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West Linda blends a mix of lives
This is the first in an ongoing series in which Appeal-Democrat reporters and photographers will focus on neighborhood residents, culture and issues.
Today, we focus on a nine-block area on the northern tip of west Linda — an area that recently experienced a fatal drive-by shooting, but where some residents still feel at home and where positive outreach is provided to youth through Riverside Restoration Center.
Crime and violence haven't yet reached the place Betty Barlage has called home for 43 years.
But it's creeping closer to her west Linda house.
A drive-by shooting last month one block over on Poplar Avenue left one person dead, three injured and one in custody.
"We haven't had any problems," Barlage said from her Cohn Avenue home where an American flag has flown for 20 years.
Yet alarm is increasing with the crime rate in the modest neighborhood.
"There is nothing here for the kids," said Nadine Cooper, who is raising her three grandchildren, ages 5, 8 and 11. "What scares me is our youth of today is our leader tomorrow."
Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor acknowledged there is a gang influence in west Linda, as there is in other parts of the county.
"The way we look at it is, any crime is too much," Durfor said. "Property crimes over the last few years have been a great challenge."
Crime and poverty go hand-in-hand here.
Over at Cedar Lane Elementary School, Principal Jill Segner sees the challenges firsthand.
"We keep our kids safe by teaching them to be aware of their surroundings," she said.
Segner said 96 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and English as a second language students make up about 40 percent of the school.
Bob Wiley moved to the area in 2001 to reconnect with a sister he hadn't seen in 14 years.
"Since I've lived here, I've had practically everything I own stolen," Wiley said. "It was a mistake living here."
He recently had his cellphone stolen and said he wears a flashlight around his neck to keep it safe.
Efforts are under way to turn west Linda around.
Riverside Restoration Center, a small west Linda church, runs a Christian children's program on Wednesday nights at Cedar Lane Elementary School.
Children ages 6 to 12 learn core values like "honor, integrity, love and forgiveness," Pastor Joan Smith said.
Ty Grimsley, 8, believes in the power of prayer.
"I like to pray for people because it helps them and makes them feel better," Grimsley said.
The program teaches Christian principles while also touching on being anti-bullying, anti-gangs and anti-drugs, she said.
"There are some straight-up really good people here," Smith said. "It isn't just drugs and gangs."
Jenny Manes was born and raised near west Linda, and said it has cleaned up some.
But it's not where west Linda once was.
"Back in the '70s, we were able to leave our house doors unlocked," Manes said. "You can't do that now."
Even in a rough neighborhood, people have priorities.
Segner said she leaves the Cedar Lane campus open on weekends so people can use the facilities, including the basketball court and track.
"The neighborhood takes care of the school," Segner said.
CONTACT David Bitton at email@example.com or 749-4796. Find him on Facebook at /ADdbitton or on Twitter at @ADdbitton.
Food giveaways keep life going
Hungry and out of money, Bob Wiley, 62, arrived early last Friday at Riverside Restoration Center looking for food.
"Right now, I'll settle for peels off a banana," he said.
The small west Linda church, Riverside Restoration Center, provides a twice-weekly food giveaway in the 5800 block of Riverside Drive, which will be Wiley's saving grace for the next two weeks.
"I wanted to be the first one here because I didn't get to eat yesterday," Wiley said.
Earlier in the day, he earned 40 cents after collecting and recycling one glass bottle, four plastic bottles and two aluminum cans.
"My motto is: Business is picking up," Wiley said with a smile.
He used the money to help pay for a sandwich and soda.
"Food tastes a lot better when you are really hungry," Wiley said.
Back at the food giveaway, Wiley overturned a shopping cart, took a seat and waited.
His patience paid off, and after nearly five hours of anticipation the food arrived.
Wiley loaded juice packs, grapes, soups and bread into a shopping cart and started the 1.5 mile trek south to his Winnebago mobile home.
With no money coming in until next month, Wiley plans to be back for more food.
"I have two more weeks of this, that's what's scary," Wiley said.
— David Bitton
Couple turns trash into treasure
JoJo and Leslie Hubbard aren't afraid to get their hands dirty to put food on the table.
The couple make their living by salvaging what others throw away.
"It isn't something I wanted to do at first," Leslie said, while sorting copper wiring, computer monitors, floor fans and a cash register on Monday afternoon in the 5900 block of Garden Avenue at her west Linda home. "I did it to survive."
JoJo, at first, preferred panhandling at a gas station down the street on Feather River Boulevard.
"I know it is against the law, but if you don't ask, you don't eat," JoJo said.
He would smile, wave and greet regulars by name as he worked to get enough money to buy a burrito across the street.
JoJo, 42, and Leslie, 44, were homeless when they met and appreciate the things they now have, JoJo said.
JoJo lived in the river bottoms on-and-off for about five years.
Leslie was on the streets for 18 months before the couple married in May 2011.
"My wife is my inspiration," JoJo said. "She's the one that started our business."
The couple said they have no outside financial assistance for support and are making it on their own.
Part of making it on their own recently meant Leslie spending three hours inside a large trash bin in the middle of the night hunting for recyclables.
Her hard work paid off when she found aluminum and several computer monitors discarded outside the shuttered Linda KFC.
Leslie estimated the value of the haul, which she pushed back to her house in shopping carts like she does with all her finds, to be about $50.
The couple use shopping carts to take the products to recycling centers two or three times per week.
Not everything they find gets sold.
Their home is full of salvaged goods including a television, microwave, wall art and kitchen utensils.
"Somebody else's trash is our treasure," Leslie said.