Housing Changes Everything!

It’s official: April is the coolest month!

Thanks to you, our Outreach Specialists were able to help 24 people on the streets or in local encampments find permanent housing in April.

Your support also meant that 14 people from our emergency shelters were able to move into permanent housing.

Additionally, our Laure Reichek Housing Hub in Santa Rosa placed 13 people in permanent housing all made possible by donors like you who keep our programs running.

Now, Emily can get ready for school in a bedroom instead of the backseat of her mom’s car. She told a COTS staff person that homework is a lot easier now that she can do it at a table in her own apartment.

How cool is that? Thank you!


Cecily Kagy, right, with Nurse Annie Nicol, left

Cecily Kagy shares her calling

Our very own Cecily Kagy, COTS’ Outreach Specialist for Rohnert Park and Cotati, delivered opening remarks Friday at the Petaluma Sheraton for The Health Officers Association of California.

Cecily has been in her current job only since Feb. 25, connecting with people living on the streets or in local encampments and helping them to access toiletries, services, and treatment. [Before that, she worked as a Housing Navigator at our Mary Isaak Center.] Already, she’s managed to move 52 people inside, some in shelter, some in permanent housing—all into safety.

How does she do it?

“My walk is what allows me to do my job,” Cecily told the crowd. “I can relate when I see the despair in their eyes. I’ve been there. And I can tell them, ‘if I can do it, you can do it.’”

Cecily is a survivor of horrific abuse, addiction and homelessness. She lives with mental illness. She’s also achieved wild accomplishments in her previous field of nursing and her current vocation of social work. “If I can do these things, just think of all the potential that’s out there among the homeless,” she said. “This is my calling.”

The panel that followed Cecily’s talk got off to a slow start as the participants discussed what they’d just heard. “I’m humbled,” Alex Gammelgard, Chief of Police for the City of Grass Valley, said of Cecily. She demonstrated, he said, “that if we can have patience and compassion, amazing things can happen.”


Showers for all

Keeping clean is tough when you’re camping outside or living in your car. The Mary Isaak Center is open for non-resident showers on Wednesdays. Sign up starts at 11:30 a.m. at 900 Hopper Street, and showers begin after our free lunch program at 1 p.m.

If you know anyone who could benefit, please share the news. And let them know, singing in the shower is not required, but it’s totally welcome.

We also need towels for this program. If you have used towels that are in good condition, we’d be grateful if you’d drop them off at the Mary Isaak Center during normal business hours.


Dennis taking a break volunteering in the kitchen at the Mary Isaak Center

Dennis finds a home

We help people find housing as quickly as possible. “As possible” means something different for each client, however, depending on their income and other circumstances.

We’re rejoicing that Dennis Daggett will be moving into his own apartment soon. It’s been a long wait for him to move into subsidized senior housing, with many twists and turns, including a nasty bout of pneumonia.

A few months ago, his name came to the top on a senior affordable housing waiting list, but his application was denied after the management reviewed his credit report. What they didn’t know was that Dennis had overextended himself to care for a sick spouse. They also didn’t know that he’d been making regular payments on his debts: collection agencies don’t report payments until debts have been paid in full.

We were able to help Dennis successfully appeal that decision, and we’re able to help him with move-in costs, but even after the management changed its mind about his application, Dennis had to wait several more months to move in because the apartment he’d been notified about had been given to someone else.

Through the more than a year that Dennis has been at the Mary Isaak Center, he’s been a stalwart volunteer, helping out in the kitchen and doing chores around the center. He’s a favorite with our community volunteers, who love his courtly ways and the stories of his Hollywood career (including some interactions with Alfred Hitchcock on the set of “The Birds”). We applaud Dennis’ patience and good cheer and we long for a day when someone in his position can find a home much more quickly.

If you’d like to find out more about Dennis’ Hollywood career, check out his book, “The House that Ince Built,” available at the Sonoma County Library.

If you’d like to help him furnish his new home, please contact Kyle Muelrath at kmuelrath@cots.org.


Chef Derrick Ng preparing another delicious free meal for our community

Save the date for July 11: COTS Community BBQ

Please save the evening of July 11 for a community barbecue at the Mary Isaak Center: delicious food; live music from the Rivertown Skifflers; and games for kids and grownups alike.

What are we celebrating? Well, thanks to an anonymous funding partner, no one need be hungry or poorly nourished in Petaluma and the south county. A recent grant to Mary’s Table is allowing us to expand!

Right now, at Mary’s Table in the Mary Isaak Center, COTS offers three free meals a day to our residents.

Lunch is open to the entire community and it is chock full of flavorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Starting in July, we can begin providing dinner to the public as well—again, at no charge.

