“Greetings from Bakersfield” book was a photo book developed by the Dream Builder Area Energy LLC Team of 2019. By demonstrating the diversity, passion, and vibrancy of our community, we hope to improve Bakersfield’s image and promote pride in where we live. A look at what we’ve worked on below.
In 2003, Ford Dimension Alumni along with the Jim Burke Education Foundation created the Dream Builders leadership program for achieving high school seniors. This year-long program focuses on civic responsibility, life skills, and leadership development through the creation of significant community service projects. Since its inception Dream Builder student leaders have developed 57 civic projects.
Jim & Jacque Balmain
"The laborer works with his hands. The artisan works with his head and his hands. The artist works with his head, and his hands, and his heart."
Recognized by children and adults alike for its sweet treats and even sweeter customer service, Smith's Bakery, owned by Jim and Jacque Balmain, is nothing short of a Bakersfield staple. After arriving in 1945, the Balmain's business has grown into an iconic Bakersfield trademark. Smith's started with one location on 3rd and Chester, but it has gradually expanded and can now be found all over Bakersfield, from Union to Ming Avenue.
Smith's has been bettering Bakersfield for over seven decades and continues to do so today. Jim stated, "The only thing I care about is trying to take care of the customer the way that I would want to be treated." From Happy Face cookies to Thumbprints, Smith's offers something that everyone can enjoy. Jim even wrote his own children's book - Ollie and the Alliog - which explains that even during the hard times in life when one doesn't seem to fit in, as long as they maintain their integrity and honesty they will walk through life happier. Alliog cookies (half alligator and half frog) are proudly displayed at many locations.
Married for 58 years, Jim and Jacque embody the spirit of Bakersfield; they operate their business with joy and integrity. According to Jim, "There's only one thing that no one can take away from you, and it's something you have to give away: your integrity."
Stephen & Katherine Winters
Stephen and Katherine Winters are the founders and owners of Samsara Wellness Center, a place where "one can learn to be well through sacred art practices, customized massage therapy, and exceptional yoga instruction." The couple is passionate not only about yoga, but also sustainable farming and spiritual growth.
Katherine returned home after college, but the couple didn't plan to stay here long. "We bought an RV, took an epic road trip, and stopped in Bakersfield because, basically, we ran out of money," she said. Katherine decided to pursue her lifelong ambition of becoming
Born in Loma Linda, California, septuagenarian Fay Zuccato has a passion for teaching. She's taught health, P.E., music, accelerated geometry, elementary school classes, and two AP Latin courses. Although she's faced many challenges when it came to teaching - especially instructing the Latin classes for eleven years - she is a teacher's teacher and is passionate about it. However, if there is something she's even more passionate about than teaching, it would have to be tennis. When she was in the eighth grade, she and her best friend taught themselves how to play tennis, and ever since then, tennis has been her all-time favorite activity. Keeping her active, Fay takes the exceptional responsibility as captain for five USTA tennis teams comprised of 65 players. "I have this fantastic tennis community around me that is so supportive. I know that if I need anything, there's always going to be somebody there." A relative newcomer to Bakersfield, Fay has found her home here. She particularly enjoys the people whom she finds are caring, friendly, and pretty competent tennis players.
Jim Blom was born in Berkeley, California, but ended up in Bakersfield after one of his most life-changing decisions. Jim decided to transfer from one of the largest oil companies, Chevron, to an extremely small start-up company, Occidental, here in Bakersfield. Jim was OXY's first full-time employee in Libya. Upon the giant Idris Oil Field discovery in Libya, in which he was instrumental, the oil company became one of the most successful Bakersfield companies ever built, transforming from a 10-person company to the seventh largest oil company in the United States. Jim describes how massive this finding was: "At one point, OXY wanted to see just how much oil they could cram from the field through our brand new pipeline and on that day throughput exceeded one million barrels."
After living in Libya for 3 years, the Blom family came back to Bakersfield. "We managed to get here with our little family, and we lived in the same house for almost 50 years." Jim's connections in Bakersfield are mainly through clubs; he was a part of the "Nooners," which consisted of male tennis players at the Bakersfield Racquet Club. Jim also was involved in Rotary, San Joaquin Geological Society, Bridge Club, and Bakersfield Ski Club where he was "Olly's husband." "I'm living at Rosewood now, up on the top floor looking out at the beautiful south."
Marily Anton was born in Los Angeles but moved to Bakersfield after marrying her husband. Her true passion was teaching, which she did for 30 years. Her hobbies consist of playing bridge and traveling, but she also enjoys history. With a love for history, she joined a history club and has participated for ten years. Other women with the same passion and interest share amazing topics; members go to different homes, where one host explains a topic in history, delving deep into the subject and bringing in new perspectives for the club members. Many women range from their 70's to late 80's. For Marily, her niche is World War I and II, but each of these women having a different focus in history.
