3rd Annual Heart of Sonoma Awards
$35,000 in awards and eight categories, recognizing and honoring Sonoma County’s outstanding nonprofit volunteers, leaders and organizations.
3rd Annual Heart of Sonoma Recipients
The Corporate Community Service Award, sponsored by CVNL, is presented to a business that has fostered and encouraged volunteerism and philanthropy among its employees.
The 2022 CVNL Heart of Sonoma County Award for Corporate Community Service was presented to Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa.
Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa is committed to caring for the communities they serve, providing health care, grants, sponsorships, in-kind donations, and volunteerism. A recent example of their volunteerism was their response to the crisis at Montgomery High School, where a student was killed during an altercation. Without hesitation, they activated their Mental Health and Wellness clinicians and Spiritual Care teams to support the school community. Teams remained onsite, taking drop-ins for two weeks and offering support groups in Spanish to parents and group classes for staff to foster stress management, self-care, and anxiety and depression mitigation.
Kaiser is committed to reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. In 2022, they provided more than $1.4 million in grant funding in the Santa Rosa area to support community health priorities: access to care, mental health, housing & homelessness, and academic attainment. Kaiser staff serve on community boards, commissions, and committees and volunteer with nonprofit organizations and local schools, through fundraising events, clinics, and events. They contributed $1 million to the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation towards an on-campus residence initiative that addresses housing insecurity for low-income students, prioritizing first-generation college students, current and formerly homeless students, foster youth, disabled students, active military, and veterans.
Sponsored by: CVNL
The Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Northern California, is presented to an individual, other than a board member, who has provided exemplary volunteer service to a Sonoma County Nonprofit.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Stella Agudelo, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Stella is a Citizenship Class Volunteer Instructor for Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa’s Immigration Legal Services. Her weekly classes, taught in Spanish, prepare students for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration exam and interview. An immigrant from Columbia, Stella’s experience with not only the exam but the intricacies and pitfalls of the U.S. Immigration system earns her the trust and respect of her students. She sees herself in her students: their journeys, dreams, and fears. She knows what motivates these individuals.
Immigration legal services are costly, unreliable, and scarce, putting immigrants at risk of deepening poverty, homelessness, and human trafficking. Stella saw a need and offered to create and instruct the first Spanish citizenship classes. Stella finds creative ways to bring the information to life, maximizing imagery, flashcards, and the careful use of repetition. She is a retired nurse who brings unique courage and patience. Many individuals cannot read or write, so she makes creative use of memorization tactics so they can build confidence.
Despite losing her home in the Tubbs fire, Stella continued advocating for and teaching in her community. In her words, “Too many are turned away due to judgment or misunderstanding. My students desperately want to be a part of society. They only need a guide to help them. I am thankful for every student I teach.”
Sponsored by: Kaiser Permanente Northern California
The Excellence in Board Leadership Award, sponsored by PG&E, recognizes an exceptional volunteer member of a Sonoma County nonprofit Board of Directors.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Award for Excellence in Board Leadership was presented to Rodney DeMartini, Food For Thought.
Rodney has played a critical role in shaping the strategic direction and ensuring that programs and services align with providing medically tailored meals to people with serious illnesses. His accomplishments include completing the first short and long-term succession plans for the Executive Director, an enhanced procedure to evaluate their performance and determine fair compensation, and a new procedure for board leadership transitions.
Rodney worked with the Executive Committee to improve board meetings, adding an education component to each meeting on topics such as diversity & equity, how to read financial statements, and medical nutrition standards. As the former Finance Committee Chair, financial education and literacy are priorities. Rodney utilized his knowledge to teach the board how to better understand financial reports and pay close attention to the organization’s financial health. Rodney ensured that the relationship between the Executive Director and the board was positive and productive and that there was a clear separation of duties. He was sensitive to the stress and workload of the ED and offered support and encouragement for taking time off.
