Lewis Griswold

Lew Griswold: 3 from Central Valley honored for farmworker safety training

Three AmeriCorps workers from the Central Valley were honored last week in Washington, D.C., for training farmworkers in pesticide safety and heat stress prevention.

Guillermo Gonzalez of Woodlake, Lucio Avila of Selma and Nancy Alvarez of Madera did training for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Tulare, Fresno, Kern and Kings counties.

Together, they trained 5,325 farmworkers, according to the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, which gave the awards. Gonzalez got three special awards, one for writing a blog and two for training more people than others in the program.

The trio spent a year getting paid minimum wage, plus they will receive a $5,000 scholarship at the end.

It's not an easy job, said Joan Cuadra, an employee at Proteus Inc., a job skills training company in Visalia. Cuadra oversaw the AmeriCorps program locally.

They had to improve their Spanish, get up early and drive to remote farms, she said. "You go out there at 4 in the morning," Cuadra said. "There's 40 people expecting you. You can't be late."

But this is the final year that AmeriCorps will participate in pesticide and heat-stress prevention training, Cuadra said. In the Valley, the program will continue under different funding, she said.

VOTING RIGHTS: Rosalinda Avitia and Sherrie Bell were sworn in last week as members of the Tulare Local Health Care District board of directors, which operates Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Robert Montion, a former Tulare hospital CEO and a voting rights activist who ran Avitia's campaign, hailed her election as proof that switching from district-wide to by-area elections is a way to get Latino candidates elected to office.

Avitia defeated Laura Gadke, 1,090 votes to 990. She was elected in Area 2, which includes part of west and central Tulare and has a majority Hispanic population.

"It was the first contested area election" in the county for a governing board that switched to area elections, he said. "It was designated as a Latino area. It's the first test of the reality of area elections."

The hospital district board switched to area elections this year to settle a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit.

PARADE 2: Visalia's Candy Cane Lane parade was shown on national news last week.

"World News with Diane Sawyer" finished its Dec. 4 broadcast by showing about 30 seconds of the parade, including the Golden West High marching band.

The network sent a message to affiliates seeking video of holiday scenes, so ABC 30 submitted Candy Cane Lane footage that got accepted, said Kristie Gonzales, creative services and public affairs director.