77 posts categorized "Front Page"


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.


La Luz honored with Jefferson Award



La Luz Center has joined the honored ranks of Becoming Independent and the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance by earning a local Jefferson Award. Given for excellence in community leadership and civic engagement, the award will be presented during a countywide event on Nov. 5.

“I felt humbled and honored,” said La Luz Center’s Executive Director Juan Hernandez. “I reflected on what this award really means. What it means is the work and vision of Ligia Booker, which began back in 1982 to serve the community, has finally been recognized throughout Sonoma County and the Bay Area. It is an honor for our board and staff to be able to continue the vision and work in the Springs and Sonoma Valley community.”

The national Jefferson Award for Public Service was launched in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, to recognize unsung heroes for their contributions as public servants or volunteers. Over the years, national Jefferson Awards have been presented to the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Walter Cronkite and Bob Hope. Shortly after the national award was established, 90 communities created their own, local versions of the award. Here in Sonoma County, anyone can nominate a person or organization that deserves recognition, recommendations that the Board of Supervisors reviews before selecting each year’s recipients.

“La Luz has garnered an excellent reputation for both the quality and quantity of the services provided as the primary resource in Sonoma Valley for disadvantaged families,” said First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district aide, Jennifer Gray, nominated La Luz for the honor. “The positive impact they have made as the ‘go to’ place in the community for help in managing and improving their lives is remarkable. It is my pleasure to support La Luz and an honor to work beside them.”

New Community Outreach and Navigator joins La Luz

CatalinaLa Luz Center and the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center (SVCHC) are pleased to announce that Catalina Chavez-Tapia has accepted the position of Community Outreach & Navigator. This new position will enable the two agencies, which have similar and overlapping clientele, to reach out to community members who can benefit from their services, and design services that meet their needs. The position is funded in part by the Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Todd Trust, which is dedicated towards improving the lives of Springs residents.

As the Community Outreach & Navigator, Catalina will learn about the Springs community, talk with community members and organizations to determine their needs, and help provide linkages between those needs and local agencies that address them.

“In addition to the services offered by La Luz and the Health Center, many other organizations in the community address specific needs of our clients. The goal of the position is to raise awareness of these services and to act as a liaison by bringing those services to where they are needed. It is not our intention to recreate what already exists.” stated Juan Hernandez, Executive Director of La Luz. “Collaboration with other service organizations is a crucial part of making sure our community has access to all the services they need.”

A big piece of Catalina’s work will be about collaboration and working with existing groups and efforts. “It is important to honor the work that has already been done in the Springs, however we believe that this position will break new ground in the integration of these services. It will improve access to all of the organizations in the current framework,” noted Cheryl Johnson, CEO of SVCHC. “Catalina has successfully worked with different organizations in Napa County to achieve a common goal, and we are excited to have her working to replicate that success here.”

Born in Michoacán Mexico, Catalina migrated to the United States in 1976. She was raised in Napa and educated in the Napa public schools. Her interests in advocating for English learner children and Latina women emerged from the challenges posed to her family by the process of migration. She earned her B.A degree in International Inter-Cultural Communication at California State University, Sacramento and her Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration from University of San Francisco.

Catalina has spent the past two decades in the research field for nonprofit organizations. She has worked in the area of migration in health for the Health Initiative of the Americas, a program of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Her current research examines the impact of migration in Latina women.

Catalina is a member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Parent School Partnership Program (MALDEF), Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), is a founder of the Association for the Advancement of Latin American Students (AALAS) and founder of the Bi-national Health Alliance of Napa County.

About SVCHC:

The Sonoma Valley Community Health Center is the largest provider of primary medical services to Medi-Cal, low income, and uninsured patients in Sonoma Valley. We serve all patients regardless of insurance level or ability to pay.

In 1994, Sonoma Valley was designated as a Medically Underserved Population Area and Health Professional Shortage Area. Founded in 1992 by Cynthia Solomon and Heidi Stovall, the Health Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Primary Care Community Health Center and became a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in 2006. The Health Center works closely with the Sonoma Valley Hospital to form a comprehensive health safety net for Sonoma Valley.

The Health Center is open 6 days a week and currently operates out of 3 full-time licensed facilities, including a mobile medical van, which serves Sonoma’s Springs district. The Health Center serves over 7,000 patients a year resulting in more than 30,000 patient visits annually.

The patient population is 58% Latino; 35% Caucasian; 56% women and 44% men; 35% children and adolescents; 7% seniors. 45% of patients live at or below the poverty line and 43% of patients are uninsured. When the new Community Health Center opens it is anticipated that number of patients served will increase to over 10,000. 90% of our patients live within 5 miles of the new facility. 80% travel to the clinic by car, and the new site will have vastly improved parking. For those without a car, it is located right across the street from the Route 32 Sonoma County Transit stop.