Rodney volunteered to deliver food to clients, and he supported the agency’s fundraising efforts by writing personal notes, making calls, and meeting one-on-one with major donors. Rodney has dedicated much of his life to the service of others and providing healthy food. In the late ’80s, he volunteered at an AIDS nonprofit in San Jose. He led the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco AIDS Education Office in the early ’90s and helped start the National Catholic AIDS Network.
Sponsored by: PG&E
The Excellence in Innovation Award, sponsored by Comerica Bank, is presented to an individual, organization or partnership that has developed new, creative, and effective strategies for advancing solutions to critical issues in our community.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Award for Excellence in Innovation was presented to Raices Unidas a program of Side by Side.
Founded in 1895, Side by Side offers behavioral and mental health services to youth ages 5-26 and their family members in the Bay Area. The initiative, meaning United Roots, serves Latinx immigrant youth and their families who struggle with trauma and the financial, social, and emotional challenges of immigration. Bilingual and bicultural services include group intervention workshops for youth, family workshops, case management for social needs, social events, and parent support workshops.
The program elevates services for Latinx youth and families by joining usually siloed mental health, educational, and social services. Sonoma County’s immigrant youth face significant challenges. Many come to the US unaccompanied, have suffered traumatic journeys, and most struggle in isolation to acclimate to school and their new community. Bilingual services help schools with limited bilingual resources, social events help youth and families celebrate their traditions, parent workshops address parent and youth mental health needs, case management stabilizes each family’s basic needs, and one-on-one therapy provides responsive care in a crisis.
The program alleviates some of the pressure the school staff feels to serve struggling youth and establishes enough distance from school to help youth and their families feel safe sharing the trauma that destabilizes them. Grades and attendance are tracked, and student and parent surveys assess workshops and events. Anecdotal information from teachers, counselors, administrators, and community organizations is gathered regularly. The program utilizes nationally recognized assessments for an objective assessment of clinical clients.
Recent data shows that 86% of youth served experience decreased anxiety, 77% decrease in risky behavior, and 86% show increased resilience. Of the youth who participated in group workshops, 88% reported the groups were beneficial, and 91% reported an increased understanding of the effect their mental health has on school engagement and academics. By the end of individual and family sessions, of the 81% who initially reported not being aware of how to support their student, 71% reported being better equipped with information about their student’s mental health.
Sponsored by: Comerica Bank
The Youth Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by Peter Haas Jr. Family Fund, recognizes five full-time middle or high school students serving in a Sonoma County nonprofit, education, or faith environment.
The first Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Sofia Fonseca, Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary.
Sofia volunteers at Goatlandia, supporting the education of their youth visitors and volunteers. Last summer, they started their first two-week kids camp, and Sofia was one of the counselors working with the students needing one-on-one attention. Sofia was part of the photo shoot for their 2023 calendar. She worked with the photographer and all the animals and was the only volunteer featured on the calendar. The staff depends on Sofia when it comes time to show off their residents during the holidays, because even goats want to dress up for Halloween. Sofia brings “goat-appropriate” costumes and does the same for their Christmas Holiday portraits. While just 14, Sofia is an impressive volunteer appreciated by the staff and the other volunteers.
Outside of Goatlandia, she is very active in her school and community. She’s been studying ballet since she was three, performing in the Nutcracker last season with the Santa Rosa Dance Company. She is a violinist, studying since first grade, and was recently part of a fundraiser at her middle school, raising money to purchase new instruments and sheet music for the students. Sofia is in her school’s Leadership Class and has served as her elementary and middle school mascot.
The second Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Jonathan Ling, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Sonoma Ecology Center.
Jonathan volunteers with Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, operated by the Sonoma Ecology Center. Only a few people under the age of 40 volunteer with them, let alone as the Visitor Center Attendant.
“It was initially thought he might need extra guidance when assisting visitors, taking phone calls, and making camping reservations – since he is young and young people tend to shy away from this type of social interaction,”said his supervisor.“I was quickly humbled when he effortlessly helped customers and visitors and even showed me some of his tricks and ideas that he used to streamline the various processes in the Visitor Center.”
