Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Food bank's truck driving school to close

Published: Saturday, Mar. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 10:28 am

After 15 years, California Emergency Foodlink is preparing to shut down the truck driving school that gave thousands of people, many of them homeless or unemployed, a chance to earn a livable wage.

"There's a competition for funds, and we've got to stick with food first," said John Healey, president and chief executive of Foodlink. "It's the oddest thing to have to shut down a program that's successful, that's meaningful for the community."

The massive Foodlink, based in Sacramento's Depot Park, delivers 120 million pounds of food all around California each year. Truck driving students pick up or deliver food as part of their training, and they also volunteer at the agency.

At graduations, students have invariably talked about how they had been takers all their lives, but that now they could pay taxes. Healey always joked that he wanted them in the highest tax bracket since Foodlink's programs are largely funded by tax dollars.

The truck driving school, however, was not. For the past three years, Foodlink used donations from corporations and individuals to pay much of the $450,000 cost of running the program annually, but as government funding continued to shrink, Healey said, he had to reallocate the funds to the mission of providing food.

Healey plans to hire drivers once Class 126 graduates on May 24, he said, but he still hopes that someone will step forward to fund the program.

New life for Newton Booth

It has been four decades since schoolchildren roamed the halls of the historic Newton Booth Elementary School, but they will again in August.

Nobel Learning Communities, based in West Chester, Pa., will open one of its Merryhill schools in the brick complex at the corner of V and 26th streets in midtown Sacramento to serve children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The building has been home to a medical insurance group and an environmental consulting firm since Newton Booth closed in the 1970s.

"The existing building … is part of the historic registry, so we will be very careful of any renovations that we are doing," said Denise Ondrof, who will be head of the midtown campus. "We'll be building out 26 classrooms as well as specialty rooms such as an art studio, computer lab, science lab."

As many as 16 Merryhill schools have dotted the region, but Nobel is shuttering two campuses in Sacramento and one in Davis as it leases the midtown site.

A word about persistence

Quit already.

Manisha Hotpeti received that advice from a neighboring salon owner when her business was at 920 J St. in midtown Sacramento.

"When I started the old place, I made only $100 in the first four months," Hotpeti said. "I was on the second floor, and I was on the back side. No one could see me. I had a neighbor who had a salon. She came to me and she said, 'Manisha, I'm seeing you. There's no business for you. Just close your salon.' "

Hotpeti, however, clung tightly to her dream and the knowledge that, even with a limited grasp of English 10 years ago, she had so impressed her cosmetology teachers that they gave her an award for outstanding performance at graduation.

Hotpeti and other immigrant women make up one of the fastest-growing segments of new business owners. She grew up in India but now lives in Folsom with her husband, Prithviraj Hotpeti, whose employer transferred him to Sacramento. He loaned his wife the $5,000 to open her Desi Salon, but she has repaid him.

Things began turning around for Hotpeti after she got a booth at the California State Fair doing threading. Then she hounded deal-of-the-day websites such as Groupon, and LivingSocial until one relented and gave her a shot.

She got enough repeat customers that she recently expanded into a space at 930 Alhambra Blvd. Near Safeway, it is still upstairs but is five times bigger than her old salon. Hotpeti leases booths to hairstylists but doesn't style hair. Her specialties are facials, threading, waxing and reiki. These days, deal-of-the-day websites solicit her for business.

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.

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