From the e-mails and voice mails:
STOPPING A LEAK -- When state budget cuts eliminated $10 million in funding for senior programs last year, social workers feared people like Phil Duran would suffer.
Thanks to the Linkage program through Stanislaus County's Area Agency on Aging, Duran has been able to remain in his home and maintain his independence.
Sure enough, the program lost its funding, and its workers could no longer regularly help people like the 87-year-old Duran, a veteran. But the agency did develop the Friendly Visitors program, which supplies volunteers who keep in regular contact with the seniors. They report any problems to the agency.
Duran is fortunate. He has two people who check on him. One is Jan DeBoer, his assigned friendly visitor. The other is Jon Engell, affiliated with the nonprofit Advancing Vibrant Communities. Both visited him last week and found Duran using a small space heater to stay warm because the natural gas had been turned off at his small south Modesto home.
Turns out, Duran had smelled gas and reported it to PG&E, which dispatched someone to investigate. The tech determined the leak came from within the home, which makes it the homeowner's responsibility to repair. So the tech turned off the gas to be safe. That eliminated the danger posed by the furnace, but it also shut off the gas supply to his water heater and stove.
So Engell called PG&E and then me. PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt arranged for a crew to return to Duran's home. One crew member, small enough to fit through the crawl space leading to the subfloor area, inspected the floor furnace and found it was corroded. That explained why the furnace wouldn't work and why Duran smelled gas.
So they capped the gas supply to the furnace and restored it to his water heater and stove.
That doesn't solve the problem of heating his home with a more expensive electric space heater, but they're working on that, Liebelt said.
Maria Profeta of the Area Agency on Aging and Liebelt are looking for grant money or other funding that might help Duran repair or replace the furnace.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY -- To Modesto's Gladys Wallis, who turns 100 Wednesday. Wallis, some readers might recall, is the woman whose walker was stolen from the back porch of her west Modesto home in September. She bought a new one later that same day before receiving scores of offers from generous Bee readers who wanted to give her a new or used replacement.
In 1997, I wrote about her 36-foot-long tomato vine. She bought two clearly marked red beefsteak plants that spring and planted them near her house. Each produced a few tomatoes. Then she added a third plant -- the container of this one unmarked -- and it grew 21 feet in one direction and 15 feet in the other alongside her home, producing hundreds of yellow tomatoes.
The Women's League of The Salvation Army will help her celebrate the century mark at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Sally's Place in The Salvation Army headquarters in downtown Modesto.
IN RECOVERY -- Veterinarians and animal rescue organizations frequently deal with mistreated and neglected animals, including some in such bad shape that they must be euthanized.
But even the folks at Pioneer Equine Hospital in Valley Home had never seen anything like this. Last week, John Airrington of Zen Equine Rescue brought them a 3-year-old donkey found along Highway 120 near Escalon. At some point, someone had put a halter on the animal, which proceeded to outgrow it.
Except that no one ever took it off him or upgraded to a larger size.
Over time, the nylon halter strap became imbedded in the poll -- the beginning of the neck just behind the ears.
Stephanie Mathis, the veterinarian who operated to remove it, said the animal should recover completely.
"It will definitely have quite a scar," she said.