Greetings from Bakersfield Book

Greetings from Bakersfield Book

Greetings From Bakersfield California

“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.


Rick Kreiser

Rick Kreiser, the founder of Guitar Masters, has a lot to say about Bakersfield and the value of relationships. Rick, like many others, believes that what makes Bakersfield special is the people within it, and that the close-knit community feeling comes from people that are willing to branch out and form bonds with those around them. That is part of what makes Guitar Masters so unique. Its goal is to provide world-class guitarists in an intimate setting. In many ways, this is representative of the Bakersfield community: world-class people in a close-knit environment. According to Rick, every person, including the talented guitarists whom he brings to Bakersfield, are part of a larger tapestry. "When you look at the back of a tapestry," Rick stated, "you don't understand all the knots and the threads. But when you turn it around, you can see the beautiful picture that all of the threads have created."

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


Fay Zuccato

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

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

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.


Bobby Maitia

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

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.


Linda Griess

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.


Vince Fong

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."


Hank Pfister

Hank Pfister Jr. never imagined himself growing up to play the biggest tournaments in all of tennis. He'd been swinging old wooden rackets for as long as he could remember, coached by his legendary father. He then played for San Jose State but said he had no aspirations of turning pro. However, in his junior year of college he advanced past three qualifying rounds to make it into his first Association of Tennis Professionals tournament. "I didn't even know at the time what ATP stood for," he laughed. There, at the famed Cow Palace indoor arena in the Bay Area, he defeated Stan Smith, formerly the number one player in the world. Two years later, he handed a defeat to another one of the greatest players in tennis - Jimmy Connors. It was one of only three matches Connors lost that year and a crowning achievement for Pfister. He continued to tour as a regular on the pro circuit, winning the doubles title at the French Open twice, and then continuing to play in the senior division at Wimbledon throughout his regular career. In 1983, he was ranked 19th in the world. Today, he oversees the program his father started at Stockdale Country Club and is an advocate for the sport of tennis locally.

Diane Lake

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.


Karen Goh

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.


Jeremy Adams

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

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."


Lonnie McConnel

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."


Russell Judd

Russell Judd, currently the Chief Executive Officer of Kern Medical Center, is not a native to Bakersfield. He came to Bakersfield at the start of his healthcare career and worked briefly at KMC before moving away. However, he was eventually drawn back to this community - which he summed up with the word "caring" - and returned to act as CEO of Mercy Hospitals before assuming his current leadership position at KMC. Judd has a very positive outlook on the healthcare quality and accessibility here in Bakersfield. In addition to his professional contributions to the community, Judd also participates in the community in his private life by serving leadership positions in his church, Rotary, and multiple health organizations. Judd is a father of five and grandfather of four, and he has enjoyed raising his family here. "One of the key elements about Bakersfield is that first and foremost, it's a family town," Judd says. "It's a place where families are treated with respect, where families are appreciated." This sentiment, shared by many who live here, truly captures the essence of what makes Bakersfield such a caring community.

Krystyna Jamieson

Following in the footsteps of her father and sister, Kryssy Jamieson chose what felt like a natural career path, becoming a lawyer. Practicing now for 29 years, her passion for the law led her to a focus on business law, personal injury, and insurance defense. Yet she soon realized her real passion was in helping others, and has been able to put her legal expertise to work with the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance. She'll tell you her greatest passion is her family - her husband and three children. Which reminds her of the critical needs some families less fortunate have in this community. With this in mind, Kryssy and husband Lee formed The Lee & Krystyna Jamieson Recovery Home for Women & Children, an 18-month addiction recovery program. This program help mothers going through the recovery process maintain critical bonds with their children by continuing to live with them. While residing in the home, these women also learn useful life skills, such as how to use a computer, build a resume, and even cooking. Kryssy also helps these recovering mothers find homes for them and their families. She has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the State Bar of California, and continuing that driving force to always do better, Kryssy currently works as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). People like Kryssy move to a city like Bakersfield, yet end up with a community instead. "Although our city continues to grow in size, she says, "it will always feel like a small town."

