Donald Lewis: Bike renovator, handyman and Loaves & Fishes volunteer

Donald Lewis delights in bringing new life to objects that are in disrepair.

He volunteers at Friendship Park on Wednesday and Friday, the Loaves & Fishes maintenance shed on Tuesday and Thursday and then Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon at the Bicycle Kitchen.

Donald has refurbished his 1970’s era, 9 foot chopper cruiser bike himself. It has a radio with speakers attached to its handle.

A relative newcomer to Sacramento, he  recently rode his chopper all the way to historic Folsom. Originally from Woodland, Colorado, he is enamored with Sacramento’s bike trails.

“I taught myself how to ride a bicycle when I was 7 years old and have been building and riding bicycles ever since,” Donald said.

He bikes to Loaves & Fishes from his home in Tahoe Park nearly every day.

Donald said the most important lesson, he has learned in life has been how to approach others with the desire to learn from them.

He knows intimately what it is like to be judged for his demeanor and physique rather than for his intellect or talent.

“People have a tendency to judge me because I stutter and walk with a limp” he said. “They don’t immediately notice my talents or intellect.”

“The Loaves & Fishes staff smile every time I show up – that makes me feel welcome because I feel like I am a part of their family,” he said.

“There are a lot of really good people at Loaves & Fishes that care for a lot of people here,” Donald said. “There are a lot of people with psych problems who would have nowhere else to go if it wasn’t for this community of people who care so much.”

Gimme Shelter



“Gimme Shelter”

Oh, a storm is threatening

My very life today

If I don’t get some shelter

Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

         Rolling Stones (1969)

All that glitters is not gold.  Think about it.  We live in the Golden State, under the capitol’s golden dome and now have the new Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings. That’s a lot of gold, but for Sacramento’s “Second City” homeless there is no gold or for that matter little that glitters. The Second City homeless are the thousands of homeless men, women and children that have no permanent place to sleep.

If there is any doubt about the existence of the Second City homeless, all one has to do is take an early morning walk along the “Kay”, downtown’s K Street Mall, a stretch of seven blocks that runs from Sacramento’s Convention Center to the Downtown Plaza, home of the Golden 1 Center.

It is the morning after a heavy rain. I can’t help but notice all the new stores and businesses on the Kay.  There is a lot of construction going on, part of the urban plan for Sacramento’s revitalization.  This morning I also see many homeless in improvised, makeshift doorway shelters.  

A lot of money is being poured into the revitalization of downtown Sacramento and the Kay.  However, these images suggest that Sacramento’s Second City homeless is seeing little, if any, of the Capitol’s new capital.  Perhaps, some of that new money will trickle down to the Second City homeless, but the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” keeps playing in my head.   

Wally’s 74th birthday heralds a reunion

On March 21st, 2017, Wally Stoves, a regular at Friendship Park, turned 74 years old. His former coworkers, Andy Smillick and Bob Taylor came to the park to celebrate his birthday with a cake in tow.

Wally has been experiencing homelessness for the past 25 years and this was the first time they connected since he started living on the streets. The three men worked together for the city before Wally had a tragic motorcycle accident that resulted in a brain injury.

Wally was brought to the window of the coffee shack  and Andy and Bob surprised him with cake. The sweet confection went quickly on the rainy day as the old friends reminisced in the coffee shack.






“It’s refreshing,” Wally said of the surprise. “I like seeing the old friends. We go back to some crazy times.”

Wally likes to come to Friendship Park to people watch. The best lesson that he’s gleaned from life is learning how take everything one day at time.

Lots of laughter was shared by the old acquaintances who will reunite in a few days for a work reunion in El Dorado Hills.

Stark Contrast – Which city is better served by its columnist?

I am so saddened by the lack of compassion in Marcos Breton’s Sunday column: The price downtown Sacramento is paying for Mayor Steinberg’s homeless crusade

Contrast it with Steve Lopez’s column in the Los Angeles Times a day later: A true L.A. hero: For people dying on L.A. streets, he offers help, and he won’t take no for an answer

Los Angeles has approved a $1.2 million dollar housing bond to help homeless people and is about to vote on a $.25 cent sales tax for homeless services. Businesses and developers strongly support the measure: Developers join the campaign for quarter-cent sales tax to fund homeless services

Here in Sacramento, Mayor Steinberg is fighting to win approval for an allocation of housing choice vouchers and crafting an ambitious mix of government (federal, state and local) and private (Sutter Health and others) funding to provide supportive services for homeless and at risk people.

Breton offers no constructive suggestions; Steve Lopez captures the humanity and suffering of the destitute on the streets and supports Los Angeles bond and sales tax. Which city is better served by its columnist?

Sacramento deserves better.

Joan Burke
Director of Advocacy
Loaves & Fishes