County Connection's free senior, disabled rides

County Connection's board of directors recently approved a promotional free ride program for senior and disabled riders in the middle of the day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week on any County Connection regular or express fixed-route service. This will begin Dec. 22.

"County Connection is responding to a need in our community for reliable transportation options for the elderly and persons with disabilities," said County Connection Board Chair and Walnut Creek Councilman Bob Simmons said in a news release. "Because this group is often living on a fixed income, we are pleased to offer this Free Ride Program during the midday, in addition to our already reduced rates to ride at other times of the day."

To take advantage of the Free Ride Program, riders need to show bus operators proof of eligibility. People with a photo ID showing a birth date of 65 years of age or older, or a senior Clipper card qualify for the senior pricing. Eligible disabled passengers need an RTC Discount Card, DMV placard registration receipt, a Medicare Card, or a Veteran Disability card.

The Free Ride Program will be offered by County Connection for a period of six months, after which officials will study at the possibility of extending the program.

For more information go to countyconnection.com or call 925-676-7500.

Holiday Toy Drive ends Thursday


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Spread the magic of the holidays by donating toys for underprivileged children. The Walnut Creek Police Department is accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for children up to 15 years old through Thursday. Bring the toys to City Hall, 1666 N. Main Street. Call Officer David Rangel, 925-943-5899 ext. 7678.

Celebration of the century to begin with 'roaring' party

Walnut Creek incorporated on Oct. 21, 1914, so come the new year the city will be celebrating all year long its centennial.

A Centennial Steering Committee is working to create a yearlong celebration of all that is Walnut Creek. Partnering with nonprofits, city programs and other community members, there will be "100 Ways and More" to commemorate the 100th.

To learn more about this community-funded, community-led celebration, go to walnutcreek100.com.

The first celebration will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight Jan. 24, when the Lesher Center holds "Flappers and Flasks: Roaring in the Centennial." This adults-only party will re-create the Lesher into a 1900s speakeasy as a kickoff to the centennial celebration. Attendees can eat and dance the night away. Cocktail attire and festive costumes are welcome. The cost is $100 per person -- and free to anyone 100 years or older. Tickets are on sale now call 925-946-SHOW or lesherartscenter.org.

Diablo Ballet holiday singalong Dec. 20

Walnut Creek-based Diablo Ballet will celebrate the holidays with song at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20 at the Steinway Piano Gallery, 1605 Bonanza St, Walnut Creek.

Those who come will ring in the holidays with an evening of dance led by Diablo Ballet ballerina Rosselyn Ramirez, and beloved Nutcracker characters, and holiday and "Nutcracker" songs with pianists and singers, including Diablo Ballet's Lee Foster and Justin Levitt, executive director and manager of the Steinway Piano Gallery and a concert pianist. There also will be food, wine, and punch and cookies for children.

Tickets are $20 each, or 3 for $50. Donation will be earmarked toward Diablo Ballet's $20,000 year-end matching donation campaign, which benefits the Ballet and its PEEK Outreach Program, which provides in-school movement and music curriculum and free performances to students with limited opportunities to experience the performing arts.

Sandbag stations open for winter

Walnut Creek has opened its sandbag stations earlier than ever. Sandbags and sand are provided; bring a shovel.

Sandbag stations are at the following locations -- the Heather Farm Park Community Center parking lot; the Howe Homestead Park parking lot; Lancaster Road across from Orchard Lane; and the Larkey Park parking lot.

County Connection's annual food drive

County Connection is using its many bus wheels to collect food, as the transit agency asks its riders to donate nonperishable food to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

For two weeks that began Dec. 2, County Connection buses will become rolling collection points for passengers wishing to spread some holiday cheer by donating food.

The annual tradition, which began nearly 30 years ago, brings much-needed food to the community. Last year, County Connection passengers and employees contributed over 1,100 pounds of food to the food bank.

All County Connection buses have plastic milk crates placed near the front of the bus to hold donations. Road supervisors will be on call to meet buses on the road and empty crates that become full. The most needed items are protein sources like peanut butter and canned meats; any canned goods; dried beans, rice, pastas and iron-rich cereal; tomato products; and 100-percent-fruit juices.

Food Bank officials ask that no glass container goods be donated, as they easily break during transportation and sorting.

"I'm very grateful to have a longtime partnership with County Connection," said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano in a news release. "The need for nutritious, wholesome food grows each year, and it's good to know that County Connection will help feed people at the same time they are transporting people."

Lounge going for later hours

Sports lounge and bar Blu 42 in the former Vice Ultra Lounge spot on Arroyo Way is trying to go late-night. Owners are set to ask the Planning Commission at its Thursday meeting to extend the hours alcohol and food can be served from 11 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Establishments wanting later hours has been a big issue for the city, with police saying they can't handle any more restaurants open past 11 p.m. because it strains police service.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in council chamber 1666 N. Main St.

All-abilities playground donation bricks available

Personalized commemorative bricks for the entry way at the new All Abilities Playground at Heather Farm Park are now available through the Walnut Creek Civic Pride Foundation.

This new playground is being designed to fully address the needs of all children, and is expected to open in October 2014. The foundation is raising private funds to complete the playground with benches, shade structures, and shock-absorbent, resilient surface designed to make the playground fully accessible and optimally safe for all children.

After the City Council widened the scope of the project, the fundraising goal has increased to $320,000, by March 31. The first $50,000 in donations will be matched by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation through a community challenge grant.

To make a donation, go to the foundation's website at www.wccivicpride.org. Or, send a check, payable to WCCPF, to WCCPF, P.O. Box 31156, Walnut Creek, CA 94598. The Walnut Creek Civic Pride Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and all donations are fully tax deductible.

Local student's poster in worldwide Lions contest

A poster created by an Alamo student is the Rossmoor Lions Club's entry in the Lions Clubs International 26th annual Peace Poster Contest.

Jeanna Shaw, a sixth-grader at The Dorris Eaton School in Walnut Creek, made the peace-themes poster that will now be judged in a district competition, one of several levels before it could be considered as a world finalist. More than 375,000 posters were submitted for the contest overall.

Jeanna's poster was selected by the school's faculty for its "originality, artistic merit and reflection of the theme "Our World, Our Future."

American Legion crab feed Dec. 15

A crab feed for area members of American Legion Post 517 in Lafayette will be held Sunday, Dec. 15, with a social hour at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6.

The feed will take place at the Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette.

The cost is $40 per person. Checks can be sent to American Legion Post 517, Box 324, Lafayette, CA 94549. For more questions, call Dom Sidari at 925-376-1511.

Helen Diller award nominations open

The Helen Diller Family Foundation is accepting nominations for the 2014 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, a $36,000 award that recognizes up to 10 Jewish teens who are spearheading volunteer service projects in their communities and beyond.

Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller--the quiet force behind the awards--started the prestigious awards program in 2007 to support California Jewish teens, and just last year expanded the program nationally. To date, the program has recognized 40 Jewish teens across the country with nearly $1.5 million dollars to support their education and philanthropic visions.

Talia Young, 18, of Lafayette was one of the 10 2013 winners. Teens may be nominated by any community member who knows the value of their project -- except a family member -- or teens can also nominate themselves. Complete a nomination form at www.dillerteenawards.org

For more information, email dillerteenawards@sfjcf.org or call 415-512-6432.

-- Compiled by Elisabeth Nardi.