51 posts categorized "Front Page"


Friday Night Computer Class Empowers Students

Nine students recently completed an eight-week course teaching not only basic computer skills, but also helping the students improve their typing, analyze problems, and share their knowledge. The class helped develop critical thinking and allowed students to use computers to write about their new skills, create email accounts, learn about operating systems, organize their desktop with Microsoft Office, and use the Internet.

“Results were good,” one student, Jorge Martínez, said. “These classes have contributed to my improved computing skills. Now, I am more dependent on myself.”

Alicia Olvera said, “I did not know what the USB is; now I can save my files in there.” Both students attended all classes during the course.

“In the beginning as in the ending, we were like a family that shared smiles, happiness, and frustration,” commented instructor Jerardo Martinez. 

Thank you, Union Bank!

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Robin Gold, Manager of the Union Bank Sonoma Branch, recently presented La Luz Center Executive Director Juan Hernandez, with a donation to support the center’s many initiatives including community health programs, bilingual education, financial and computer literacy, and parenting skill classes. Thank you, Union Bank!!


“NOCHE en SOUTH PACIFIC” a Great Success!


View full slideshow here

Thank you to all our supporters who made “Noche en South Pacific” our most successful fundraiser ever.”

On Saturday, August 2, Marcelo Defreitas and his Noche committee presented a fun and memorable party to celebrate and support La Luz Center.  

 According to La Luz board president Anna Pier, “over $400,000

was raised.  “These funds will power the new direction La Luz is taking, collaborating with El Verano School and focusing on the areas of health, education and financial security for our Sonoma Valley Community.”

A sold-out crowd of over 450--white clad sailors and guests in Hawaiian shirts and leis --mingled in the lush gardens at Cline Cellars, enjoying passion fruit bikini cocktails with Skye vodka, champagne and wines from Highway 12 and Cline Cellars.

There were fresh caviar and shrimp ceviche stations, and ahi tuna and pork belly hors d’hoeuvres. Rob, Robin and Lynette Lyons brought their tropical macaws, cockatoos, a New Zealand wallaby and a porcupine.

Dinner by Elaine Bell began with a Kalua pig paraded in by native dancers, a Polynesian conch shell call, and a haunting Hawaiian dance blessing. Tiki torches lined the entrance to the dining area.

A dramatic red Polynesian backdrop and stage were set in the gardens, and colorful aquariums lighted the dining tables.

Master of Ceremonies Defreitas, bare-chested in a grass skirt and henna tattoos, delighted the crowd.  “I love you all and I love La Luz!” he said.  “That’s why we work for nine months to give you this party.  It’s a token of our appreciation for you-- our donors!”

Ligia Booker, founder of La Luz and Director Emeritus told of working through the Catholic church to start helping “the almost invisible Hispanic community” 40 years ago.  “Thanks to the involvement of so many people, this community now has an identity and is proud to take its part in the Sonoma Valley community. 

 “The heart of La Luz is empathy and dedication,” said Juan Hernandez, La Luz Center’s Executive Director.  “Hard work is the soul --and you are the hands.”

In a clever outdoor “Mash” shower Sheila Whitney and “island maidens” -- Susan Lee and Abbey Lee (not related) and Sonoma Valley High School students Mariana Garcia and Sofia Williams—delighted the crowd as they sang and danced  “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair.”

A rousing performance of Polynesian dancers from Island Breeze entertainment then took over the stage, shaking coconuts and grass skirts.  Defreitas appeared as an intrepid fire dancer, followed by native dancers with swirling fireballs. 

Not a beat was missed as DJ music amped up and the crowd moved its party on to celebrate together on the stage.

La Luz Center envisions a Sonoma Valley community working together where all have equal opportunity to succeed, through support in the areas of health, education and financial security.

The generosity Noche  donors will power this mission.

View full slideshow here


Anna Pier Named Chairman of the Board of Directors of La Luz Center

ImageAnna Pier has been named Chairman of the Board of Directors of La Luz Center, replacing Claudia Mendoza-Carruth who served as Chairman for the past two years.

Pier has been on the board since 2009, and serves on Program, Strategic Planning, and the Noche fundraiser committees.

“I feel privileged to have this opportunity to lead the board of La Luz at this important juncture in our development,” Pier said. “Guided by Ligia Booker’s founding efforts, La Luz has always been committed to addressing the needs of the underserved in the Sonoma Valley. At this moment in time, we at La Luz have the chance to lead the underserved to a different status — to that place where they can participate in shaping a new future for themselves and their families.”

