CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

What’s the Secret to a Healthy Neighborhood?

Residents Across the Inland Empire
Reflect on What Makes a Community Work

What’s the Secret to a Healthy Neighborhood?

Residents Across the Inland Empire
Reflect on What Makes a Community Work

WHAT MAKES A COMMUNITY HEALTHY? First let’s define that community. For the Inland Empire, the U.S. Census Bureau includes all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, an area of more than 27,000 square miles—nearly three times the size of Massachusetts—with 4 million residents. More conservative definitions limit the region to portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, while the most expansive descriptions include both of those counties in their entirety as well as substantial portions of the deserts beyond. Further disputes arise over the meaning and origins of the name “Empire.” Given this context, thinking about health and wellbeing in terms of “neighborhood” is quaint. Yet, as a new poll from the California Wellness Foundation demonstrates, residents of the Inland Empire, however you define it, take community health seriously. We talked to people across the region about their experiences living and working in communities from Temecula to Riverside and Perris to San Bernardino. Underlying all of the responses was a forward momentum, a shared desire for a healthier future.

Interviews and photography by Bianca Almada, Hattie Hayes, Emma Jones, and Jessica Suerth.
  • AWARENESS AND EDUCATION

    Mona Jabara, 42, dietician in training, Riverside

    The awareness about what it takes to be healthy is very uneven. Some communities understand what to do and have the resources to do it, while others are not even aware they are at risk. This might be because they …

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    The awareness about what it takes to be healthy is very uneven. Some communities understand what to do and have the resources to do it, while others are not even aware they are at risk. This might be because they are focused on working, just getting by, and they don’t even think to ask the question: am I living a healthy life? It might not occur to them that simple things like eating a balanced meal can have a direct effect on your health.

    AWARENESS AND EDUCATION

    Mona Jabara, 42, dietician in training, Riverside

    The awareness about what it takes to be healthy is very uneven. Some communities understand what to do and have the resources to do it, while others are not even aware they are at risk. This might be because they …

  • BETTER EDUCATION STARTING AT AN EARLY AGE

    Cristina Ruiz, 23, office director, San Bernardino

    I’ve always thought that if we get better education for kids—not just high school, but elementary school—it will create a domino effect. Eventually these educated kids will change our city. I think a lot of times …

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    I’ve always thought that if we get better education for kids—not just high school, but elementary school—it will create a domino effect. Eventually these educated kids will change our city. I think a lot of times people don’t realize what’s going on. Or how they’re oppressed. Or that they deserve better. I grew up in poverty. I didn’t even know we were poor until I got older and I started noticing and doing something about it. I believe in prevention, getting to the problem before it even starts. That’s the one thing: better education starting at an early age.

    BETTER EDUCATION STARTING AT AN EARLY AGE

    Cristina Ruiz, 23, office director, San Bernardino

    I’ve always thought that if we get better education for kids—not just high school, but elementary school—it will create a domino effect. Eventually these educated kids will change our city. I think a lot of times …

  • MORE BUSINESS INVESTMENT

    Mike Eckley, 54, police officer, San Bernardino

    San Bernardino is a large city with a large poverty base. It’s been like this for a long time. We suffered greatly when the Air Force and railroad companies …

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    San Bernardino is a large city with a large poverty base. It’s been like this for a long time. We suffered greatly when the Air Force and railroad companies left in the 1990s. It’s a low-income area, there’s more open homelessness, you can’t escape it. The home value has decreased, it’s a dynamic cycle. We need more business investment. We have plenty of space. Once the concrete wave of L.A. expands east, vacant land will fill up and there will be more economic investment to bring people in.