Marko Zaninovich

Marko Zaninovich

Marko Zaninovich

Marko was born in Bakersfield, raised in Delano, and has worked in multiple states and countries. Leaving Kern County for college, Marko worked in a number of locations before returning home to become a part of his multi-generational grape-growing family business. "I had the desire to get back to Bakersfield and work with people that I really cared about, and work with people who cared about me." By taking the experience he gained from around the country, Marko worked his way into management; he loves being a part of managing the business because he believes the positive attitude shared by the people of Bakersfield isn't replicated in many other places. Marko is a strong believer in the opportunity and access one has here: "Sunshine, water, dirt: those are the three things this part of the world provides. Great things are created here because of what we have access to. Companies such as Grimmway and Wonderful, and brands such as Halos and Cuties - that is what this part of the world is generating. This is where the food comes from, and you gotta, you gotta have food."

Edyta Grant

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

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

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

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.


George Giumarra

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.


Mike McCoy

If you live in Kern County, chances are you've been to the Kern County Museum. It's a place full of cultural history and opportunities to learn about our community, encapsulating the spirit of our county, and the man running the show is Director Mike McCoy.
Mike grew up in Bakersfield and exhibited leadership talents early on. He was his high school's band conductor, and also participated in activities like theater, football, track, and wrestling. In college, his proficiency in music led him to tour with the University of California Santa Barbara as a singer, which helped to pay for his college tuition.
His career history is equally as varied and colorful. It began in the oil industry, yet he also was a teacher, a school superintendent, and even a journalist on the Ivory Coast in West Africa. When he eventually moved back to Bakersfield, he was asked to be a member of the
Kern County Museum Board. Eventually, he became the director. "We are so blessed to have one of the most beautiful and important museums in California here in Bakersfield. We're working hard to be the stewards of our county's history." Although fairly new to the role, Mike thoroughly enjoys it and is looking forward to improving the museum and helping to preserve our county's rich history.

Marjorie Blake

Born and raised in London, Marjorie Blake moved to Bakersfield with her husband Oscar during the late 70's. Upon her arrival, Marjorie began to embrace the community and pursue new challenges. Once she became settled in her new home, Marjorie adopted her first Chocolate Labrador, selecting the breeder's choice pick. "I'm a quick learner, and I am not a person to interrupt somebody who's giving me advice," Marjorie explained. That Chocolate Lab turned out to be the most winning Chocolate in the history of the breed in the United States.
Since that first historic dog, Marjorie has raised and shown countless champions and provided many Bakersfield families with lovable pets over the past four decades. She has bred Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, benefiting the community with her excellent dogs and her uncanny ability to make friends with everyone she interacts with. According to Marjorie, "You'll never find a boring person in Bakersfield. You have to blame yourself if you can't take the interest to get to know a person and encourage them as an individual to communicate with you. If you ever find anything to be boring, that's your problem." Marjorie continues to pursue her passion and meet new people.

Kelly Atkinson

It is often said that one can never go home again, but Kelly Atkinson has proven one can, and with purpose and passion. The Bakersfield native returned home after finishing studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and began to stumble upon the gems hidden in her own backyard. "There are these crazy, little places in Bakersfield that are so magical," she said. "To see one of them when I walked in the Edible Schoolyard gate, and saw the beautiful garden and incredible learning kitchen, I thought, 'I'm going to be here for awhile.'"
As Program Administrator for the Edible Schoolyard Kern County, Kelly oversees the program that teaches students how to grow their own food and prepare it in simple and nutritious ways, giving them invaluable life skills and instilling healthy eating habits. "We're getting them to eat kale and broccoli, getting nutrients into their bodies while they're having fun. The kids are learning and don't even know it," she said. Many parents credit the Edible Schoolyard with changing their lives at home, she added. "Instead of Oreo's, the kids want salads and are teaching their parents the skills they learned in the Edible Schoolyard."
"I love Bakersfield. I love the people and that it is a place where you can be innovative. The sky is the limit here. You can start something and know the community is going to support you. I believe the community and the people are the heart of Bakersfield."