A bilingual teacher and community educator, Pier taught Spanish at St. Francis Solano School and The Young Montessori School. After obtaining a bilingual teaching credential, she taught first grade at Flowery School and was instrumental in founding the dual immersion program. Subsequently she taught at Novato and then Woodland Star Charter School.

Pier served as Director of Educational Programs for the CommonBond Foundation, where she organized summer English and Spanish camps for children, after-school language and homework support programs, and ESL and Spanish classes for adults in Sonoma Valley.

From 2010 –12 she produced a popular weekly Spanish-language interview and news program on KSVY TV, “La Ventana del Valle.” She currently teaches Spanish for adults.

She led the Sonoma Nonprofit Collaborative’s youth advocacy forums and served as their representative to the committee on youth resources. She has been a community representative to DELAC for many years. She is a past advisor and member of the Board of Directors of Nuestra Voz, and a sponsor of Sonoma’s local Ballet Folklórico, Quetzalén.

Pier was born and raised in West Virginia, received a B.A in English from Wellesley College, an M.A. in Italian from Middlebury College, and pursued doctoral studies in Romance Languages at UC Berkeley. She was a teaching associate at Berkeley and she taught at Vassar College.

Anna Pier and her husband Will, a local ecologist, have lived in Sonoma County for the 44 years of their marriage, including the past 23 years in the Valley. They are the parents of six children and three grandchildren. Anna, for a time a professional baker, is a lifelong knitter, amateur calligrapher and gardener, and has a dedicated yoga practice.


Lisa Nevins Elected to La Luz Center’s Board

Image 9La Luz Center is pleased to announce the election of Lisa Nevins to its Board of Directors.  She joined the board in April.   

Nevins has over 25 years’ experience in sales management and strategy development. She had key roles at Levi Strauss & Co. in Sales and Marketing Management,  Adidas, where she was General Manager for the Western region, and ultimately as Vice President at the Walt Disney Company, Consumer Products Division.  At Disney she managed business relations and sales for all Disney licensed products in apparel, footwear, home décor accessories, toys and electronics.

“I have a passion for using creativity when building a business or leading a team—it’s the best way to inspire and bring people together towards one goal,” says Nevins. “I am excited to bring these skills to La Luz.”

“We are lucky to have Lisa, who has already been hard at work with us on our strategic plan process, “ says La Luz Board Chair Anna Pier. “Her strategic planning talents and team-building experience are invaluable assets for our organization.” 

Lisa and her husband Bert moved to Sonoma three years ago when she retired and began an online home décor business featuring her own hand made products.  She is an avid athlete, loves to travel and is a Mentor for the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance.


Over 100 Tax Returns Filed at La Luz

La Luz Center’s free tax preparation service was a big success this year.  Total refunds returned to the community top $140,000.

 La Luz’s tax help, staffed by volunteers, is part of the “Earn it! Keep It! Save It!” program (EKS) for low-income people funded by the IRS. La Luz is part of a coalition of EKS tax services that was formed by United Way.

“The tax assistance program is part of a new element in our strategic plan to promote economic security in our community,” said La Luz’s executive director, Juan Hernandez.

 "This is a great money-saving resource for the Sonoma Valley community,” remarked Ryan Janos, one of the program’s volunteers. “For many of our clients, a tax refund has a big effect on their annual budget, and the money they save by using free income tax preparation is substantial."

 The tax help program also provides advice on saving and managing finances and  assistance enrolment in programs like CalFresh for food assistance and Covered CA for healthcare.


Thanks for a Great Cinco de Mayo!

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Over 300 people spent a lovely afternoon celebrating  “Cinco de Mayo” at La Luz Center this year.

A highlight of the event was fiery Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez along with our local Rep. Mike Thompson discussing with the attendees the importance of getting the stalled immigration reform bill passed.  

Entertainment was provided throughout the afternoon, including the Mexican folklore dance company Quetzalen and the Brazilian group Capoeira Mandinga, whose performance combines dance, martial arts and acrobatics. There was classical guitar music with accompanying vocalist from Arnulfo on Strings, and  DJ music.

Many Sonoma Valley businesses donated food and typical Mexican drinks for the party.   Again this year there was the popular “jumpy” castle for the children, and a raffle.

Volunteers are the backbone of an event like this.  There were 35 volunteers assisting throughout the day with set-up, cleanup, food serving and raffle ticket sales. 

This year's "Cinco" featured tables by local businesses and organizations which are working to promote economic development in the Springs area.

“I can’t imagine a better Cinco de Mayo celebration, right here in our neighborhood,” said La Luz Executive Director Juan Hernandez. We couldn’t do this without our incredibly dedicated volunteers.  And the support of all the local businesses really showed the heart of the Springs.”