    MORE BUSINESS INVESTMENT

    Mike Eckley, 54, police officer, San Bernardino

    San Bernardino is a large city with a large poverty base. It’s been like this for a long time. We suffered greatly when the Air Force and railroad companies …

  • A COMMUNITY STARTS FROM SMALL PARTS

    Sean Allen, 26, package handler, Corona

    People should know who lives in their communities. People don’t even know who their neighbors are after living in the same neighborhoods for years. I have a park right next to my house, so it’s easier for us to mingle—there are barbecues, a playground, a basketball court. People are more drawn to socialize. The more neighbors you know, …

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    People should know who lives in their communities. People don’t even know who their neighbors are after living in the same neighborhoods for years. I have a park right next to my house, so it’s easier for us to mingle—there are barbecues, a playground, a basketball court. People are more drawn to socialize. The more neighbors you know, the less likely they are to rob your house. A community starts from small parts. You have the single person, then the family, and then the neighborhood, then the city. You have to work your way up. If you don’t know your neighbors you can’t be neighborly. I don’t think you can do anything more to foster that than banging on your neighbors’ doors and saying ‘Hey, how you doing?’ or sparking up casual conversation.

    A COMMUNITY STARTS FROM SMALL PARTS

    Sean Allen, 26, package handler, Corona

    People should know who lives in their communities. People don’t even know who their neighbors are after living in the same neighborhoods for years. I have a park right next to my house, so it’s easier for us to mingle—there are barbecues, a playground, a basketball court. People are more drawn to socialize. The more neighbors you know, …

  • GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE

    Blake Favinger, 29, non-profit employee, Rancho Cucamonga

    I think Jesus and the Holy Spirit will set people free and bring them together. We believe in a spiritual foundation for communities. I came from the streets, I was a heroin addict for nine years, and that’s what drives the changes in my life and what I’m doing now. …

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    I think Jesus and the Holy Spirit will set people free and bring them together. We believe in a spiritual foundation for communities. I came from the streets, I was a heroin addict for nine years, and that’s what drives the changes in my life and what I’m doing now. It’s working with different people and being able to touch their lives. It takes time and effort, but you need to give people a chance. They say only two out of 10 people actually want to change, but those two out of 10 people matter. All people do.

    GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE

    Blake Favinger, 29, non-profit employee, Rancho Cucamonga

    I think Jesus and the Holy Spirit will set people free and bring them together. We believe in a spiritual foundation for communities. I came from the streets, I was a heroin addict for nine years, and that’s what drives the changes in my life and what I’m doing now. …

  • IF ONE FAMILY SUCCEEDS IT HELPS THE REST OF THE COMMUNITY

    Abraham Barba, 22, student, Riverside

    I come from an immigrant background. My parents came from Jalisco. Thank God my dad has his own landscaping business. That helped empower me to work hard. Within Latino communities, there’s still that family unit, that core need to keep the families together. That really helps everybody …

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    I come from an immigrant background. My parents came from Jalisco. Thank God my dad has his own landscaping business. That helped empower me to work hard. Within Latino communities, there’s still that family unit, that core need to keep the families together. That really helps everybody overall. Cousin or uncles and aunts, taking care of the kids. Everybody is interwoven, everybody is there for each other. If one family succeeds it helps the rest of the community succeed.

    IF ONE FAMILY SUCCEEDS IT HELPS THE REST OF THE COMMUNITY

    Abraham Barba, 22, student, Riverside

    I come from an immigrant background. My parents came from Jalisco. Thank God my dad has his own landscaping business. That helped empower me to work hard. Within Latino communities, there’s still that family unit, that core need to keep the families together. That really helps everybody …

  • PEACE AND QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORK DAY

    Keviana Mims, 22, medical administrative assistant in training, Rialto

    I live with my mom in a peaceful neighborhood. It’s nice because it’s quiet and everyone pretty much keeps to themselves. That might not sound too friendly, but I like it. When I get home from work I appreciate …

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    I live with my mom in a peaceful neighborhood. It’s nice because it’s quiet and everyone pretty much keeps to themselves. That might not sound too friendly, but I like it. When I get home from work I appreciate being able to just go into the apartment and feel safe and calm. No worries about any drama.

    PEACE AND QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORK DAY

    Keviana Mims, 22, medical administrative assistant in training, Rialto

    I live with my mom in a peaceful neighborhood. It’s nice because it’s quiet and everyone pretty much keeps to themselves. That might not sound too friendly, but I like it. When I get home from work I appreciate …

  • WE NEED TO GET BACK TO TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES

    Roland Van Syke, 47, teacher, Woodcrest

    Sustainability is important. My wife and I are trying to be self-sufficient, so I’d like to have more animals on my property. Right now, I can only have five animals, and only one can be a pig. I’d like to have more. We need to …

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    Sustainability is important. My wife and I are trying to be self-sufficient, so I’d like to have more animals on my property. Right now, I can only have five animals, and only one can be a pig. I’d like to have more. We need to get back to taking care of ourselves, and farming and having animals is important to that. Our neighbors have chickens—did you know chickens reduce stress?