Steven Murray

Steven Murray, a Bakersfield native, graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a double major in plant science and Chinese language and with a minor in agronomy. He grows over 500 species of 2,000 varieties of fruits and has amassed the largest private collection of fruit and plant species in the Western United States.
Speaking five languages fluently and having traveled to over 60 countries, Steven remembers one of his favorite travel moments: "One of the craziest experiences I've had is when I was a student at Peking University. I was invited to go on a student agricultural expedition to Xinjiang, which is the Northwestern province on the border between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. Several other students and I, along with members of the Chinese government, explored the region. I was the only foreign student included on that trip."
"I enjoy exploring new places in the world, witnessing the diversity of humanity, understanding unique people, and admiring geologic features. However, no matter where I go, I always come back to Bakersfield. I really think it's beautiful here, and a lot of people take for granted how pretty it is having mountains around the entire valley. Sunsets here are some of the best sunsets I've seen. And as they say, if it wasn't for our mild winters and hot summers, Bakersfield would be the best place to live."

Rachel Magnus

Bakersfield hasn't always been considered an art Mecca, but today, the local art community is thriving, thanks in large part to the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the only accredited art museum in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Overseeing its forward-thinking exhibitions is its curator Rachel Magnus.
A graduate of California State University Bakersfield with a degree in art history, Rachel has been with the museum a number of years. When the last curator left for the Los Angeles Museum of Art, despite a nationwide search, BMoA didn't have to look far for its next curator.
Not only does Rachel choose pieces for future exhibitions, sometimes years out, she is also the custodian of the museum's vast collection, much of which is in storage. Creating events and programs to further engage residents in the arts is one of her favorite parts of the job, as well as developing relationships with people she might not have otherwise met. "I do think that our environment here is rapidly changing. Just our downtown alone, there are so many creatives that are showing their talents, not only through art but through the unique restaurants and shops people have opened."
As Bakersfield and its arts community continue to grow, Rachel Magnus fosters an appreciation for creativity and expression at the gem that is the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

Brittney Beck

At California State University Bakersfield, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Dr. Brittney Beck found something special after graduating from the University of Florida - where she earned a Master's degree in science education and a Ph.D. in curriculum instruction: a deep sense of community kinship that initiates and develops a deeper impact. Dr. Beck emphasized, "The connection between the university, school districts, and broader community is stronger than any place I've worked."
"There is such a fiber-network of grassroots community action, in education specifically. There's a real commitment to disrupting inequity, advancing justice, and trying to help marginalized populations by restructuring what we do as a system of education," she said. "I haven't experienced that deep level of partnership and commitment anywhere else."
As Faculty Fellow with CSUB's Kegley Institute of Ethics, Dr. Beck is building the capacity of the CSU Bakersfield Department of Teacher Education by developing the Citizen Scientist Project, which was made possible by a 5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education. For more than a decade she has advocated for the civic engagement of teachers and students. "At the elementary level, in particular, I'm hoping that every teacher candidate that graduates our program not only values science and social studies but understands their role in helping to foster their students as citizens in a pluralistic democracy," Beck explained.

Monsignor Craig Harrison

Monsignor Craig Harrison is arguably one of Bakersfield's most recognizable residents. Born and raised here, he attended Bakersfield High School before heading to UCLA, where he received a degree in Business and Economics. He attended the Seminary at St. Johns in Camarillo and was ordained in 1987.
After serving in parishes in Firebaugh and Mojave, he was assigned to his childhood parish of St. Francis of Assisi. "I never thought I wanted to come back to Bakersfield, but it's when you get away from it that you begin to really respect it. For me to be back here in the town I grew up in is very special," said Monsignor Craig. "I feel like this is home. No matter where I go, and whether I'm wearing my collar or not, it's my home. Bakersfield is my family."
The parish's outreach is extensive. The Children's Center offers free summer camp to 300 kids in the area. At Christmas, parishioners bring gifts to more than 500 families, an activity started by a 12-year-old boy. Every Monday night at the Church over 200 people are fed, thanks to a high-schooler who asked to hand out sack lunches to the homeless. "That is the generosity of Bakersfield. That is what I love about this town. You show initiative and you will get people to back it."

