwise the IRS will mail a Tax Return Transcript if requested online or by calling 800-908-9946. Plan ahead. Allow five to 10 days for delivery. Learn more on the website about identification verification and electronically signing tax returns. The IRS has a special page on IRS.gov with steps to take now for the 2018 tax filing season.

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The holidays can be stressful during the best of times, but layer on the responsibilities of caring for a loved with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and your holiday season can be quickly overwhelming.   Don’t lose the magic of the holiday season, but take some steps to plan for yourself and the loved one who you are caring for.   You can find joy this holiday season by adapting and celebrating together.

  1. You can say no. You simply cannot do it all. Give yourself permission to limit how you will spend your time this holiday season.   Let someone else host and enjoy their hospitality. Bake fewer cookies, simplify your decorations, and buy few gifts. If you focus on what is most important, you will enjoy those activities much more.
  2. Inform out of town visitors. Your loved one’s behavior may be changing.   Inform your visitors, who have not seen them recently, what to expect. Let them know that they may no longer recognize them. Setting these expectations before they arrive can relieve the stress and anticipation for you and them.
  3. Choose the time of day that is best. Many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s become more uncomfortable and agitated in the evening due to sundowning.  Suggest that family meals be done in the morning, brunch, or lunch.   Who knows, you might create a new tradition?
  4. Let your loved one help with preparations. Let them help you wrapping presents, decorating the house, setting the table, or making a simple dish. Break these into manageable smaller tasks that you do together to limit frustration. Sharing these activities together can evoke memories of the past.
  5. Ask for help. The holidays are about family and friends.   Allow them to help you. Set up a buddy system at parties, so someone else can help you look after them. Have potluck meals, so the burden of all the shopping and cooking does not fall on you. Delegate shopping or meals prep to others who offer to help.
  6. Creative gift giving. For the stressed caregiver, a certificate for housecleaning during the holidays would be appreciated or a certificate for respite care so they can enjoy a break. For the loved one with dementia, think about soft and warm items like robes, slippers, soft clothing, shawls, and blankets, especially for those suffering from poor circulation.
  7. Set limits. Loved ones with dementia become tired very easily.   Try to keep them to their routine as much as possible. Keep gatherings low key and short, or provide them a place to get away and lie down from the noise and activity.
  8. Enjoy your traditions. A special dish, a favorite holiday song, or lit tree or menorah may be welcome and comforting memories for your loved one.

As the caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you may have to adapt your holiday plans, but this does not mean that you have to miss the magic of the season.   You may create new traditions or enjoy a simple, more relaxed season. You may find joy in the eyes of your loved one as they remember a past holiday.   You will find gratitude in enjoying another holiday with some you love and care for.

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Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Re-imagining transit service is a top priority for the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT). The SacRT Board of Directors took a major step toward that goal this week by unanimously voting to award a $400,000 contract to Jarrett Walker + Associates (JWA ) to conduct a Route Optimization Study (ROS).

JWA has an excellent reputation in the transit industry for being innovative in its approach to planning and redesigning transit systems.  Under the guidance of Jarrett Walker, JWA was responsible for successfully re-imagining the Houston Transit System and for leading a Comprehensive Operational Analysis of the public transit network in Indianapolis.  Closer to home, JWA is credited with developing “Next Network” a Transit Ridership Improvement Program that was rolled out for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which operates in the Silicon Valley.

“Walker is a dynamic presenter, known for building Board consensus along with community support for study recommendations,” said SacRT Chair Andy Morin.  “This is an extremely important factor, if this study is to be a useful model to govern redesign efforts.” 

The ROS will evaluate SacRT’s existing service conditions, as well as current travel patterns, to determine the type of design changes to recommend.  The goal is to provide frequent service on bus routes that are traveling to destinations where people want to go. New transit trends, such as on-demand bus service using a smartphone app and zero-emission bus deployment, will be evaluated for possible inclusion into SacRT’s service design. 

“Our number one priority is to significantly improve mobility and connectivity in the Sacramento region for years to come,” said General Manager/CEO Henry Li.  “Improving accessibility and convenience is essential, if we are to become a world-class transit system in the Sacramento region.”

