Thumbs up, thumbs down

Thumbs up to Jim Connell. He is retiring after 23 years as executive director of Poverello House in downtown Fresno. Connell's leadership skills, business savvy and compassion for the needy enabled the nonprofit to expand its outreach and serve more people. Connell's successor is Sanger native Cruz Avila, who has a diverse background in housing, youth programs and substance-abuse prevention. Connell will remain as a consultant for three months during the transition.

Thumbs up to the 200 volunteers of all ages who removed more than 9,000 pounds of trash -- including a washing machine -- along the San Joaquin River last Saturday. The effort was part of the fifth annual Great Sierra River cleanup.

Thumbs up to Cora Shipley and Bill Shipley. They have raised more than $1,000 for the Central Valley Honor Flight program, which takes World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II Memorial. The Shipleys have held monthly eating contests -- ice cream, hot dogs and cupcakes -- at their Old Clovis Hotel Bistro. Contestants next month will take a crack at pumpkin pie.

Thumbs up to Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County, which was recognized by its parent organization as one of America's exemplary clubs. Fresno was singled out for helping club members graduate from school, promoting volunteerism and for providing job training and jobs for more than 100 youth this past summer.