If roses are red and violets are blue, what are folks who volunteer? Easy — heroes to be honored in every way we can.

And because we’re in the business on Saturdays of handing out roses — and the occasional raspberry — today’s first batch of red beauties goes to the local advocates who graduated recently from training at the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center.

The grads were recognized at a ceremony in Santa Maria, after 10 weeks of intensive study and training on how to help victims of sexual assault, child abuse and on suicide awareness.

Ann McCarty, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, told the graduates to expect to make personal sacrifices on behalf of their communities, and she’s not kidding about that.

Victims of these awful crimes are traumatized beyond a non-victim’s comprehension, and that’s what those 10 weeks of training are all about.

Former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton started the agency in 1974 to help women through the trauma of sexual assault and domestic violence. Since then it’s a safe bet that many lives have been saved by caring advocates.

If you really want to help your community and its residents, consider volunteering. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the rewards from helping victims is priceless. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact the center at 736-8535, or email mandy@ncrccpc.org

If you take the step, there is definitely a rose in your future.

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While volunteers in Santa Maria and Lompoc are helping victims of sexual abuse, a group of citizens in the Santa Ynez Valley are putting together a coalition to combat bigotry, hatred and bullying throughout the Valley.

And knowing Valley residents for their firm resolve as we do, we’re already preparing bouquets of roses for handing out at a later date.

The Coalition to Promote Inclusion and Equality is formulating initiatives for 2018. Dean Palius of People Helping People is one of the citizens who met to discuss the increase in hate crimes, racial slurs and discrimination across the country.

You probably have noticed that in recent months the level of hate has ramped up across the nation. Old attitudes that were bad enough to begin with have only worsened.

People are being subjected to bullying, bigotry and racial slurs daily in our schools, workplaces, businesses and on the streets. Young people are particularly vulnerable and at risk.

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The newly-formed community-action group is determined to make a change, and for that alone its members and all who participate deserve roses.

Anyone who would like to get involved in building a safe, inclusive, respectful and equitable community can email syvinclusion@gmail.com.

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A young student from Dunn School recently spent some quality time at the downtown office of our Santa Ynez Valley News, as part of a program that pairs Valley students with business people so the kids can see what the grownups do all day.

Seventh-grader Layla Baker spent some quality learning time with Claudia Delgado, the Valley News’ general manager and advertising executive, and News Editor Mike Hodgson.

Layla is especially keen to become an artist, so she spent some of her visit decorating pumpkins to spice up our office.

Halloween is just around the corner, so we'll reveal that some Valley News staffers suspect that the old offices on 2nd Street are, in fact, haunted. It’s just kind of a creepy, you’re-not-alone feeling you get, especially after dark.

So, roses to all office staff and visitors. The good news? The ghosts are really very friendly.

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