JWA, a Portland, Oregon based company, will rely on AIM Consulting, a Sacramento public relations firm, to manage local community outreach for the ROS.  AIM intends to outreach to passengers and non-transit users alike during two intense cycles that will be defined through a Public Engagement Plan.  Community input will be a major component of the study, and JWA has committed to creating compelling visuals to effectively engage the public.  Virtual workshops and online surveys will be major components of the outreach effort.

“Transit planning requires some tough choices, but we know how to lead conversations that will help stakeholders and officials understand their options fully,” said Jarrett Walker, Principal-in-Charge. “We build the understanding so that when a final plan is adopted, everyone understands the rationale behind the new network.”

JWA will begin work on the ROS in January with SacRT’s team, and it’s expected to take approximately 12 months to complete. Visit sacrt.com and click on the Route Optimization Study to learn more about the upcoming route redesign.

SacRT operates approximately 69 bus routes and 43 miles of light rail throughout Sacramento County, including the cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove.  Sacramento buses and light rail trains operate 365 days a year. SacRT's entire bus and light rail system is accessible to the disabled community. ADA services are provided under contract with Paratransit, Inc. 

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Bera Accepts International Franchise Association’s Small Business Award

By Jack Miller  |  2017-12-22

Rep. Ami Bera Accepts the International Franchise Association’s 2017 Small Business Award. Photo courtesy Office of Ami Bera

Washington DC (MPG) - Congressman Ami Bera accepted the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) 2017 Franchise Small Business Award last week for his support of the small business community. Rep. Bera was recognized for championing local franchises and businesses, as well as his leadership on smart policies that promote economic growth and job creation.

“Owning a small business is part of the American Dream,” said Rep. Bera. “If you work hard and play by the rules, everyone should have the opportunity to get ahead. I’ve seen how hard small business owners work in Sacramento County and we need to support them every way we can. Thank you to the International Franchise Association for this award. I look forward to working together to continue improving Congress’ support for small business.”

“Congressman Bera has proven to be steadfast advocate who ensures small businesses are protected in his district and across the country,” said IFA President and CEO Robert Cresanti. “Franchise businesses are the small business backbone of our economy and hugely important to their local communities. They create a significant portion of our nation’s jobs, give aspiring entrepreneurs a unique and guided path to business ownership, and even sponsor local teams and charitable events. On behalf of the 733,000 franchise businesses across the country and the 7.6 million people they employ, the IFA is proud to recognize Congressman Bera today.”

Rep. Bera is committed to supporting Sacramento County’s vibrant small business community by fighting for common-sense tax relief, reducing burdensome regulation, and ensuring that government is a strategic partner for growth – not an obstacle. His office can also connect local businesses with resources they can use to grow and hire. For more information on Sacramento County’s small businesses, visit https://bera.house.gov/helpforbusinesses.

Source: Office of Ami Bera

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Working Hard and Getting Things Done

Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-12-18

Mayor Jeff Slowey

Citrus Heights Mayor Jeff Slowey says he is serving his final term in office, which ends in 2020.  He was first elected to the city council in 2003 and in his third mayoral term.  Mayor Slowey has witnessed Citrus Heights’ transition to cityhood and formation of its own police department, as well as key retail and commercial developments.  He recently talked with reporter Jacqueline Fox about his time in office and his vision for the city going forward, including development, homelessness, and his hopes for younger members in the composition of the sitting city council in November 2018.

Q: What compelled you to get into local politics?
A: I’ve been in this community since 1988 and I really like Citrus Heights. I like the local aspect of getting things done. There’s not a lot of red tape here.  Essentially policy stops with the city council, so it’s gratifying. 

Q: What have been your most significant challenges?
A: Balance, I think.  Running our local law enforcement, for example, takes some 60 percent of our general fund, so we have to address crime and public safety, but we also are charged with taking care of our streets and neighborhoods.  We can put more officers on the street, but we might have more potholes. So, it can be a really tough balancing act.

Q: What projects were you elected wanting to tackle?
A: I wouldn’t say I came in with grand ideas, but the two biggest things were forming our own police department and getting the Dignity Health project in place. One is done, the other will get done probably early 2019.

