It’s axiomatic that most North Bay nonprofits are inherently heroic. They endeavor to, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “walk in the light of creative altruism,” and each deserves recognition.
What follows, however, is a highly subjective list of those particular organizations that reached us personally—over the virtual transom of our overflowing inboxes, past our snarky outgoing voicemail messages and into the cold heart of an endlessly distracted editor. Their stories broke through and buoyed our spirits—perhaps they will do the same for you.
Humanidad Therapy and Education Services
Our community is a diverse one, and the need for culturally proficient therapy is critical. Far from a one-size-fits-all county, we are graced with a diverse melting pot of global citizens, who, culture to culture, experience unique challenges that require informed care. In 2012, after 33 years in the psychology department at Sonoma State University, Maria Hess, Ph.D., MFT, realized the critical need for therapy that addressed the cultural needs of the Latinx community in this area. Her passion for advising and teaching, and the vision of her Latina co-founders Claudia Cendejas, M.S., and Cecilia Perez, M.S., LMFT, resulted in the first wave of therapist recruitment for their bilingual/bicultural program, and in 2013 Humanidad Therapy and Education Services became a 501(c)3 nonprofit and trained counselors began working in Santa Rosa schools. In the eight years since, the program has expanded and is recognized and confirmed by the Office of Health Equity.
Firm believers in the dissolution of stigma around mental health, HTES provides bilingual therapy services, inclusive community education and culturally proficient therapist training to allow for the most accurate and informed mental health support possible. HTES brings their exceptional programming to individuals, families, schools and the community at large. There is a wealth of information on HTES’s community offerings, online programs and training services at srosahtes.org.
ExtraFood is leading a movement to transform Marin’s food system: from wasting food to donating it. For Executive Director Marv Zauderer, the impetus behind his organization is simple: “Hunger breaks my heart. And the climate crisis terrifies me.”
Zauderer’s sentiment surely resonates with many in the North Bay, some of whom are personally experiencing food insecurity as well as the fallout of a climate situation that disproportionately affects the disadvantaged. As Zauderer points out, “35% of all food is wasted, and the annual GHG emissions from global food waste are 2x the emissions from all cars in the U.S. and Europe. Yet 1 in 5 people in Marin worries about where their next meal will come from in normal times—and the need has skyrocketed during Covid.”
ExtraFood fills the gap between those who have food and those who need it most. Working with 300 Marin-based businesses including grocery stores, farms and caterers, ExtraFood is able to direct excess food donations into their program.
“ExtraFood is all about the power of community: food donors, funders, distribution partners and amazing volunteers all working together towards a common goal,” Zauderer says. “We still receive far more requests for food than we have supply, and so much food is still thrown away and harms our planet.”
Their goal is to enroll every possible Marin business and school in their program, and to capture every pound of excess fresh food for people in need. In fact, they recently reached a milestone 5 million pounds of food successfully diverted from waste and provided to those in need.
“Our Founding Board Member Heidi Krahling, of Insalata’s and Marinitas restaurants in San Anselmo, gave me a wonderful credo,” Zauderer says. “‘Food is only food until it’s shared.’ That’s what ExtraFood is about: Sharing abundance, so that all can thrive.”
Wellify Teen, a nonprofit in Marin County, is dedicated to parents with teen children struggling with mental health issues. Founder Sally Newson experienced firsthand the reality of a child with mental health issues, and the ineptitude and reticence of the medical industry to accurately diagnose and treat a teenager. Wellify works with the family to help identify the teen’s illness or illnesses, and provides the parents with support and coping techniques before, during and after the diagnosis process.
Wellify has just announced a new, free support program called Wellness Walks. On the first Wednesday of every month, parents with teens suffering from mental illness can gather together—starting at the Tiburon Railroad and Ferry Museum at 1920 Paradise Drive—for a walk, some fresh air and a chance to talk through their experience and challenges. As Newson aptly said of the program, “You know the saying about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first? Taking care of yourself is so critical for the mental health of the whole family …” These walks are a chance to connect with other parents facing the same challenges and create lasting bonds in an easeful, rejuvenating setting. You are not alone in this journey, and help is available. For more information on this and all of Wellify’s programs, visit Wellifyteen.org.
Face To Face
For nearly 40 years, Santa Rosa–based Face to Face has valiantly fought the HIV epidemic on the local front. A tool aiding their efforts is PrEP—an abbreviation of “pre-exposure prophylaxis”—a preventative medicine that has proven highly effective at preventing those at risk of contracting HIV from sex or from the use of intravenous drugs from becoming infected. It is a game changer. And yet, HIV infections in Sonoma County are on the rise. This has led Face to Face to double down on its outreach efforts as it continues its efforts to end HIV in Sonoma County.
“In May, we partnered with a telehealth company and we also became a 340b company,” says Development Director Gary Saperstein, referring to the government’s drug-pricing program that allows for significant discounts on outpatient prescription drugs. “So now we can prescribe PrEP—and for free.”
The program was successfully implemented in June—with nearly 20 clients now participating. Naturally, Saperstein hopes more people take advantage of the program. What stands in the way, he suggests, is the fear and denial those at risk sometimes carry. There’s also reluctance on the part of some to take the daily pill. To which he deadpans, “Well, if you have unsafe sex, you’re going to end up taking a lot of pills.” Not only is PrEP delivered directly to those who need it, Face to Face is gearing up for a new array of outreach-driven services it hopes to literally roll out in the coming year. In the meantime, the organization also concentrates on harm-reduction strategies including the distribution of NARCAN, a nasal spray that can reduce an opioid overdose. They also run a successful needle-exchange program.
“Last year we gave out almost 800,000 needles,” Saperstein says. “And fortunately, 84% of those needles came back to us, which is so good.” For information, visit f2f.org.