In addition to helping in and around the Visitor Center, Jonathan is always willing to help with random tasks around the park, like power washing the amphitheater, fixing and reprogramming radios, and digging out ash from fire pits. Jonathan does not shy away from manual or administrative work, and because of it, he makes things easier for staff and visitors. When people think about volunteering at a state park, many overlook the crucial positions within the park, like the Visitor Center, and want to volunteer outdoors doing something more glamorous, like leading hikes or doing trail work. Jonathan is always happy to help in any way, selling day passes, campsites, and retail items; folding pamphlets; and other administrative duties. Jonathan is a team player, and it’s always smooth sailing when he’s around.
The third Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Memphis Roetter, Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Memphis has been volunteering with the Redwood Empire Food Bank since he was five years old, beginning by pulling his wagon door-to-door in his neighborhood collecting food. Over the past 13 years, he has raised over $112,000 and 225,000 pounds of food. Last year he was able to secure a donor who contributed $50,000.
Memphis’ volunteer service has been collecting food outside Oliver’s Market every Sunday for 4 hours from December through March. He enjoys the personal connection with people and has an outgoing and friendly personality to encourage donations. Additionally, he spends many hours promoting his food drive online and through social media. Memphis delivers the food to the Food Bank and helps sort and package. He says that seeing the difference his work makes to those who are hungry is very rewarding, and he has encouraged his classmates to spend time at the Food Bank.
The fourth Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Faline Howard, Sonoma Ecology Center.
Faline’s initiative to develop a habitat for the endangered monarch butterflies throughout Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa, and Rohnert Park over the past two years has been a gift.
Because of her love for nature and dedication to the environment, Faline embarked on a project, with the support of the Sonoma Ecology Center, to conserve and grow the monarch butterfly population. Following the guidelines of the Girl Scout Gold Award, she has meticulously chronicled her work – from research and data collection to cultivation, planting, and multiple events. Overcoming the challenge of finding narrow-leaf milkweed seeds, Faline eventually propagated and produced 1,700 narrow-leaf milkweed plants planted in numerous vital locations.
Her effort to improve the habitat has been multiplied because she included the community by teaching children and families at the Children’s Museum of Santa Rosa, presenting to girl scout troops and volunteering at camps, and providing lessons on butterflies and seed planting activities for elementary-aged children. Faline received top honors at the Western Monarch Advocates 2023 International Monarch Summit in San Luis Obispo for her impactful Milkweed and Monarch project. From most recent data, things are looking up for the monarchs, and Faline likely had a lot to do with that.
Faline graduated high school and is currently studying biology at Santa Rosa Junior College with plans to continue to UC Davis to study wildlife, fish, and conservation biology.
The fifth Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Grace Hiserote, Petaluma Health Center and Ceres Community Project.
Grace volunteers at Ceres Community Project in the kitchen, where she has mastered many jobs and is one of the few cooks on the day she volunteers. Grace is passionate about environmental science and seeks ways to create sustainable agriculture to produce healthy food that works synergistically with our earth.
She is a UNESCO Global Youth Fellow and is collaborating with other fellows to create a climate activism curriculum she wants to teach at Ceres and Cardinal Newman High School. Grace is working with Ceres to provide food for Petaluma Health Center’s healthy cooking classes for patients with chronic medical conditions until their community garden is back open. Grace reached out to the physician in charge and their nutritionist and offered her assistance. She received her food handler’s license to help teach their patients monthly healthy cooking classes. She focuses on helping to re-invigorate the Health Center’s Community Garden, which fell into disarray during COVID-19. She has generated interest and is coordinating volunteers from her high school and the community to help with this endeavor. They aim to grow and harvest organic food for the Health Center’s healthy cooking classes and provide food to vulnerable community members experiencing food insecurity.