Marily is a perfect example of the beautiful Bakersfield community - very different women with a love for history have come together and created life-long friendships. As Marily states, she has become "very good friends with these women." She is also a huge proponent for Bakersfield, as her mother recently died and she comes from southern California. Marily gladly chooses to stay in Bakersfield, not only because she has become attached to her home, but also because the community is where she has met wonderful people.
Born and raised in Bakersfield, Bobby Maitia comes from a Basque family who immigrated to the United States in the 1950s. Bobby lived in nearly 25 states during his baseball career, but prefers Bakersfield over anywhere else, even though he knows it's been humorously referred to as "the armpit of California." Whether it's the cost of living, the multitude of good schools, or outstanding restaurants, Bakersfield has all the things he could want. More importantly, Bobby loves the people: "There are a lot of really good people in this town. There are people who are always looking out for someone else, with no bias and no ulterior motive - just out of kindness. That's probably what I like the most."
Bobby is an ex-MLB pitcher and the owner of the Bakersfield Baseball Academy. He combines his passion for the people of this town with his love for baseball by teaching young men both baseball and life skills. He's succeeded in helping over 150 student-athletes play collegiate baseball. Bobby is excited for the future because no matter how many students leave town to play baseball, they always come back or stay in touch. "If we take care of each other first, all the other stuff will take care of itself."
Michelle Oliver is proof that one needn't be a native to call Bakersfield home. Raised in Merced, Bakersfield is the fourth city she has lived in, but to her it feels as if she's lived here her whole life. As Marketing Manager for Dignity Health, Michelle helps to oversee the organizations advertising and outreach efforts in the Central California Service Area.
Some of the reasons she fell in love with Bakersfield are the "big city" feel yet its strong sense of community. Every day as she promotes Dignity's image, she interacts with community business partners. It is a demanding job that requires active social engagement in Bakersfield, but in a short time, she has developed strong connections and planted roots she hopes will run deep.
Michelle also credits her Dignity co-workers for helping her settle in. In her short time here, she's already been bitten by the Bakersfield bug: developing relationships with caring, close-knit people here in her new home.
Executive speechwriter may not be a position many people are aware of, but for Linda Griess, it's the perfect gig.
Linda was raised in Bakersfield, with roots tracing back several generations (her grandmother worked the original Dewar's counter in the 1930's). Her career began in finance, yet she eventually found herself more in love with telling the story of the business, and she's spent more than a decade working as a communications specialist at one of the largest insurance companies in the nation. As a speechwriter, she helps advise some of the company's top executives on their speech content and how to best tell their story.
Though she has the opportunity to work anywhere in the country, she and husband Roger choose to make Bakersfield their home. She's moved away from Bakersfield several times, but the community keeps calling her back. She calls it the "Bakersfield Boomerang Effect."
"There's a different definition of beauty here in Bakersfield," Linda says. "We may not be oceanside or lakeside, but we do have the Kern River (she's a regular whitewater kayaker), and most importantly, the friendliest people. And of course, we have Mexicali."(You'll find her there nearly every week). Although she prefers to work in a "ghostwriter" capacity, Linda is proof that if you look closely enough, you'll find a lot of behind-the-scenes talent here in town.
Born and raised here in Bakersfield, Vince has contributed much to our community, notably serving as our current 34th District State Assembly member. This area covers most of Kern County, including Bakersfield and surrounding areas.
Throughout high school, Vince considered a career in architecture or engineering, yet ultimately found his way into political science while studying for his bachelor's degree at UCLA. After finishing a master's degree at Princeton, he returned to Bakersfield because "you don't realize what you miss about Bakersfield until you leave." Vince also interned with several politicians and spent more than a decade in a district director role for current House Minority Leader and Congressman Kevin McCarthy.
Vince loves that he gets to meet with people who are making a difference in our community. "Whether it's homelessness, poverty, or helping our seniors, the best part of the job is to play a small role in helping people do good things in the community." Vince is excited for the future because Bakersfield is in a dynamic phase. "Things are changing all around us and anything can happen. We're the ninth largest city in California, and with that comes some exciting opportunities."
Bakersfield native Diane Lake has witnessed this city grow, change, and improve, yet she has also been a major contributor to that improvement. Philanthropist and art collector, Diane sees the beauty and the potential in everything. Diane is a major contributor to several Bakersfield-based organizations and she likes to "keep it local." She has seen the impact that organizations like the Boys and Girls Club can have on youth, and with her financial and personal support, it and several other groups have flourished in Bakersfield.
