A new year full of volunteering opportunities and community support are in store for everyone.

I recently attended a volunteer orientation at Lindsay Wildlife Museum with 60 other hearty souls. Leading schoolchildren and families on tours sounds like more fun to me than handling snakes, but there is something for everybody interested in preserving wildlife at the Lindsey Museum.

It's fun to try something new!

CASA outreach

Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA, is launching an outreach effort to recruit and train more volunteers. CASA volunteers are ordinary people doing extraordinary work for abused, neglected and abandoned children in our community.

A CASA volunteer speaks up for the best interests of a foster child in court. Many times, the CASA volunteer may be the only consistent and caring adult presence in the life of a child in foster care.

CASA volunteers share the willingness and ability to commit two years and 15-20 hours a month, to a child to make a difference.

Informational sessions offer a clear understanding of what it means to be a CASA volunteer and will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. or 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30; 12:30 to 2 p.m. or 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21; or 12:30 to 2 p.m. or 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 4, at their offices, 2020 N. Broadway, Suite 204, in Walnut Creek.

Call 925-256-7284 ext. 7 to sign up or visit http://cccocasa.org for more information.


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CASA of Contra Costa County conducts three training sessions each year in the fall, winter and spring. Classes are taught by CASA staff, volunteers and experienced professionals from the various disciplines and agencies who work with foster children during the dependency process.

Volunteer training classes are held from 6 to 10 p.m. weekday evenings or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays beginning April 16. Attendance is required for all classes. The application deadline is March 22.

Main Street Martinez

Main Street Martinez is looking for volunteers to help with events and projects this year.

Martinez is a very social city with lots of events to tempt visitors, including an Italian street painting festival, Peddlers' Faires, wine strolls, beer festivals and more.

Join a committee for events and marketing, beautification, business development or the new Downtown Ambassadors, a group of enthusiasts willing to stroll downtown during the week and weekends to greet visitors.

The Main Street Martinez office is located at 649 Main St., Suite 106, or you can visit www.mainstreetmartinez.org or call 925-228-3577.

In remembrance

The response from John Muir Health staff was very heartwarming in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy. Mark Estes photographed more than 400 prayer flags sent to Newtown along with a letter of condolence, courtesy of health organization president and CEO Calvin Knight and the Rev. Birte Beuck, director of pastoral care at John Muir Medical Center in Concord.

The letter, in part, read, "Please know that your community has been in our thoughts and prayers, in particular the families who lost their children and loved ones to this senseless act of violence. It is our deepest hope that you may find comfort in this difficult time.

"As a tangible sign of feeling connected to you, the chaplains at our two hospitals organized a prayer-flag event, during which staff, volunteers and patients' families wrote their messages of support and good wishes for you on little prayer flags."

Those feelings of condolence and support have been echoed around the world.

Contra Costa Historical Society

The Contra Costa County Historical Society is now open for business at its new location, 724 Escobar St. in Martinez. In addition to a number of researchers, recent visitors have included a large number of third-graders from John Swett Elementary School in Martinez.

"Their expressions of delight and awe and curiosity were truly exciting," said Priscilla A. Couden, Ph.D., executive director.

One youngster wanted to know why the old 19th century leather-bound volumes had bumps on the spine. Others were curious about some wood block stamps that were used for printing pictures in the newspapers in the "olden" days.

Moving a collection spanning 162 years and 5,000 square feet of archival materials of the Contra Costa County Historical Society to new quarters was not an easy task. The collection includes more than 13,500 historic photographs, hundreds of copies of county newspapers going back more than a century, bound copies of all Superior Court documents starting in 1850, and much more.

Local Waters Moving and Storage Company and volunteers of the Historical Society worked under Couden's supervision to move all this quickly and in an organized manner so nothing was lost or damaged.

The moving company's experience with carrying out large commercial moving projects came in very handy, as did the engineering skills of board member John Burgh who worked with Couden and consultant Kris Carloff to plot on graph paper where everything would go.

California counties are required by law to permanently keep certain records, including those of the Superior Court.

The Historical Society was provided with space by the county for the center to store those mandated records and many other historical records of the county, first in Pleasant Hill, near the present Pleasant Hill Library and then in the former Hilson's Department Store at 610 Main St.

After almost 30 years, a move became necessary because the county changed its method of support to a yearly stipend, which the society will use toward paying its rent and utilities.

For more information, contact the Contra Costa County Historical Society at www.cocohistory.org, call 925-229-1042 or visit the facility at its new home, 724 Escobar St.

Connect to Sister City

Ever wish you could reach out to someone in a distant country and share their culture? Concord's Sister City program with Kitakami, Japan, offers just such an opportunity.

The nonprofit Concord Ambassadors arranges visits and other activities between Kitakami and Concord, and is actively seeking new members.

In fall of 2014, the group will be preparing for an official visit from a Kitakami delegation. Ambassador members will learn about the culture of Japan and establish relationships with members of the Kitakami community.

Volunteers will host them for four days of festivities, plan a memorable event, arrange homestays for the visitors and raise funds for activities and transportation during the delegation's stay.

In 2019, a delegation of Concord residents will visit Kitakami. To learn more, visit the website at www.concordambassadors.org., or contact City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman at 925-671-3495 or email maryrae.lehman@cityofconcord.org.

Help Literacy Council

The Diablo Valley Literacy Council is looking for volunteers to help non-English speaking adults learn to read, write and speak English.

Tutors work one-on-one to help our Spanish-speaking neighbors and their families become more successfully integrated members of our community.

Training is held in spring and fall at 4000 Clayton Road on two Saturday mornings and one weekday evening.

For more information or to register, call 925-671-3881.

"Good Neighbors" is compiled by Faith Barnidge. Send club and organization news, Scouting items, notices of awards and other submissions to goodneighbors@bayareanewsgroup.com.