North Bay’s Season of Giving Is in Full Swing

North Bay service industry workers, farm workers and students are all on the receiving end of three generous outings and offerings from local volunteer groups who want to help those in need this season.

In Marin County, an all-volunteer parent group is stepping up to support Marin students by giving over $100,000 in pandemic relief grants. The group, Dedication to Special Education, typically focuses on those students with special needs; though the group is now opening its funds to all students in Marin who are navigating the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Adults aren’t the only ones struggling with the changes in our lives; kids are really struggling as well,” says Jenny Novack, co-chair of the organization, in a statement. “It’s all about access to educational opportunities and, during the pandemic, it is about having a plan to support individual student’s needs whether they have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) or not.”

Dedication to Special Education’s pandemic relief grants will allow the Marin County Office of Education to contract with companies to provide literacy support for students struggling to work with new technology, and the group is also committed to supporting students with social-emotional learning challenges.

“It is clear the current need for our kids isn’t only academic. Addressing social-emotional learning goes hand in hand with academic learning,” says Novack.

Several Marin school districts are currently rolling out these programs within their individual schools and the county intends to have all tools in place by the end of the year.

“This is an extraordinary contribution for, not only the over 4,000 children in special education, but approximately 40,000 public school students and its impact throughout Marin is significant,” says Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools, in a statement. “The parent volunteers of Dedication to Special Education work hard throughout the year to raise money for the grants program. With the pandemic, they saw an opportunity to help with distance learning for all students. I don’t know of any other effort quite like it. We are truly blessed to have them as partners.”

In Napa County, nonprofit organization Celebration Nation is rolling out a major campaign to provide Thanksgiving dinner along with blankets, jackets and other winter essentials to over 3,000 farm workers and low-income families.

The newly unveiled #ThankYouFarmWorkers campaign will be in Calistoga today, Monday, Nov. 23 from 4pm to 7pm, to distribute free food and more at Calistoga Seventh Day Adventist Church located at 2102 Grant Street.

The drive-thru Thanksgiving distribution event is being helmed by Flor Martinez, an-immigrant rights activists who herself worked as a farm worker before she qualified for DACA. Since Martinez has multiple contacts in the agricultural community, she is also able to directly contact farm supervisors and arrange transportation vehicles to the farm sites for additional distribution by volunteers.

For today’s distribution event, farmworkers and their families can receive a turkey, a box of food items and other winter items, and gift cards. Celebration Nation is dedicated to supporting the Latino community throughout California, and this distribution event is one of many taking place in underserved communities in the state.

In Sonoma County, a newly formed organization, the Service Industry Relief Fund of Sonoma County, is joining forces with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul District Council of Sonoma County to launch a campaign to help service industry workers living in Sonoma County who have lost half or more of their income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Service Industry Relief Fund of Sonoma County (SIRFSC) is offering $500 stipends to those workers who qualify, and the funds are made possible by local donors; meaning that this is an opportunity to directly support someone in Sonoma County through a donation that goes entirely to those in need.

“Sonoma County is home to more than 70,000 service industry workers, many of whom have lost part or all of their income to Covid-19, including me,” says Krista Williams, lead coordinator for SIRFSC, in a statement. “Most of us were already making less than the County’s median income before the pandemic struck, so it’s wonderful that those who can are helping those who desperately need assistance.”

“Our agency has found ways to provide help to those who need it in Sonoma County for more than 60 years,” says Jack Tibbetts, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul Sonoma County, in a statement. “We are proud that Krista and her team have created a way to address a new source of great need in our county, and we are equally proud to support their work.”

The Service Industry Relief Fund of Sonoma County is online now and accepting applications for stipends as well as donations at sirfsc.org.

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Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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