Diane's beautiful garden and her passion for art reveal her excellent taste, but she stays in Bakersfield because it means something more to her. "I have a lot of wonderful friends here," Diane stated. She appreciates that when there is a need, the people of Bakersfield fill it. Diane represents what it means to have a servant's heart, and her excitement and passion for life in Bakersfield is apparent.
Bakersfield's most spirited cheerleader, Mayor Karen Goh, is undeniably one of its most dedicated and hard-working citizens, but her life story began across the globe. Born in India in a city that "contrasted great wealth and poverty," she attended school in a London suburb before making her way to Bakersfield for high school. After graduating from Bakersfield High School and the University of Southern California, she embarked on a career in publishing in New York City. Goh rose to vice president of publishing at McGraw Hill Companies when her life and outlook was shaken by the events of September 11, 2001. "That power, money, education - none of that mattered," said Goh. "I got to see the brevity of life, how short it is." She returned to Bakersfield and began volunteering with her brother's foundation, Garden Pathways. There, she discovered her passion. "By investing in the lives of people, it can really change the entire future of a family forever."
Despite having no political ambitions at the time, she was overwhelmingly voted Mayor of Bakersfield, succeeding the long-serving and enormously popular Mayor Harvey Hall. In her new and most important role as the city's ambassador, she represents the best of Bakersfield and the embodiment of what it means to have a servant's heart.
Bakersfield has been good to Bakersfield High School civics and economics teacher Jeremy Adams, but it has gone both ways. Adams has turned his passion for social studies into a way of inspiring his students through the acclaimed Earl Warren Cup he oversees, as well as books including, "The Secrets of Timeless Teachers: Instruction that Works in Every Generation." Adams founded the Earl Warren Cup for his top AP Government students to highlight the importance of knowing American principles and values while instilling a sense of community pride.
Beyond the classroom, Adams is a frequent contributor to local publications as well as the Washington Post on topics of modern teaching and education.
"This community has been extremely supportive of me and my career in every way and embraced me at every step. I just couldn't have asked for more when it comes to my writing and teaching."
Adams admits to acquiring some wisdom of his own along the way. "It would be very hard to feel anchored to a place like Los Angeles or New York and feel as if you're an integral part of the community when it's such a busy city," he said. "With Bakersfield, you do feel like you're a part of a community and almost everyone you meet is going to know someone in common with you. That sort of 'Bakersfield moment' is something I didn't appreciate at 17 or 18, but I do now."
Lili Marsh is a strong advocate of military veterans and actively volunteers in our community. Born and raised in New York, Lili found her way to Bakersfield after college, coming here with a few of her friends. After 9/11, she held a one-day fundraiser that was attended by thousands of people and raised over $75,000. "After that, I thought, 'I'm not a New Yorker anymore - this is my home, because this is amazing.'"
Lili helped start the Honor Flight of Kern County organization. The World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. took 65 years to complete, and by that time, many military veterans were physically or financially unable to visit. Honor Flight of Kern County provides fundraising for war veterans to visit this memorial. The organization survives off fundraising, yet thrives in Bakersfield because "the people in this town are so generous."
Lili recalls after the first Honor Flight trip, they had a fundraiser where people could drive by and drop off donations. A man came through on a bicycle and dropped off an envelope. He wrote a letter saying he was a marine who saw the work Honor Flight of Kern County was doing - he sold his truck and gave them the proceeds. "This town is very unique in the way it treats its veterans; everybody's all in."
Bakersfield stands in stark contrast to the places around the globe where Bakersfield High School science teacher and environmentalist Lonnie McConnel has lived and taught. Yet there is symmetry with here and there in "The Chlorophyll Wall," a mural downtown that he and his wife Jeran came up with: color-blocks in shades of green from eight native plants, an ode to chlorophyll's life-giving force and Bakersfield. Painted by the BHS Ecology Club under the McConnel's guidance, it's also an unintended salute to his imagination.
A self-proclaimed "science nerd," McConnel was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He began his teaching career in Bakersfield, but other parts of the globe beckoned. He taught in Papua New Guinea, returned to teach at BHS after two years, then embarked on another teaching journey in Yemen before Bakersfield drew him back again. "I love BHS and the students dearly. That's why I decided to come back," he said. "I stay because I think there's a tremendous amount of potential. Getting to work with high school students, I see the brilliance of the people who are here, and I can only imagine just how amazing Bakersfield could be if we really invested in creating a place where these brilliant young people want to stay."