This “hometown” Cinco de Mayo celebration was organized by community members, Sonoma Valley High School students, businesses primarily in the Springs area, and volunteers.

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Westamerica Bank Supports Noche en South Pacific!

La luz donation
Westamerica Bank's Assistant Vice President Lisa Deffenbaugh and La Luz board member Paco Villasenor, Vice President, Financial Sales, recently came to La Luz Center to present a generous $2,500 check to help underwrite expenses for "Noche en South Pacific," our August 2nd fundraiser to be held at Cline Winery.

"This is a big step towards reaching our goal of getting the entire event underwritten in advance, so that all proceeds from August 2nd go to support La Luz's programs," said event chair Marcelo Defreitas.


“Language Buddies” on Thursdays

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La Luz has recently launched “Language Buddies,” an English-Spanish conversation group that meets every Thursday morning from 9 to 10 AM in La Luz Center’s Booker Hall.

Attendees speak English for the first half hour, then switch to Spanish for the second half hour. It’s a cross-cultural experience, an opportunity for English-speakers to encourage and support the many ESL students studying at La Luz Center, and a chance for those wanting to practice their Spanish to gets lots of “real world” experience.  The class even has participants from Nepal—practicing both English and Spanish!

“It’s a win-win morning,” says Alyson Therres, La Luz Center Volunteer Coordinator who participated in a similar group while she was teaching English in Costa Rica. “Our ESL students are so motivated to learn, and they need the opportunity to get comfortable with English by speaking.  At Language Buddies they feel it’s OK to make mistakes, and they enjoy helping each other. “

 Just four weeks in operation, Language Buddies has grown each week and now has over twenty participants.  “We are hoping to get more English-speakers to come practice their Spanish.  That makes a really fun dynamic in the group,” said Therres.


Booker, Chavez join La Luz Center board

Source: Index Tribune

La Luz Center has named two new board members. Ligia Booker, La Luz’s founder, has been named director emeritus, and Salvador Picazo Chavez has been elected to the board of directors.

EA099022-4B27-41D1-89FA-87B68D555D18@gateway.pace.com“Ligia’s a treasure to our community and to La Luz. Her ability to sense the needs of others and to do something about it within our community is what makes her so special. She so deserves to be recognized as emeritus board director,” said Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, La Luz board president. “Sal’s ability to engage the schools and see the important synergy between them and our community organizations will help bring La Luz into a new era of service with our young student population in Sonoma. Our board is inspired by both of them we welcome them with great appreciation.”

Born in Colombia to a large philanthropic family of strong faith, Booker came to the United States at age 17. After her mother passed away, she returned home to care for 10 siblings, only to fall in love there with Don Booker, an American helicopter bush pilot, who after several job stops brought her to Sonoma.

Booker saw Sonoma through the eyes of an immigrant. In the beginning, she met with those in need at local churches and at her home. Once the official La Luz center opened in its current location, she said, “We were overwhelmed by the needs of the community.”

Persistence and the phone were her allies. She explains, “I learned how to get things done by calling around town to the key people who could help.”

Thirty-plus years later, Booker feels La Luz continues to be faithful to its original mission, and she sees the organization developing into a multi-cultural center that addresses the needs of all.

Among Booker’s many honors for her contributions to the community are, the “For Those Who Care” award from KRON TV in 1989; Sonoma Alcaldesa in 1992; “Woman of the Year” by the state of California in 1995: Woman of Color Humanitarian Award in 1998; honoree at the Red and White Ball, and the Sonoma Amistad Award both in 2010. She shares La Luz’s great pride in receiving the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2013.

0BEDDCD2-7C0D-4120-A8E9-757525FDB60B@gateway.pace.comChavez moved to Sonoma at age 8, and considers himself a locally raised man. Salvador works at his family restaurant, Picazo Cafe & Deli, as he pursues other business ventures in the community.

After graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2004, Chavez went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in economics from Sonoma State University.

In 2011, when he was 26 years old, he was appointed to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board and said he’s “sincerely invested, due to my education coming from schools that are all governed by SVUSD and to my desire to influence students’ futures in a positive way.”

His work in the community includes keynote speaking for Kiwanis Club, Altimira Middle School Career Day, Adele Harrison Middle School Career Day, and Oji Life Lab.

On Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m., he’s on KSVY 91.3 radio discussing topics pertinent to the community and schools.

Chavez is married to Kina Chavez who works at Sonoma Valley High School in the HIM Department.

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