Sponsored by: Peter Haas. Jr. Family Fund Rieley Bond,
The Excellence in Leadership Award, sponsored by CVNL, is presented to a CEO/executive director who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and whose vision has inspired meaningful and lasting change benefiting the organization and community.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Award for Excellence in Leadership was presented to Duskie Estes Farm to Pantry. (Kelly Conrad, Farm to Pantry, shown in photo accepting the award.)
Farm to Pantry provides fresh, healthy produce to our neighbors who lack access to it by cultivating a community of growers and volunteers to end food injustice and reverse global warming by rescuing and sharing locally-grown food. Under Duskie’s leadership, they have become so much more than the gleaning they started with. Duskie is a fantastic connector, allowing Farm to Pantry’s services to benefit many organizations, amplifying their impact and reach.
Here are a few examples:
The Market-to-Pantry program, where volunteers collect unsold produce from farmers’ markets and then distribute it to low-income housing communities, expanded from one to four markets.
Growing the Table pays market prices to small eco-friendly farms to produce high-quality food for those facing food insecurity. They deliver food boxes with Duskie-created recipes using the box ingredients (printed in English & Spanish) to housing sites benefiting 80 farmers struggling to keep their farms and providing 300 food bins a week.
Duskie partnered with nurseries, greenhouse growers, community gardens, and farmers to provide plant starts, seeds, and compost and has partnered with Farm to Fight Hunger, Corazon, and Petaluma Grapevine to give neighbors without land access to grow their own food.
When Duskie started, they had one Farm-acy cart at Alliance Medical. The cart provides a respectable and dignified food-sharing experience. Patients can take the market produce home to feed their families after a doctor’s visit. Due to requests for carts, Duskie has commissioned students and interns to build 20 more for senior centers, health clinics, and hospitals. In one season, they delivered over 1 ton of produce to the Alliance Cart.
Ensuring nothing goes to waste from a harvest, Duskie sought partners to turn surplus apples into applesauce, surplus pears into hard cider, olives into olive oil, and tomatoes into jarred tomato sauce.
In the last four years, Duskie doubled the previous volunteer pool, tripled the number of partners and properties they work with, and quadrupled the amount of food gleaned. It took Farm to Pantry 10 years to glean 1 million servings. In her first year, they brought in a million servings and have been averaging more than a million per year since.
When Duskie is not gleaning in the fields, she is delivering produce to pantries and housing units, providing rides for volunteers, delivering meals to sick staff or community members, and partnering with chefs and restaurants that need ingredients to prepare meals for those in need.
Sponsored by: CVNL
The Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence Award, sponsored by Community Foundation of Sonoma County, is presented to an organization that has demonstrated exemplary service to their constituents.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Award for Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence goes to LifeWorks of Sonoma County.
LifeWorks is a mental health agency serving individuals and families in Sonoma County and partnering with county and city agencies that provide resources and referrals. The services are free to 97% of their clients, 75% of whom live in low-income households. The community, and our nation, are facing a mental health crisis. In Sonoma County, fires followed by the pandemic have meant that an increasing number of our neighbors have experienced trauma.
Whether the symptom is violence, substance abuse, suicide, family dysfunction, or despair, whether it is students whose behavior problems put them at risk of expulsion or young people involved with gangs, the underlying factor is often a mental health problem. In schools, they work with students whose behavior puts them at risk of expulsion. They help keep students in school, reduce in-school violence and suspensions, and help make schools safer for everyone.
In homes, their therapists work with families to reconnect with their teenagers, address family breakdowns, and the root causes of gang involvement and violence. In their offices, therapists work with struggling individuals and families, teaching adults the practical skills and tools to keep their children in the home and thriving, giving traumatized children the opportunity to heal. They reduce family violence, kids acting out, and reduce referrals to psychiatric hospitals, juvenile justice, or foster care. Their budget has more than doubled over the past three years, from $800,000 to over $2 million. Yet the need has grown even faster. LifeWorks has waiting lists for all their programs.