Edyta identifies as being "mixed" - her father is Polish and her mother is Bulgarian - and now she is an American. Having a link to immigration from the get-go and owning two passports, Edyta is Bakersfield's favorite immigration lawyer. Born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, Edyta was used to traveling, but her biggest adventure began when she moved to Boston to attend college and major in graphic design and video production. Later tired of sitting behind a computer, she decided to go to graduate school for a Master's in Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, she hit a roadblock - she was not a U.S. citizen and therefore could not take the foreign service exam. Undaunted, she changed directions again and attended law school. When Edyta married a "Bakersfield boy", she ended up here. Today she is active at her daughters' school, on the tennis court, and in the courtroom. She enjoys the camaraderie on the tennis courts and the proximity to excellent tennis coaches like Hank Pfister. Edyta stated, "Bakersfield is a place that once one starts enjoying its opportunities, it's difficult to leave." She has grown fond of this town and feels that she is making a difference here.
Gabe Woodward, a financial advisor for Wells Fargo, is a Bakersfield native who endured much while fulfilling his dream of swimming in the Olympics. After his swim times fell short for qualifications in the 2000 Olympics, Woodward decided to stop training and pursue a career in finance. However, shortly after this decision, he failed his licensure exam, resulting in him being fired from his job. Unemployed and unsure about the direction of his life, Woodward returned to the one thing he was sure about: swimming. He began training, and his times dropped rapidly. By the time of the Olympic trials, Woodward was fast enough to earn a spot on the 2004 team and took home a bronze medal for the men's 4x100m freestyle relay. When asked about his accomplishments, Woodward replied that he wants to use his success to inspire others, especially those in Bakersfield who might view themselves at a disadvantage. "I want kids from Bakersfield to look at me and believe that they can do it too." Woodward loves Bakersfield, especially the people who live here. He remarked on how friendly the community is and that "even when you make a mistake, I think our community is pretty forgiving." He loves that people are so accessible, from the mayor or Congressman McCarthy to your next-door neighbor. When asked to describe his hometown in one word, Woodward chose, "accountability."
Cynthia Pollard is the Director of Public Affairs at Aera Energy LLC. Born and raised here in Bakersfield, Cynthia left town for college and attended USC for her undergraduate degree, later beginning her career at Walt Disney Productions. After marrying her husband and starting her family, Cynthia was drawn back to her hometown. She viewed the community with a new perspective, admiring the level of involvement available for families. She also found an appreciation for the ease of maintaining family ties due to the convenience of travel and the way different parts of town can stay connected. She described how her sons were able to grow up with their cousins and form close bonds with them because of this. Cynthia also remarked about how the community becomes part of your family: "People find family here even if they don't have blood relatives. Bakersfield is the type of community where if you embrace it, it will embrace you."
One pastime Cynthia has enjoyed participating in locally is riding motorcycles with her husband. She described it as a "way of life" and remarked on the variety of people she has been able to meet because of a shared "love of the road." Whether she's sitting behind a computer or riding her Harley, Cynthia has found her place in the town she calls home.
Tahlia Fischer, a local wine sales rep, has created a haven for horses and mules doomed for the slaughterhouse. While horse meat is illegal in the United States, it is not in Mexico. After discovering that 100,000 animals are sold annually on the black market for their fur or meat, Tahlia decided to step up and make a difference. All Seated in a Barn is a nonprofit organization that buys horses and mules, often ones that are lame or no longer fit for work, before they can be sold across the border. It all began with a single donkey named Kevin, who still resides at the barn and is described by Tahlia as a "total sweetheart." Since its foundation in February 2018, All Seated in a Barn has saved around forty animals, many of which have been adopted. In order to fundraise for the organization, Tahlia combines
her background in wine with her love for animals by hosting wine dinners at her barn, which include food, live music, auction items, and interaction with the animals. Eventually, Tahlia wants to expand her presence in the community by holding more family events, as well as creating an animal therapy program with her rescued animals. Tahlia truly has captured the caring and philanthropic spirit of Bakersfield with her creation of All Seated in a Barn.
Growing up, George Giumarra always had an interest in collecting. It all began with railway date nails and has since expanded into a vast personal collection. When he was in Las Vegas, he found himself in an antique store. "I saw all kinds of things which I never knew existed," George stated. "The only thing I recognized was barbed wire, some nails, and other junk that had come up along the way." He became fascinated with old west antiques, and gambling antiques, due to their bright and colorful appearance.
Part of a farming family, George has attended agricultural conferences nationwide over the years and has taken the time at each of his stops to look around for unique antiques. One of the most prized possessions in his collection is a roulette wheel created from the 1893 Worlds Fair, a display piece of elaborate design with reverse-painted glass.
George finds joy in bringing together pieces from the past and has formed one of the country's largest antique gambling device collections.