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Assemblymember Thurmond honors Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest park ranger

March 2, 2016

by Opio Dupree

Sacramento – Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) honored Ms. Betty Reid Soskin, 94, a Richmond resident and the nation’s oldest full-time park ranger in a ceremony Feb.12. She was honored by Assemblymember Thurmond and members of the California Legislative Black Caucus as an “Unsung Hero” – the Black History Month honoree from Assembly District 15.

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond proudly escorts Betty Reid Soskin during the Black History Month Ceremony in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond proudly escorts Betty Reid Soskin during the Black History Month Ceremony in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento.

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin (née Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun-Creole African-American family that settled in the East Bay after the historic floods that devastated New Orleans in 1927. Her parents joined her maternal grandfather, George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I.

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin attended local schools, graduating from Castlemont High during the World’s Fair at Treasure Island.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond honored Ms. Betty Reid Soskin, 94, a Richmond resident and the nation’s oldest full-time park ranger in a ceremony Feb.12.

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin worked in a segregated union hall, Boilermakers A-36, during World War II as a file clerk. In 1945, she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a still-existing small Berkeley music store – Reid’s Records. Ms. Soskin has since held positions as staff to a Berkeley city council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly: former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and Sen. Loni Hancock.

In 1995, she was named a “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature. In 2005, she was named one of the nation’s ten outstanding women, “Builders of communities and dreams” by the National Women’s History Project, in ceremonies in both Griffiths Park in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C.

Assemblymember Thurmond said: “I’m honored to know Ms. Soskin and share her commitment to social justice. As a great-granddaughter of a slave, she sees her job as a park ranger as more than preservation, but as an advocate sending a message to all young girls of color that they too can choose this profession as a career.”

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin was honored by Assemblymember Thurmond and members of the California Legislative Black Caucus as an “Unsung Hero” – the Black History Month honoree from Assembly District 15.

Most recently, Ms. Betty Reid Soskin was invited by President Obama to join him in the 2015 National Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

She is currently employed as a park ranger for the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, assigned to civic engagement and community outreach.

‘No child should go hungry’

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, has introduced AB 2054, Summer EBT for Children (SEBTC). The bill would prepare California to implement SEBTC, a model proven to decrease chronic hunger by providing nutrition assistance for the purchase of groceries when school is out of session and school meals are not available. As federal legislators and the Obama administration expand SEBTC, state lawmakers must prepare to harness those resources for California.

“As a parent, I see first-hand how important it is for children to have nutritious meals every single day, no matter the time of year,” stated Assemblymember Thurmond. “All kids deserve a chance to thrive – and they have to be well nourished in order to do so. Now is the time to act on Summer EBT for Children. California must seize the opportunities ahead of us or our kids will miss out.”

No child should go hungry, especially in a state that grows more than half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. Yet, in California, two in every five low-income households with children cannot consistently afford enough food. Meanwhile, nearly three million of our state’s low-income students miss out on meals served by federally funded summer lunch programs.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond has introduced AB 2054, Summer EBT for Children (SEBTC). “As a parent, I see first-hand how important it is for children to have nutritious meals every single day, no matter the time of year,” stated Assemblymember Thurmond.

Sometimes complex problems like child hunger have clear solutions. Federal demonstration projects have shown that SEBTC decreases hunger during the summer months. In fact, SEBTC eliminates the most severe form of food insecurity for one-third of children who would otherwise experience it.

“California’s summer nutrition gap has persisted for over a decade. When and where existing summer meal programs are able to reach kids, they offer valuable resources. But the evidence is clear, we need multiple solutions to summer hunger – and SEBTC decreases food insecurity while improving children’s diets,” stated George Manalo-LeClair, executive director of California Food Policy Advocates, the bill’s sponsor.

AB 2054 would direct State agencies to design an SEBTC system, building upon the state’s existing EBT technology, and pursue all available federal authority and funding to operate SEBTC. These changes will help connect low-income children with the food they need year-round to learn, grow and achieve.

More information about AB 2054, summer hunger, and SEBTC is available at www.cfpa.net/AB2054.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond represents the 15th Assembly District, comprised of the cities of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Hercules, Kensington, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Tara Hills and a portion of Oakland. Opio Dupree, chief of staff for Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, can be reached at Opio.Dupree@asm.ca.gov.

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