Lori Malkin

Lori Malkin, founder of JJ's Legacy, has turned tragedy into triumph through her outreach programs that help inform and inspire high school students to "get the dot" and become organ donors. Her son, Jeffrey Johns, passed away in a tragic accident in 2009. Since that incident, Jeffrey has saved the lives of five people in need of organ transplants and healed 50 others through tissue donation.
The mission of JJ's Legacy is to honor Jeffrey by educating Kern County residents on the value and importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, increasing the number of registered donors, and providing compassionate support to donor and recipient families. Lori stated, "The money we raise helps donor-recipient families with their medical bills and expenses, and we also help them get back and forth to their transplant facility."
JJ's Legacy has not only increased awareness in the community, but it has impacted hundreds of lives by encouraging individuals to give the gift of life.

Colleen McGauley

To Colleen, "Bakersfield is all about the community." Originally from Southern California, Colleen quickly learned through her volunteer activities that in Bakersfield, accessibility - from small shop owners to large corporations and all the way up to the mayor - was relatively easy and always welcoming. While her hobbies consist of knitting and learning to play new instruments, her consuming passion has been spearheading the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) organization for the last 24 years, 17 of which she has served as Director.
Colleen earned her Master's degree in public administration at CSUB and brought that experience back to CASA, creating a first in the state economic report that greatly benefited the entire CASA organization. Colleen has had an impact on thousands of children's lives by helping them find homes, but most importantly, families. A memory she holds dear is when a 17-year old that had been through multiple foster homes asked her, "You mean I can actually have a family?" Coming from a childhood of feeling powerless, Colleen has learned to stay strong and channel her energy into helping others. Bakersfield is fortunate to have her as part of our community.

Kirk Urata

Having coached a total of 17 years of Science Bowl at different high schools, Kirk Urata, born in Los Angeles, California, has been a science teacher and Science Bowl coach at West High School for six years. Science has interested him since he was a child because it "explores and seeks answers."
Although he is very passionate about the sciences, one of Kirk's biggest passions is coin collecting: "My favorite coin out of all the coins I have collected is a penny from World War II. It was given to me by my uncle when I was in high school. The penny is special because copper was an important material that was needed in the war, so instead of making them out of copper or aluminum alloy, the mint made these pennies out of a cheaper material like tin or steel."
Having lived in a variety of places, Kirk describes his thoughts about Bakersfield: "Here in Bakersfield, we're about a couple hours away from a beach, a lake, and the mountains, so the location as far as getting away to do things has been very convenient. Bakersfield is unique in the sense that when we first moved here, it had this small town feeling, but as it continues to grow, it has kept that small town feeling and that's truly amazing."

Stan & Ginnie Eschner

It was the Oil Industry that brought Stan and Ginnie Eschner to Bakersfield more than 60 years ago, but it was the community and its generosity that kept them here. "I wanted to be a geologist in mechanical engineering and ended up here in 1958," he said. "We really liked it and we never moved away."
They immediately immersed themselves in the community. Ginnie joined the Junior League of Bakersfield, Stan became a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, and the couple participated in Rotary. They were also instrumental in starting the popular holiday light show attraction at the California Living Museum. "Bakersfield is full of very good, generous people," Ginnie said. "There are so many good organizations like the Bakersfield Museum of Art. This is Bakersfield - the people are its heart and soul."
In fact, the Eschners are synonymous with the local art community; art enthusiasts themselves, the two have been tremendous supporters. "We have always been interested in art," Stan said. "The first painting we got was from when I was in the military in 1957." Everywhere they traveled they purchased a painting, and today the walls of their home are covered from floor to ceiling with artwork.
Ginnie's favorite piece, the "Picnic Series" by Ronald Peterson, hangs prominently. "I love the colors, the way the artist brings all the lines together. The people are important, but they are a part of their whole environment," she said. "That reminds me of Bakersfield."