La Mesa News Briefs – Dec. 25, 2015

Ribbon-cutting event for reopening of art supply store

On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016 the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon cutting and open house to welcome its newest member, TheArtStash, to the La Mesa business community.

The Art Stash is located at 7859 El Cajon Blvd. in La Mesa. The hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This shop offers supplies and a local art gallery for artists to hang their artwork. Owner Chelsea Merigan has a passion for creating this community-based art store and offers her loyal art patrons commission-free art sales. Merigan believes that offering the lowest prices possible, while striving to be a part of the local community is extremely important.

Guests at the ribbon cutting will enjoy light refreshments and a raffle for art supplies. With each purchase, customers will receive a goodie bag with free gifts, as well as a raffle ticket. During the open house, guests will be able to view firsthand the use of various products by observing product demonstrations in the classrooms, as well as the parking lot.

This ribbon-cutting event begins at 11 a.m. with the official ribbon cutting held at noon on Jan. 17. The event runs until 4 p.m. and is free to the public. The Chamber encourages guests to RSVP to: or call619-465-7700.

La Mesa educator receives grant

Ann Asaro, a Common Core resource educator at La Mesa/Spring Valley School District in La Mesa, has received a $2,000 Learning & Leadership Grant from the NEA Foundation to attend the Coaching Institute on Literacy Coaching and Whole School Reform through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. At the Institute, she will learn how to implement an effective writing program, and she will bring that knowledge back to her district to share with local educators.

Nationwide, the NEA Foundation announced that it is awarding grants to 39 educators across 22 states for a total of $144,000.

“With these grants, we are supporting educator-driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation, said in a press release. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.”

The NEA Foundation awards two levels of grant funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality educational professional development activities.

A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded educator grants were selected for the quality of the grant proposal ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement.

Over the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $7.1 million in teaching grants to support the work of almost 4,500 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning and Leadership grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the NEA Foundation’s Grantee Archive. Search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword.

The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next education grant deadline is Feb. 1, 2016. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of the NEA Foundation website.

Helix Water recognized for transparency

On Nov. 25, Helix Water District announced it had received the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence from the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF) in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance.

“This award is a testament to Helix Water District’s commitment to open government,” Carlos Lugo, Helix Water general manager, said in a press statement issued by the district. “The entire district staff is to be commended for their contributions that empower the public with information and facilitate engagement and oversight.”

In order to receive the award, a special district must demonstrate the completion of eight essential governance transparency requirements, including conducting ethics training for all board members, properly conducting open and public meetings, and filing financial transactions and compensation reports to the State Controller in a timely manner.

Helix Water District also fulfilled 15 website requirements, including providing readily available information to the public, such as board agendas, past minutes, current district budget, and the most recent financial audit.

Finally, the district must demonstrate outreach to its constituents that engages the public in its governance, through a regular district newsletter and completion of a salary comparison for district staff positions.

Helix Water District is a special district, a not-for-profit, local government agency, formed to provide water for the cities of La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas within the cities of Santee and Lakeside, and San Diego County. The district serves 270,375 people through over 56,000 metered accounts.

Special districts are independent public agencies that deliver core local services to communities, such as water, fire protection, parks and recreation, health care, sanitation, mosquito abatement, ports, libraries, public cemeteries and more. Districts are established by voters and their funding is approved by voters in order to meet specific needs through focused service. They can be specially molded to serve large regions or small neighborhoods depending on the need.

SDLF is an independent, nonprofit organization formed to promote good governance and best practices among California’s special districts through certification, accreditation and other recognition programs.

Volunteer as an archeologist

There’s no promise of an “Indiana Jones”-like adventure, but if you’ve ever wanted to experience what it is like to work on an archeological site, a new program offered by the Colorado Desert Archeology Society (CDAS) can give you just that.
The CDAS needs volunteers to work in the Anza-Borrego Desert, Cuyamaca Rancho and Palomar Mountain state parks.
Volunteers must take an introduction to archeology class, taught by Robin Conners, State Park Archeologist, in January and February in Borrego Springs. Upon completion, participants will be required to join CDAS and participate in archeological projects. There will be numerous opportunities to work in the field the Begole Archeological Research Center and the library.
The courses are free, however, participants are asked to volunteer 40 hours a year in the Colorado Desert District Archeology Program to maintain active volunteer status.

Classes will start Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. and will continue Friday evenings and all day Saturdays through Feb. 13.

For more information, contact Susan Gilliand, SDAS Chair, at

To register, contact Conners at

Noah Homes receives generous donation

San Diego philanthropist Colette Gerard is donating an estimated $2.5 million to Noah Homes, a nonprofit in Spring Valley that provides care and advocacy for adults with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism.

The gift comes as Noah Homes is raising money towards staffing and construction of two of the first memory care homes in the nation specifically for people with developmental disabilities. The homes are currently under construction and scheduled to open in early 2017. Gerard’s son, Andre, has autism and is one of 70 residents that currently live in a home operated by Noah Homes.

“I never thought I would be able to do something like this, but we have been working for so long and it’s so nice to be able to do this,” Gerard said in a press release. “Besides, I am getting older and Andre is in a very nice place, and I want him to be able to stay there.”

When Noah Homes opened Casa De Felicidad more than 30 years ago, the average age of a resident was 27. Today, the average age is 47 and climbing. As more people with developmental disabilities are living longer, there is an unprecedented need for memory care. Noah Homes is now working with national partners, including the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia, UC San Diego Down Syndrome Center, Alzheimer’s San Diego, Brookfield Residential, HomeAid San Diego and others to create a best-practice model of care for people with developmental disabilities who show signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“Colette has been a long-time member of the Noah Homes family and we are forever grateful for her support,” said Molly Nocon, CEO of Noah Homes. “Colette’s legacy makes a huge impact in our effort to ensure that no person with a developmental disability is left without a loving, lifelong home.”

For more information about Noah Homes, email Kaleigh Collins at, call 619-660-6200 or visit online at

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