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Granny Unit: Grandma Sue's hand-to-mouth existence is tough, but it's important community work without a lot of red tape.


Save Grandma!

Times have never been easy for Grandma Sue's Community Project, and the financial picture painted in her recent newsletter is no exception. Her financial status is at a "critical stage," she writes. "We have to find monies for rent which is not easy. We also have to find monies for PG&E, water, phone, program needs and office needs."

For more than 30 years, the inexhaustible, Puma-clad Grandma Sue has brought food, medicine, clothing and gifts to those in need. Operating on a shoestring from a warehouse on Frederick Street, the matronly savior has been there for those who have fallen through the cracks. For Grandma, just giving people a bag of food isn't the answer. Her mission is to help them become self-sufficient.

"I am more interested in finding out why they are experiencing a need. Is it temporary? And what can I do to help solve the problem?" she says.

She will be teaming up with the Second Harvest Food Emergency Network this fall for a Community Internet Auction and could use auction items. However, all proceeds go to the food bank, not Grandma Sue. While donations have been modest but regular (one woman paid Grandma's warehouse rent and bills for a month,) there is always a need. Her "bare minimum amount needed" per month is $2,600.

The bottom line? Grandma Sue needs volunteers and donations in order to keep up the good works. "But time is better than money," Grandma adds, in the hope people will volunteer.

A $10,000 grant last year from the city managed to pay the rent for five and a half months. While waiting for the grant to be renewed, Grandma plans to "hold fundraisers and pray."

For more information about Grandma Sue's Community Project, call 423.2567.

Corporate Payback?

For all the so-called soft money that corporations pour into politics in this country, sooner or later one would figure out how to recoup some hard cash by using an election as a promotional tool. Leave it to Dallas-based 7-Eleven to come up with this one.

The convenience store chain starts a promotion Sept. 1 designed to use its product as polling devices in the presidential race. When customers buy a 20-ounce beverage, they'll have a choice between cups that reveal who they are voting for for president. The company will tabulate the results and update them daily on its website.

Corporate mouthpiece Cathy Moser says the company serves 180 million customers a month, but given that the company only operates in 31 states (and not in such battlegrounds as Indiana and Michigan), the results will hardly be scientific.

If you're a supporter of Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, John Hagelin or another minor-party candidate, you're SOL. "Bush and Gore represent the major primary parties and the No Opinion or Other cup represents other candidates," explains Moser, who seemed unconcerned about a consumer backlash from third and fourth party voters.

The decision is not likely to sit well in particular with Nader's army of enthusiasts, who are already peeved at corporate sponsorship of debates that has shut their man out. Not only that, Al Shugart will likely be miffed at not having a "none of the above" cup option.

Killer Seaweed II

It's back--with a vengeance. In mid-August, scientists found high levels of the harmful algae diatom Pseudonitzschia australis--which produces a dangerous biotoxin called domoic acid--blooming offshore and entering the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

"It's a bloom that's toxic at times and not at other times," explains Debbie Meyer, spokesperson for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Scientists are still working to determine the toxicity of the bloom, and whether it can be linked to any recent marine mammal deaths.

In 1998, domoic acid was linked to the deaths of more than 400 California sea lions in Monterey Bay. Since June 23, the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center has rescued more than 100 sea lions exhibiting seizure symptoms associated with domoic acid toxicity in the San Luis Obispo area. While no sick sea lions have been found near Santa Cruz, one was discovered near Big Sur on Aug. 1, says Susan Andres, spokesperson for the center.

"The symptoms are pretty obvious," Andres says. "The animals tend to be down and lethargic, and the ones that are really bad off, you could theoretically step right over them. In the most sever seizures, the eyes bulge out and the head weaves back and forth a bit, with some foaming at the mouth."

Beach agoers spotting sick animals are asked to note where the animal is, what its characteristics and behavior are, and call the Moss Landing branch of the Marine Mammal Center at 633.6298.

Something Rotten?

Attendance was up this season at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, but matters behind the scenes were not so rosy. Marketing director Suzanna Gaertner tells Nu-z she has been asked to resign.

"It just wasn't the right fit," says Paul Hammond, managing director of the festival for the last six years, "It's hard to find somebody with the background and experience to do the job right."

The role of marketing director has been hard for the festival to fill since Nancy Bertossa jumped ship in 1998. Bertossa, who is now marketing director of the San Jose Cleveland Ballet, declined to comment on her own departure.

"I spent 13 months looking for a marketing director [after Bertossa left] and between the first and second interview many of them were offered jobs at dotcoms for three times the amount of money that we, being a nonprofit, can offer," says Hammond, adding that one candidate ended up refusing the job when he couldn't find affordable housing in Santa Cruz.

But another reason may be the job itself. "It's really three positions--marketing, publicity and sales--rolled into one. They don't have the budget to hire three separate people," says Karen Kefauver, a contract employee who worked with the festival from 1996 to 1999.

Recently SSC got a "management assistance grant" from Packard, according to Hammond, but he insists Gaertner's departure is unrelated.

"We are reevaluating the position and redesigning the marketing department so we can find a better way of meeting our needs," Hammond says. They are also exploring hiring a public relations firm to deal with press and a marketing firm to handle advertising.

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From the August 30-September 6, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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