El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Albert H. Fulcher

Well it is that time of year again and our local city and community pageants are gearing up to find next year’s ambassadors to represent their communities. In my time here, I have found that these pageants do so much for our young women than the opportunity to wear a tiara or hold a title. These titles come with a lot of responsibility, a chance for learning, and for the younger pageant titleholders, a wonderful chance to learn from some great mentors.

It has been a hectic but wonderful December in East County, and at home. There is so much going on it is nearly impossible to keep up with it. But some exciting things have happened that we haven’t covered that deserves some recognition.

Now home to fine dining at a moderate cost Lemon Grove should be thrilled with its newest edition of restaurants, Giardino Neighborhood Cucina. A dream for the Lemon Grove couple, Karina Kravalis and Marco Provino, both have extensive experience in fine dining in the restaurant industry. Chef Marco trained in his homeland of Sicily and brought his art of Sicilian cooking to America where he met his wife. They decided to utilize their talents in creating a one-of-a-kind family restaurant and could think of no better place than where they lived.

Well, delivery is now in full swing after months of preparation. There are so many organizations here in East County sending packages of joy to families in need, they are too many to mention. The generosity that this region carries on this time of year astounds me. Many families are having a much merrier Christmas because of the time and effort made by all of the volunteer organizations, chambers, churches and philanthropists that make this all possible.

Families in need will be recipients of the 30th Taste of Santee sponsored by the Santee Chamber of Commerce, a joint community effort in support of Santee Santas. Held at Toyota Certified Center of Santee on Dec. 7 hundreds of people gathered to support the efforts of the Santee Santas Foundation to bring more than holiday cheer to children and their families this holiday season.

The Balazs family is well known in its neighborhood for its fantastic musical light display at their house during the holiday season. This is a combined effort by the family with help from some neighbors, friends and family that bring joy to the many people that go to see this fantastic light show every evening. Started by Michael Balazs 10 years ago in loving memory of his father who passed away from cancer in 2009, he began the extravagant light show because Christmas was his father's favorite season of the year.

When I was a young enlisted sailor, it was difficult making ends meet. Even with housing support and all of the benefits like being able to shop at the commissary and the post exchange it was always a paycheck to paycheck way of life. Military housing wasn't available and the extra income of having a family didn't come close to covering the reality of the costs in living in the Virginia area. I had to live many miles away from the naval base, just to find something affordable, which in return gave me several hours of commute daily.

There are many things to be thankful for this year and as chaotic as the holidays are, it is natural to spend much of the time reflecting over what has happened and what is yet to come. I lived in parts of East County for many years and as much as I work out here, in many ways I feel I still do. It used to be only a home, but now it is my friend.

The El Capitan High School Marching Band and the Lakeside pageant ambassadors escorted Santa and Mrs. Claus down Maine Avenue to the Lakeside Historical Society so they could kick off the festivities joining the Lakeside Fire Department in the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. Joining the Lakeside Fire Department, hundreds gathered around the tree to officially kick off the Spirit of Christmas Lakeside as they turned on the lights for the holiday season.

There are no black and white answers when dealing with the homeless population in our cities and communities, but there are ways to help them get a helping hand in getting back on their feet and living productive lives again. There has been much debate going on in the community, and a bit of mutiny against its recent temporary yet strict ordinances on panhandling and the sharing of food in public.