    WE NEED TO GET BACK TO TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES

    Roland Van Syke, 47, teacher, Woodcrest

    Sustainability is important. My wife and I are trying to be self-sufficient, so I’d like to have more animals on my property. Right now, I can only have five animals, and only one can be a pig. I’d like to have more. We need to …

  • MAKING SURE EVERYBODY IS OKAY

    Jovanna Hernandez, 20, shift leader, Perris

    The secret to a healthy neighborhood is helping each other, and …

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    The secret to a healthy neighborhood is helping each other, and communication. Communication is key. Making sure everybody is okay is important. I wish we had more programs so that we could be more into [the neighborhood.] Some of us don’t really care. It would be good to find ways for us to all get involved. Educational programs would be great, that way parents would be more invested. One word to describe my neighborhood would be quiet. Security has started checking around, so that’s good. They patrol every day. It makes me feel safer because people know about it so I’m pretty sure it prevents them from doing negative things.

    MAKING SURE EVERYBODY IS OKAY

    Jovanna Hernandez, 20, shift leader, Perris

    The secret to a healthy neighborhood is helping each other, and …

  • ART BUILDS OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY

    Denai Rosen, 24, graphic designer, Corona

    I’m part of a local art collective and art builds our sense of community. It …

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    I’m part of a local art collective and art builds our sense of community. It helps bring likeminded people together and we inspire each other to do more, to be confident in what we are creating. Art’s important because it teaches people to follow the path of doing what they love instead of working for “the man” or feeling trapped. As designers, we ask, “How can this place or problem be easier for humans to navigate? What can we do to make things easier on humankind?” Artists are always striving to make tools to help others.

    ART BUILDS OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY

    Denai Rosen, 24, graphic designer, Corona

    I’m part of a local art collective and art builds our sense of community. It …

  • YOU’RE NOT AFRAID TO SAY HELLO

    Angelica Carvajal, 17, student, Riverside

    The secret to a good neighborhood is interacting with your neighbors, saying good morning, making a friendlier environment so that it’s not awkward when you see them. You want to feel safe around them, you want to know them. That’s the best thing about people …

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    The secret to a good neighborhood is interacting with your neighbors, saying good morning, making a friendlier environment so that it’s not awkward when you see them. You want to feel safe around them, you want to know them. That’s the best thing about people here: they’re so nice. Every morning you see people and you’re able to talk to them, you’re able to say good morning. You’re not afraid to say hello.

    YOU’RE NOT AFRAID TO SAY HELLO

    Angelica Carvajal, 17, student, Riverside

    The secret to a good neighborhood is interacting with your neighbors, saying good morning, making a friendlier environment so that it’s not awkward when you see them. You want to feel safe around them, you want to know them. That’s the best thing about people …

  • IT’S GREAT TO HAVE PARKS NEARBY

    Scott Enoch, 58, jam and jelly maker, Woodcrest

    We have a community that’s very walkable. It’s a rural area so you can ride horses and bikes. We have a lot of …

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    We have a community that’s very walkable. It’s a rural area so you can ride horses and bikes. We have a lot of parks near us. It’s always great to have parks, and community centers, to have those kinds of services available. There are healthy activities. It would be nice if they did a little better job of controlling traffic speeds. There are people who just don’t appreciate or respect what it’s like to be on a horse. Even where horses are allowed, people get a little silly with their vehicles. Of course, if you’re walking or riding a bike, and somebody goes by at 60 miles per hour, that’s a little scary. We need controlled bikeways, walkways, things like that.

