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[whitespace] Kid Street Theater The miracle factory: Linda Conklin (back row, second to left) helps the kids at Kid Street Theater learn important life skills through the arts.

Photograph by Michael Amsler


Holiday Giving

Charity starts at home--nine agencies that need your help

By Shelley Lawrence

AS THE HOLIDAY season enfolds us, the flood of shop-'til-you-drop-then-eat-'til-you're-sick may still leave you feeling a bit unfulfilled. Lending a hand to those who are less fortunate can leave you feeling far richer, as Ebenezer Scrooge learned the hard way. Here are nine volunteer, charity, and other do-good organizations in Sonoma County that could use your help this season while providing a conduit for your holiday spirit.

Adult Literacy Program

OPERATED through the Sonoma County Library (3rd and E streets, Santa Rosa), the Adult Literacy Program provides one-on-one tutoring to adults who want to learn how to read. The students meet for two hours a week with their tutors. Families for Literacy, designed to break the cycle of illiteracy, works with students who have children under age 6. The program hosts a monthly family night to help non-native speakers with their reading and writing skills. Tutoring volunteers are put through a teaching workshop and asked to volunteer two hours a week. Other volunteers are needed for office work and to staff booths at the Santa Rosa Downtown Market and the Home Show and Fair at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Book donations are always welcome--specifically, children's books, reference books, and simple adult books and novels in good condition. Call Ruth Maloney at 544-2622.

AIDS Food Bank

THE FOOD for Thought AIDS food bank (6550 Railroad Ave, Forestville) is run by four paid staffers and 400 volunteers. Serving AIDS patients from Sea Ranch to Sonoma, the food bank (which is not related to the natural-food store of the same name) provides groceries, vitamins, supplements, and frozen meals to 290 people in Sonoma County. Deliveries are made to those who cannot pick up their own groceries. The Food Bank is working in conjunction with the Occidental Center for Arts and Ecology to expand the center's organic gardens as a form of "earth therapy" for both clients and volunteers. There are a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers here, from stocking groceries, matching patients with groceries, and making deliveries to staffing food drives held at grocery stores throughout the county. Donations of groceries and personal care items (toothpaste, shaving cream, etc.) are accepted. Call Stewart Scofield at 887-1647.

COTS

THE COMMITTEE on the Shelterless operates a variety of services for the homeless in the Petaluma area, including a family shelter. COTS has opened a holiday donation center at the Petaluma Plaza North Shopping Center (275 N. McDowell Blvd.). For homeless children and their families, the center accepts new wrapped and unwrapped gifts, including toys, warm clothing, books, art supplies, or gift certificates to local department and grocery stores. The center also accepts gifts for single homeless adults. The donation center is open Monday through Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:39 p.m.; and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information, call Mimi Spencer at 782-9114, ext. 2087.

Family Support Center

CATHOLIC CHARITIES provides this shelter service for homeless families, giving priority to those with children. The shelter (465 A St., Santa Rosa) houses 26 to 30 families at a time, feeding them three meals a day and providing support services, parenting classes, child care, and substance-abuse counseling. Help in the kitchen with the holiday dinner is always welcome, and there are many other opportunities to help out. Volunteers can sort donated gifts and match them to families, deliver gifts to families who've previously lived in the shelter, provide child care, or help out with reception work. Call Chrissy Udell at 542-5426.

Hospital Chaplaincy Services

FOR 30 YEARS NOW, Hospital Chaplaincy Services has provided interfaith emotional and spiritual support to patients, families, and workers at skilled-nursing facilities and medical-care centers. The chaplains are given an intense training program that teaches volunteers how to listen from the heart in ways to inspire trust and confidence--how to give the gift of real attention. Although the services are non-sectarian, the chaplaincy is spiritually based, in terms of how chaplains relate to patients. Volunteers go through a 40-hour training period (which costs $50) and are asked for 100 hours of service, at the rate of two to three hours a week. Call Barbara Yungert at 566-9600.

Kid Street Theater

NOW IN ITS eighth year, Kid Street Theater (54 West Sixth St., Santa Rosa) serves youth at risk, kids without homes, and other disregarded children in our community through an innovative and therapeutic arts program. This school year, the organization also began a public charter school with an after-school program. Volunteers are always needed in classrooms to read stories and to help kids with their ABCs and numbers. Volunteers in the after-school program can prepare snacks, work at the art tables, and help kids with their lines for the theater productions. Please call Laurie Kaufman or Melissa Black at 525-9223.

Planting Earth Activation

THIS SEBASTOPOL group of 20-somethings strives to make Sonoma County a better place by planting organic gardens in the yards and available spaces of those willing to share their land. The group keeps only a quarter of the garden's yield, to share with volunteers and to harvest the seeds. PEA is opposed to all forms of genetic engineering of food crops and uses only heirloom seeds (non-modified seeds saved down through generations of plants). Most of the gardens are located in Sebastopol, but the group is working to expand throughout Sonoma County. A current project sorely in need of volunteers is the transplantation of the largest community garden in Sebastopol to a new site (the old site is being developed). Call Eric Linley at 829-2731.

Southwest Family Planning Center

THIS GOVERNMENT-funded clinic (751 Lombardi Court, Santa Rosa) provides free and low-cost care to women for sexually transmitted disease testing, pregnancy and pre-natal counseling and care, and pelvic and breasts exams. For men, the clinic tests for tuberculosis, lung and heart disease, prostate cancer, and STDs. Although the center is not a non-profit organization, monetary donations and volunteers are needed. If volunteers are interested in a particular area of health care, the clinic can train them in that area. Call Kim Caldaway at 544-7526.

Women Against Rape

THIS SONOMA COUNTY support organization serves anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault. WAR provides counseling, referrals, and "whatever we can do to help [those persons] claim their life again" to women, men, teens, and children. The office is staffed by volunteers who've had approximately 50 hours of training. WA. does outreach through public schools with programs such as the Teen Assault Prevention Program and the Child Assault Prevention Program, and operates a 24/7 crisis hotline (545-7273). Interested volunteers can call Lee Mehlman, and "we'll put them to work where their talents and interests lie." For details, call 545-7270.

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From the December 16-22, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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