Q: Why was forming the city’s police department so important?
A: We were contracting with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department when I arrived and the annual payment for that was going up $1 million with no additional services attached.  It made no sense.  So, we formed a citizens’ committee and we voted for it and got it.

Q: What major development projects are on your radar:
A: The Dignity Healthy project and the coming of Mercy Medical Group is key, because I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to do something with the vacant Sylvan School Site.  Mercy has stated to us they are going to need additional offices in close proximity to the new building, and I’ll be working toward that.  What I don’t want to see is another strip mall there.  That world is changing.  We need something that is going to better the city with jobs and a tax base.

Q: Can you discuss your vision for how to address the rising homelessness issue?
A: The sad part about homelessness is that it doesn’t stop at the borders.  So even if we come up with a good program, it has to be an ongoing program.  It is getting worse.  Our Navigator program does provide services to those who want help, but remember: not everyone who is homeless wants help.  Big picture is that the county is putting $44 million to address it.  We haven’t seen the breakdown yet, but we plan to get our share.

Q: What about other community programs?
A: We are coming up to the winter months and I have to say I deeply appreciate HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team).  They have stepped up and provided a shelter in the cold and rainy season.  But the one thing I have been clear on is that we need to help them as much as we can, but I do not want to build a permanent shelter here in town. I’d rather work with the ones that are already out there.

Q: Your police chief says body cameras are too expensive.  What’s your view?
A: I’ve supported the idea. But I think there’s a bigger issue out there to resolve and that’s at the state level.  There isn’t any protocol for how to maintain the tapes, for one thing.  For example: do you keep a body camera tape for three years or five years?  Who pays for it?  That said, if I thought we had an issue where body cameras would help, I would say OK, let’s do that.  I think they are good for the city, but until the other issues are resolved, I’m willing to wait.  

Q: What would you like to accomplish in your last term? 
A: At the end of 2020 it will have been 17 years for me here and that is plenty.  I’m a firm believer in new blood.  I’d like to see a few things done, including the development of the Sylvan School site, a successful deployment of a new vision for Sunrise Mall, and completion of the Ted Mitchell housing project. Also, next year we have three incumbents up for re-election.  So we have got to get through next year’s election with some cohesiveness and I would say I would love to meet and get some younger people to come forward.  I’d love to get to know them now so I can mentor them.

Q: What should potential candidates know about the job before tossing their hat into the ring?
A: The work week is about 20 hours for roughly $600 a month, so if you’re doing it for the money, you’re a fool.  Not all of us are retired. We have careers.  So I’d say if you’re considering jumping in, discuss it with your partner first, because it’s a tough gig for $600 a month.

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Local Low Vision Group Announces Holiday Party

Citrus Heights, CA (MPG) - The Sunrise Macular Degeneration Association (SMDA), this region’s premiere support group for all those affected by low vision announced its annual holiday party to be held on Thursday, December 21, from noon to 2:00p.m. at Brookdale Senior Residence, 7418 Stock Ranch Road, Citrus Heights.

According to the National Eye Institute, Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), is a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. It can develop slowly, over time.

According to Bright Focus Foundation, as many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration.

The association is inviting all with low vision and those who would like to learn more about the condition from members of SMDA to attend. “This party promises to be great fun for all “said SMDA Vice President Elena Thomason. According to Ms. Thomason, the SMDA holiday party will feature “live music, sing-a-long Christmas carols, gift exchange, good food and an opportunity to make a new friend or two.”

 While the party is open to all, lunch reservations are necessary.  The cost is $12. Reservations must be made by calling 916-725-7418 no later than noon on Tuesday, December 19th.  

Also, if you would like to participate in the Gift Exchange, please bring a wrapped unisex gift valued at no more than $5.00. Remember, bring a gift, receive a gift.

Any questions, contact President Michael Dunne at (916) 241-9591 or Vice President Elena Thomason at elenathomason1@gmail.com.

If you know of a person with low vision, please share this information with them. We’d love to have them involved in this very special monthly support group.

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