    IT’S GREAT TO HAVE PARKS NEARBY

    Scott Enoch, 58, jam and jelly maker, Woodcrest

    We have a community that’s very walkable. It’s a rural area so you can ride horses and bikes. We have a lot of …

  • FARMERS MARKETS CONNECT US

    Mariaelena Arriaga, 23, florist, Riverside

    Farmers markets bring out a lot of people and connect them to each other—people come from everywhere just to buy …

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    Farmers markets bring out a lot of people and connect them to each other—people come from everywhere just to buy our products. We have a market every day, and Saturdays are our busiest day—we go to five farmer’s markets on Saturdays. Some customers come every week but still have an attitude. Others are really nice and like to talk to us. They come just to speak to us and have a nice time. This is my parents’ business. Our father started it about 26 years ago. He already had a business in Mexico, and he just brought it here. Everyone tells a little story about what they’re buying flowers for, sad and happy stories. A weird one: a guy was trying to surprise his girlfriend with flowers, but he used her credit card—and the receipt went to her email.

    FARMERS MARKETS CONNECT US

    Mariaelena Arriaga, 23, florist, Riverside

    Farmers markets bring out a lot of people and connect them to each other—people come from everywhere just to buy …

  • MEET-UPS BRING THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER

    Alexis Naucler, 19, student, Moreno Valley

    More community activities would help my neighborhood. Like just cool meet-ups—something to bring the community …

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    More community activities would help my neighborhood. Like just cool meet-ups—something to bring the community together.

    MEET-UPS BRING THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER

    Alexis Naucler, 19, student, Moreno Valley

    More community activities would help my neighborhood. Like just cool meet-ups—something to bring the community …

  • NOW THE SHOPPING IS CLOSE BY

    Jo Blevins, 61, retiree and cookie maker, Corona

    You know how they’re reviving older cities? They redid Corona several years ago. It’s never been a really big community where people shopped or anything, but now it is. Now the …

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    You know how they’re reviving older cities? They redid Corona several years ago. It’s never been a really big community where people shopped or anything, but now it is. Now the shopping is close by. I’ve of course seen Corona grow. It went from lots of orange trees to, now, a big city. There’s lots of traffic. And probably what I like the least is all the commuter traffic that comes through town.

    NOW THE SHOPPING IS CLOSE BY

    Jo Blevins, 61, retiree and cookie maker, Corona

    You know how they’re reviving older cities? They redid Corona several years ago. It’s never been a really big community where people shopped or anything, but now it is. Now the …

  • THE WHOLE COMMUNITY CONNECTS THROUGH FACEBOOK

    Jriya Sirichaisintop, 26, billing assistant, Murrieta Temecula
     
    Phillip Van, 25, medical scientist, Torrance

    What’s especially cool about the Murrieta Temecula area is the Facebook …

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    What’s especially cool about the Murrieta Temecula area is the Facebook community. If there is an accident somebody will post and say ‘hey, there’s an accident over here,’ or ‘we’re having a fundraiser over here to raise some funds for somebody’s cancer treatment’. And the whole community is able to connect through Facebook. The same thing works for local businesses that can advertise this way as well. I think it’s really cool for our community. -Jriya Sirichaisintop

    THE WHOLE COMMUNITY CONNECTS THROUGH FACEBOOK

    Jriya Sirichaisintop, 26, billing assistant, Murrieta Temecula
     
    Phillip Van, 25, medical scientist, Torrance

    What’s especially cool about the Murrieta Temecula area is the Facebook …

  • BUILD A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS

    James Williams, 24, sports reporter, Moreno Valley

    Especially with the way the world is right now, the biggest thing we need is communication. Build a healthy relationship with your neighbors, your loved ones, strangers down the …

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    Especially with the way the world is right now, the biggest thing we need is communication. Build a healthy relationship with your neighbors, your loved ones, strangers down the street. This area is good for that. This is my third time at White Park in the last seven days, and I’ve talked to someone I don’t know every single time. I just moved out here four years ago from Downey. There I lived by a shopping plaza and it was WalMart, K-Mart, Marshalls—name-brand shopping places. You come to Riverside: mom and pop pizza shop, mom and pop antique shop. There’s like, five antique shops right here! I’ve learned to appreciate that in my time here.

