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4 posts from October 2013


Noche Out of Africa -- The Best Ever!

Noche - Web

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A dramatic bi-plane fly-by, wild jungle animals and throngs of  guests in pith helmets and safari attire, African batiks and animal prints set the stage Saturday night for La Luz’s magical “Out of Africa” fundraiser party in Jack London State Park.

“We netted over $350,000, which is a record for La Luz,” marveled Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, board chair of La Luz.  “We are truly overwhelmed by this outpouring of support for our La Luz family.  This “Noche,” and the two previous “Noches,” are gifts of love from our board member Marcelo Defreitas.  He conceives and produces these incredible events, together with a very dedicated committee of volunteers, and he gives his heart and soul to make everything perfect for us. “

Executive Director Juan Hernandez, III, calling La Luz “the light at the end of the tunnel for so many people,” saw the evening as “a resounding validation of our work at La Luz.  We are humbled and grateful to all of you,“  he told the crowd.

Ligia Booker, who founded La Luz over 20 years ago, was touched by “so much love for La Luz, and by so many people.”

Guests were greeted with Sundowner cocktails featuring Skye vodka, and Highway 12 wines, both 3–year sponsors of the Noche event.

The entire Lyons Ranch family  -–Rob, Robin and Lynette--were there with a beautiful cheetah, a snow leopard, an African porcupine and tortoise, a boa and even a python. 

Guests sat at long tables in the old winery ruins.  “I had a farm in Africa…”  began master of ceremonies Defreitas, as a small bi-plane circled above the crowd.  “Look!” he said.  “I think it’s Robert Redford!”

As Dean Carvalho recited Maya Angelou’s evocative poem “Africa,” a background of jungle sounds magically transformed the park into a savanna of the sub-continent.

A delicious African-inspired family-style dinner catered by Ramekins featured savory brined chicken, a chicory and lentil salad, and Moroccan vegetable kebobs.  

 A spectacular 60 foot long screen created by Defreitas’ friend Jaime Pandolfo was a stunning contrast to the perfect night sky.  Huge African masks stood on the sides.  The stage and sound technicians were provided through collaboration with Transcendence Theatre. 

Vibrant, frenetic African dancers and drummers from Diamano Coura West African Dance Company performed after dinner, with a stilt walker, and a dancing voodoo haystack. 

As a thank you to the donors, the El Verano School “ EV Glee” took the stage and to the crowd’s delight sang their favorite song, “Stick with Me.”

A team of 32 dedicated and delightful volunteers played a big part in making “Noche Out of Africa” a seamless, well- organized event.  La Luz Volunteer Coordinator Alyson Therres and our pinch-hitting volunteer, Volunteer Coordinator (who stepped in when Alyson had to be out of town) Sonoma State University student Sander Salguero, worked hard to recruit and organize so many people to do set-up and parking, greeting registration, auction recording, security and clean up during and after the event.  What a great group to have in our La Luz family.  ¡¡Mil gracias!!

And another big GRACIAS to all the wonderful, generous La Luz supporters who enable us to provide so many essential services to our community.  We could not do it without you! 

La Luz Opens New Sonoma Office


The Grand Opening Celebration of Valley Oak Homes where La Luz has its first ‘branch’ office was held on September 25th

“And what a lovely office it is!!” says Maritza Barajas, La Luz Family Advocate, who will spend Thursdays there providing outreach and referral services.

“Our strategic partnership with SAHA (Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, of Berkeley) stemmed from their request for assistance in evaluating rental applications screenings,” says La Luz Executive Director Juan Hernandez.  “It was then that we realized the great benefit that offering our services on site to the residents would provide. This is strategic partnership at its best and a great example of being able to empower a community in a beautiful setting.”

Valley Oak Homes is a sustainable 43 unit complex for low income families, with a central open space/playground, multipurpose room, common kitchen and homework/computer room, community garden and bike path.   It is located at 19344 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, opposite Maxwell Village Shopping Center. 


La Luz staff and board members celebrate

Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown, La Luz Family Advocate Maritza Barajas, La Luz Board Chair Claudia Mendoza-Carruth 


Maritza Barajas' New Office


Maritza Barajas, La Luz Family Advocate, provides La Luz advice and referral services on Thursdays  in her new office at Valley Oaks Homes. 

  “It is a great opportunity to be able to serve these residents on site,” says Maritza.  “ They are young working families, disabled and elderly individuals. I provide them with access to important resources that they need, so that they can continue to live in decent, safe and clean housing.” 

La Luz Collaborates with Teen Services


The Sonoma Valley Teen Service's "Operation Bicycle" 
recently came to the rescue of a La Luz client whose bike had been stolen.  The gentleman used his bike for all transportation--and to get to work!  So La Luz staff called "Operation Bicycle" who provided him a newly refurbished cycle free of charge.  

In photo:   Bear Messinger, Jorge Arias, and Adrian Palenchar (manager) of Operation Bicycle's "Repair to Ride" program which solicits bikes to repair.  Their bikes are sold or can be earned by teens who volunteer in the repair shop.  The Teen Center at 17440 Sonoma Highway has many projects: Lovin' Oven, No Name Cafe, Skills for Life, The Gallery...

To learn more  go to svteens.org.