From the e-mails and voice mails, Independence Day Eve version:
RAILROAD REDUX Last year, I wrote about how Modesto resident Robert Zimmerman and his sons built a toy train layout for a young train enthusiast who suffers from a skin condition.
The Zimmermans asked local retailers to donate or discount items, and they presented the elaborate layout to little Joshua Hagerty in time for Christmas.
Mike McReynolds of Modesto donated the train. The Home Depot and other retailers kicked in the materials. The Zimmermans did the work as a father-and-sons project.
The Zimmermans volunteer their time at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which was on the state parks closure list but got at least a temporary reprieve through a grant from the Sonora Area Foundation and a partnership with Tuolumne County. The park must continue to raise funds, though. So the Zimmermans got Modesto Hobby to discount another train, track, etc., and The Home Depot to donate more materials.
Today, they'll begin building another layout, and will raffle it off with the proceeds going to benefit Railtown. Zimmerman said he hopes to have the layout completed and on display at Railtown by Aug. 4, when raffle tickets ($5 each or five for $20) go on sale. The winning ticket will be selected Oct. 6.
"I know this is only a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps and it's a great project," Zimmerman said. "There is so much history at Railtown, and you get to meet people from all over the world that come to visit."
RESCUE ME There have been numerous animal rescue organizations over the years, but this might be a first: Trinkets Memorial Rabbit Sanctuary in Ceres. Randy Koga rescues stray domestic rabbits, spays or neuters them, and trains them to use a litter box. Then he takes them to the Petco store on Evergreen Avenue in Modesto with hopes of finding new families for them.
"I currently have 44 bunnies living in my house," Koga wrote in an e-mail.
Among them is Madison, whom Koga describes as "a celebrity bunny in the bunny hugging community and has fans all over the world."
Injuries cost Madison both of her rear legs. Donations totaled more than $4,000 for her operations, prompting Koga to create Trinkets as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Find his Facebook page by Googling Trinkets Memorial Rabbit Sanctuary or call (209) 589-1750.
WATCHDOG OF A DIFFERENT SORT Candy Iler of Modesto spent 30 years on local radio under the air name of Kandy West. She now suffers from a number of serious physical ailments and needs oxygen at night. The problem, she said, is that she continues to have seizures that dislodge her tubing. If the oxygen gets too low, it affects her brain and vital organs. Her daughter has revived her on several occasions, but can't be with her 24-7. So the answer, Iler said, is an "alert" dog trained to wake her in the event she pulls off her tubing.
An alert dog costs $6,500, she said, and there's an 18- to 24-month wait, but the severity of her illness has bumped her to the top of the list, with the next dogs becoming available in September. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so at the Bank of the West to an account called "A Dog for Candy." The account is overseen by a three-person committee that distributes the funds on her behalf.
BY THE TIME HE GETS TO PHOENIX
We get way too many calls from people who want stories about their AWOL cats and dogs. This pet perplexation, though, merits a mention. Sam, a 70-pound Sulcata tortoise, escaped his La Loma neighborhood back yard Friday, owner Amy Edwards Altadonna said. Someone found him and tried to return him, but she wasn't home. Then, Sam bolted from the finder's back yard as well. He's on the loose, last spotted at Ellis Street headed west toward Phoenix Avenue. If you see him, you can reach Edwards Altadonna at (831) 915-7483 or at email@example.com.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2383.