Imagine the impact a second meal will have for people. For some, who can’t make it to COTS for lunch, dinner may be their only square meal of the day. For others, having two meals a day will save them hundreds of dollars each month—important when you’re struggling to get by on a fixed income. One third of Sonoma County residents cannot afford to eat three meals a day, according to the county’s Human Services Department. Here in the south county, those who are struggling can take the grocery bill off their list of worries.

Mary’s Table is also a friendly place, a place to catch up with friends, chat with our volunteers or find out about resources like free tax preparation, adult education, reduced price cell phones, etc.

Every month, we serve over 7,000 meals. With dinners open to the community, we expect to increase that number to over 8,000.


Let a Thousand Fundraisers bloom

How do we know it’s Spring?

Fundraisers are blossoming everywhere you look. Just in April, the Kids at Valley Vista Elementary School raised over $500 in their Chores for COTS fundraiser, while the Windsor Jazz Ensemble played a red-hot concert for us in Healdsburg raising nearly $2,000.

Anyone can raise money to help our clients get back into homes of their own. If you’d like to run a race or auction a prized possession, put on a trivia competition or a cotillion, or simply send an appeal to friends and family, you can become a fundraiser for COTS!

Here’s a sample of upcoming events that are sure to be fun.

Long Story Short, 8 p.m., Friday, May 10, Griffo Distillery, 1320 Scott Street, Petaluma; tickets $12 to $25; a benefit for COTS!

You have Stories.

Put your name in the hat – if your name is drawn, tell a 5 minute, true story, about you, without notes, that has a beginning, middle, end! May 10th LONG STORY SHORT’s  theme is: ‘WORK IT’ So, step up and tell a work-related story. Be loved!

Bundesen 12 Nights of Dining Raffle

The COTS raffle is back! Beginning in July, get in touch with any Century 21 Bundesen employee to buy tickets. Win gift cards to the best restaurants in town!

Bay Alarm Garage Sale, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 1016 Clegg Court.Sound an alarm! The best garage sale in town is in two weeks!

You can help in two ways. Before the event, donate your good condition furniture, tools, game, sporting goods, etc. at Bay Alarm during normal business hours. Or come to the event and find the treasures you need. Last year, people walked away with appliances, canoes, dolls, dishes, pool noodles—you name it!

Go Girls

The Go Girls, fourth graders Peyton Horn and Ava Mak, are planning a bake sale at Empower Martial Arts to benefit COTS. Stay tuned for details and deliciousness.


Thanks for Coming to Hops for Homes

When lovely people come together to support a great cause, a good time and good things follow. Thanks to everyone who supported our effort at Hops for Homes at Lagunitas on April 23.

You overwhelmed us with your generosity and good will. Redwood Credit Union offered a $15,000 matching grant and you smashed it! We were able to meet the matching grant in one night by raising $15,424 – meaning more than $30,000 will go to the Kids First Family Shelter for our families and children. We are so grateful to all our guests for being a part of our most successful Hops for Homes ever.

Special thanks to Redwood Credit Union, Lagunitas and all the donors to our meal and our silent auction and raffle.

Top right: COTS co-founder Laure Reichek shaking a leg with Development Manager Eileen Morris at this year’s Hops for Homes

Above: a wonderful turn out at this year’s Hops for Homes, benefiting our Kids First Family Shelter


Butter and Egg Days Champs!

Thank you to the volunteers and staff who walked with COTS in this year’s Butter and Egg Days parade, and thanks to David and Susan Jacoby who loaned us their Model A! We reveled in the parade’s pun theme in honor of Clo the Cow – it gave us a chance to remind spectators that it’s always MOO-ving day at COTS!

COTS won first prize for the Antique or Classic Car (Non-Commercial) category and we can’t wait to start planning for next year’s parade.


Music and Animals and Eggs

We run a lean operation here, but thanks to our supporters, our residents sometimes get a chance to celebrate, take care of themselves, and relax.

In April, Hannah Jern Miller brought down the house at the Mary Isaak Center with a mix of classic rock, folk, country and blues. Hannah came to us courtesy of the nonprofit Bread and Roses. Thank you, Hannah, and thank you Bread and Roses!

Meanwhile, our kids at Vida Nueva – COTS’ permanent supportive housing center in Rohnert Park – had the best spring break ever!

Independence 4-H brought by a miniature petting zoo, and the Active 20-30 Club of Rohnert Park put on a party and an egg hunt that will not soon be forgotten. Thank you!

Also this month, the Gentleman’s Barber Shop of Windsor set up shop outside of the Mary Isaak Center and snipped and trimmed and coiffed all comers. The mood at Mary Isaak was bright as everyone looked their best – thanks to the care of these generous stylists.
Thank you to all those who share their time and talent and care with our residents.