Faces of Christmas: Sarah Ramirez

December 24, 2013 

The basics: Sarah Ramirez, 39, is a lecturer at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, health educator at Pixley Medical Clinic and co-founder of BeHealthy Tulare.

What she does: Ramirez is an advocate for healthy living, especially for the residents of her hometown of Pixley. Through her organization, BeHealthy Tulare, she and other volunteers hold exercise and cooking classes, run a gleaning program that distributes surplus fruit to those in need and operate a community garden in Pixley.

Why she does it: As a health educator, Ramirez sees the chronic health problems many residents in her community face, including high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. "In my own family I have witnessed young family members die of preventable diseases," Ramirez said. "And we are seeing some of those conditions worsen in our community."

The turning point: Ramirez was involved in a serious car accident several years ago in west Fresno County. She was driving through the area, celebrating the completion of a chapter of her dissertation, when her tire blew out, causing her to crash. She has little memory of the accident or who helped her at the scene, including picking up all her schoolwork. "I remember having to pick out pieces of glass, weeds and dirt from my papers," she said. "I could not have finished my dissertation (from Stanford University) without those papers and I did not lose a single page." Ramirez says her decision to focus on creating healthier communities was reinforced during her recovery. "It made me arrive at my mission faster," she said.

Details, details: BeHealthy's exercise class is a weekly 60-minute workout for the whole family. The Food Lab cooking classes are held on the third Sunday of every month, and the winter gleaning project starts on Jan. 12 and runs through March 23.

What others say: "I love what she does and I wish I had her strength," said Rachel Carpenter, a gleaning volunteer. "There is so much food out there and she is really doing something to make it more accessible."

How you can help: To volunteer for BeHealthy Tulare's fruit gleaning program, visit their website at www.behealthytulare.com

-- Robert Rodriguez

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