    BUILD A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS

    James Williams, 24, sports reporter, Moreno Valley

    Especially with the way the world is right now, the biggest thing we need is communication. Build a healthy relationship with your neighbors, your loved ones, strangers down the …

  • EVERYBODY GETS TOGETHER, JUST ENJOYS THE DAY

    Andres Martinez, 20, warehouse worker, Jurupa Valley

    My neighborhood is like a mini-Mexico—we have a bunch of ranches. I like …

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    My neighborhood is like a mini-Mexico—we have a bunch of ranches. I like going to the skate park and community parks and playing sports. It’s where everybody gets together. We use the parks for family reunions. Everybody gets together, has a picnic, just enjoys the day with each other. I wish we had more going on, like the art walks that happen in Riverside.

    EVERYBODY GETS TOGETHER, JUST ENJOYS THE DAY

    Andres Martinez, 20, warehouse worker, Jurupa Valley

    My neighborhood is like a mini-Mexico—we have a bunch of ranches. I like …

  • PUBLIC PLACES ARE KEY

    Paul Maust, 16, student, Hemet

    In Hemet there are a lot of places to lounge, which is good for …

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    In Hemet there are a lot of places to lounge, which is good for the community. Public places are key. Although I do think more people would come out if there were more activities. We have a farmer’s market but that’s kind of all. It’s quiet. Not really isolated, but quiet. I wish there were more things that brought people out of their houses.

    PUBLIC PLACES ARE KEY

    Paul Maust, 16, student, Hemet

    In Hemet there are a lot of places to lounge, which is good for …

  • IF WE ALL TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER IT BREEDS UNITY

    Danielle Bernie, 45, teacher and community volunteer, Riverside

    Community outreach is what makes a healthy neighborhood. At Calvary Presbyterian Church, every Sunday throughout the year we serve a hot meal. Today’s a special day—we have …

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    Community outreach is what makes a healthy neighborhood. At Calvary Presbyterian Church, every Sunday throughout the year we serve a hot meal. Today’s a special day—we have Sole Exchange, a dental van, and a medical van, they come at least once a month. If we’re all taking care of one another, and look upon the people in our community in a healthy manner, it breeds unity. We’re all the same. I feel Jesus served the downtrodden. He served us. So now our job is to serve them.

    IF WE ALL TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER IT BREEDS UNITY

    Danielle Bernie, 45, teacher and community volunteer, Riverside

    Community outreach is what makes a healthy neighborhood. At Calvary Presbyterian Church, every Sunday throughout the year we serve a hot meal. Today’s a special day—we have …

  • IT’S IMPORTANT TO GIVE BACK

    Theresa Anderson, 48, teacher, Riverside

    It’s important for me to show my girls the importance of giving back. When my girls were little, I was their Girl Scout leader. My girls grew up volunteering. They’d help make cookies and play with kids and help tutor …

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    It’s important for me to show my girls the importance of giving back. When my girls were little, I was their Girl Scout leader. My girls grew up volunteering. They’d help make cookies and play with kids and help tutor at the nearby family shelter, and when that closed, we found the program here at the church, which has been going on for 30 years. It’s a true community program.

    IT’S IMPORTANT TO GIVE BACK

    Theresa Anderson, 48, teacher, Riverside

    It’s important for me to show my girls the importance of giving back. When my girls were little, I was their Girl Scout leader. My girls grew up volunteering. They’d help make cookies and play with kids and help tutor …

  • RESPECT ONE ANOTHER’S CULTURE AND BELIEFS

    Alex Acuna, 19, medical administrative assistant in training, Crestline

    The number-one thing I think we need more of is respect for one another’s culture and beliefs. When I see medical movies, like the movie Wit, they show people in the medical profession …

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    The number-one thing I think we need more of is respect for one another’s culture and beliefs. When I see medical movies, like the movie Wit, they show people in the medical profession treating their patients like guinea pigs. Unfortunately I think this is all too common. It you really want to help people, if you really want to have a strong and healthy community, you need to look people in the eye, and treat them like human beings.

    RESPECT ONE ANOTHER’S CULTURE AND BELIEFS

    Alex Acuna, 19, medical administrative assistant in training, Crestline

    The number-one thing I think we need more of is respect for one another’s culture and beliefs. When I see medical movies, like the movie Wit, they show people in the medical profession …