LifeWorks realized that a critical challenge was recruiting and training bilingual staff. Executive Director Michelle Fountain and her team built a therapist training program, making it possible for aspiring young professionals to progress through the stages of professional certification, helping to secure the bilingual and bicultural individuals needed to serve their clients. They have launched a new initiative to raise the organization’s profile among the donor community, with the specific goals of rebuilding the capital reserve that was depleted during the pandemic and underwriting the costs of the new LifeWorks Pathway for mental health professionals.
LifeWorks works to be a good partner, participating in city and county taskforces, referring clients they cannot serve to partner agencies, and doing all they can to improve their status as a vital component of the community’s mental health support system.
Sponsored by: Community Foundation of Sonoma County
The Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Redwood Credit Union, is presented to an individual who has made a positive and notable difference during their career by significantly contributing to address a cause, issue, or discipline. This award is given in recognition of a body of work that has consistently, visibly, and persistently addressed a cause or issue.
The 2022 Heart of Sonoma County Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Richard Coshnear.
Richard has dedicated his life to advancing immigrant and refugee rights. Rooted in the belief that there should be no second class of people, he has worked to address systemic and institutionalized discrimination against immigrants through legal, political, and community advocacy.
Experiences that began in 1980 fueled Richard’s lifelong commitment to service, including discovering that two US-funded armies had fatally targeted approximately 100 campesinos along the Lempa River between Honduras and El Salvador, as well as actively participating in the 1984 New York protests against President Reagan’s invasions of Grenada and Panama.
Richard moved to California in 1985 and from 1988 to 2002 worked as a bilingual Physician’s Assistant for Alliance Medical Center, a migrant farmworker clinic, where he identified that working and living conditions were contributing to and causing illnesses. In 1994, California passed Proposition 187, legislation that ended state-funded medical care for undocumented women during pregnancy. Richard was appalled that health clinics refused to fight back, so he did.
He continued working as a Physician’s Assistant while attending law school. Upon graduation, after a short role as deputy public defender, he started his solo legal practice, serving low-income clients using a sliding fee scale. Richard began specializing in removal (deportation) defense, working to secure immigrants’ place in our community. He attained victories in challenging cases, including successfully arguing that Immigration Customs Enforcement had illegally arrested individuals. He secured “cancellation of removal” orders, which are very difficult to win, for more than 25 people.
In 2013, in collaboration with others, Richard opened Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services (VIDAS), a nonprofit providing competent and compassionate low and pro bono immigration advocacy in Sonoma County. VIDAS staff provide the full range of immigration advocacy, including asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), work authorization, naturalization, and removal defense, at no or low cost to clients.
Rick has encouraged, trained, and mentored paralegals to become Department of Justice Accredited Representatives. As non-attorneys, they can represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Together, they have secured legal status for thousands of people. He worked with the county and other agencies to develop Sonoma County’s Secure Families Collaborative and helped launch Sonoma County’s Rapid Response Network.
In the wake of the 2017 Tubbs Fire, Richard provided critical information for immigrant survivors at the first-of-its-kind Spanish-speaking forum.
From 1986 to 2020, Richard engaged in multiple acts of civil disobedience to secure rights for immigrants, stop U.S. aggressions in Latin America, and support the Black Lives Matter movement, resulting in eight arrests. Richard’s leadership includes being an organizer for the Sonoma County Industrial Union and the first Latinx union for women and an international observer for Mexican Elections. He co-founded the Committee for Immigrant Rights, a group working to restore economic and political power to immigrants in Sonoma County. He is an American Civil Liberties Union Sonoma County Chapter Board Member.
For over 40 years, Richard has been a model for using his privilege to elevate the status and lived experiences of traditionally marginalized groups. He is willing to be uncomfortable and unpopular, to hold people in positions of power accountable, and to not take no for an answer in demanding equality, justice, and safety for everyone, regardless of status. Richard’s contributions have directly benefited thousands of people and have changed the landscape and the conversation in Sonoma County. His fortitude has kept families together, improved lives, and inspired generations of activists and advocates to rally for the rights of others.
Sponsored by: Redwood Credit Union