Current services provided at the Health Center include: comprehensive primary care; pediatric and well-child exams; urgent care; immunizations; women’s health services; pre and peri-natal care; behavioral health; non-invasive preventative dental; early cancer detection; podiatry services; nutrition counseling; community health outreach; school-based mobile medical van services; geriatric services; diabetic and health education; teen services through our Teen Clinic; and case management and specialty referral management.

The Health Center has 50 employees and 10 contract providers. The Board of Directors is comprised of a majority of members who are consumers of the Health Center's programs and services. The members include business people, service professionals and community supporters and represent the local community. The Health Center has collaborative partnerships with La Luz, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma, Sonoma Valley Hospital and others.



Binational Health Fair Draws Hundreds

Source: Index Tribune

By Kendall Fields/Index-Tribune Staff Writer

Scores of Sonoma Valley residents gathered at the Binational Health Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19, where they received information about health care and were connected with the Mexican Consulate.

The event, which was hosted by La Luz Center at Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, is part of the Mexican Consulate’s Binational Health Week that seeks to improve the health of underserved Latinos living in the U.S. and Canada by providing access to and creating awareness of various community health and human service agencies.

The health fair is vital to members of the underserved community, according to Patricia Talbot, who started the health fair in Sonoma a decade ago, because it not only provides access to service providers but also knowledge of important issues affecting members of the at-risk community. Talbot, who is a registered nurse and health-care consultant, serves as chair of Sonoma Valley Health Round Table, which aims to support the health of the Valley and through a network of health organizations collaborates to ensure residents’ health.

This was the first time the Mexican Consulate partnered with the health fair, said Kara Olness-Reyes, La Luz Center’s director of programs, which, she believes, may have contributed to the event’s high attendance.

With more than 240 participants attending the health fair, and even more visiting the consulate for expedited passports and government-issued IDs, Olness-Reyes said the attendance doubled from what it has been in past years. Residents attending the meeting not only had access to information, but also were able to receive medical treatment, including flu shots donated by Sonoma Valley Hospital, dental and pediatric screenings, and advice from bilingual nutritionists.

Olness-Reyes said not only was community attendance larger than previous events, but so was the number of agencies and volunteers involved, with 40 booths staffed with 80 to 90 people, and nearly 60 people volunteering at the event.

“The event is important because it brings together many health service organizations in one building, and they see who we are and how we support individual families, and (how we) collaborate with each other,” Talbot said, noting that after the health fair people have more knowledge and are empowered to help themselves.

Success of the event was credited in part to the community partners who participated, especially the newly formed Binational Health Committee, which is comprised of La Luz, the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Health Round Table, Sonoma Valley Hospital and Sonoma Valley Community Center, and works to provide comprehensive health services to Valley residents. La Luz Executive Director Juan Hernandez said he hopes that with the success of this first collaboration, that these groups will continue to partner to serve the community.

Madolyn Agrimonti, chair of the diabetes committee within the Health Round Table, provided money for food and organized volunteers to make and serve it at the event. Agrimonti also recruited a bilingual nutritionist to run a booth and educate attendees on diabetes – one of the number one health issues plaguing Latinos in the United States, according to the Office of Minority Health. “We are giving information and doing it in a bilingual format so people who don’t normally have access can get information on being healthy or where they can go for services in the Valley.”

Sonoma City Councilmember Laurie Gallian attended the event to show there are no boundaries for health care in the Valley. The event, she explained, is crucial in connecting people to organizations in the community that can help them with various issues, from gaining access to affordable health coverage through agencies like Covered California, to resolving legal issues with the help of Sonoma County Legal Aid.

“We need to be partners, for without partners we are only as strong as our unaware links,” said Gallian, a 2012 recipient of the Amistad (Friendship) Award, which recognizes individuals for their commitment to the Valley’s Latino community. 

While Saturday’s health fair achieved La Luz’s primary goal of serving Sonoma’s Latino community, Olness-Reyes said the organization would like to bridge the gap between Latinos and Caucasians in the community in the future. “Even though the event was combined with the Mexican consulate, it doesn’t mean you need to be Mexican to attend the event,” Olness-Reyes said. “We want to bridge to other sectors of the community to increase attendance of the non-Latino population, because there is no other health fair in Sonoma Valley.”

“We are one community and health care is one of the number one issues – mental, dental, medical – we all need to be better and stronger as a community,” Gallian said. “If we serve the community well, we serve it together.”

 Source: Index Tribune


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! 

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17560 Greger Street

Sonoma, CA 95476


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