Sow success with the COTS Hour Seed Fund

Every year in November, we host The COTS Hour: a huge fundraiser where we gather with our community and share stories of hardship, resilience, and triumph. This year, The COTS Hour will be held at 8 a.m., November 14 at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Hall. We’re expecting 450 people to attend and raise funds in support of our vital programs and services throughout the year.

We wish we could host all of Sonoma County at The COTS Hour, but we know many of you can’t join us because you’ll be out of town or clocking in to work. This year, you can help before the event by giving to The Seed Fund. Your support demonstrates our community’s investment in our neighbors experiencing homelessness – and encourages our guests to give generously on November 14!

Join us and help us continue this crucial work: click here to donate to The Seed Fund and launch your fundraising page today!

Saving the planet one free meal at a time

What does our work at Mary’s Table have to do with global environmental health? Quite a bit!

About 35 percent of all food in the United States never gets eaten—at a huge cost: a greater need for agricultural land; gallons of precious water wasted; and greenhouse gas emissions that went for nothing.

But thanks to all the food donations we use each year at Mary’s Table, 98 tons of perishable food go into people—not landfills. And those scraps that we don’t use go into animals or into compost. Many thanks to Recology for helping us develop a robust composting program.

We couldn’t feed our guests without the support of many, many food providers, including our local grocery stores and farmers.

And our volunteers are absolute climate heroes. They coax every delicious, usable bit out of our fruits and vegetables.

Healthy development happens when kids are safe

Here are a few good bits of news from our Kids First Family Shelter.

“Eddie” clings to his grandmother. She’s his anchor in the world. At school, he couldn’t sit down at his desk without his grandmother by his side, couldn’t make it through the rest of the day once she’d said her goodbyes. After moving into KFFS and finding the stability it provides, Eddie is starting to feel more confident. Two weeks ago, he walked into his classroom all by himself and stayed the entire day. We predict he’ll be able to ride the school bus on his own soon.

When “Valerie” arrived at the shelter, she was shy and wasn’t using speech the way other kids her age do. Today, although no one would call her a chatterbox, she’s begun to relax at the shelter, to come out of her shell, and to speak more. Your support helps give all our kids at KFFS the space to breathe and to feel safe again. Thank you for investing in Sonoma County’s next generation!

Housing lets us breathe

There are few words tenants dread more than, “We’re selling the house.” That’s because those words are usually followed by “And you’re going to have to move.”

Six tenants in COTS’ shared Integrity Housing program recently heard both phrases.  Their landlords had rented to the Integrity Housing program for six years at a very affordable price, but they had reached the conclusion that they had to sell the home.

COTS had to deliver 60-day notices to move to all the formerly homeless tenants. We let them know that we’d try our best to find them new housing within the program, but that we couldn’t make guarantees.

The residents are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Only one resident brings in income greater than $1,000 per month. All of them have severe and painful health challenges.

“I couldn’t breathe or focus when we got the notice,” one resident said. “I just kept thinking, ‘I am too old to be out on the streets again.’”

“I had no options,” said another. “I didn’t know what to do.”

A husband and wife who live together in the house were preparing for the possibility that they might need to split up—that there might be space and rent money enough for only one of them.

“We were working on housing plans,” said COTS Case Manager Debbie Robbins. “Those were some tough discussions.”

We were determined not to lose hope. COTS had received a grant from the Finley Foundation in 2018 to purchase a house, and we realized we now had an incredible opportunity: if we could buy the property before it went on the market, we could keep our clients housed and generate income to support COTS’ programs for the long-term.

With the help of the Finley Foundation, the generous sellers, and our amazing community, we closed on the house on August 30, 2019! We are so grateful to the following partners and businesses who made this happy ending possible:

    • the Finley Foundation, which provided funding for the purchase.
    • the sellers, Dennis and Terry Merrill, who worked with us in the same of spirit of ease. cooperation and generosity that characterized all their business dealings with us.
    • Bonnie Merrill, a local realtor and past COTS volunteer, who connected us with Dennis and Terry in the first place – and helped bring them into the Integrity Housing program.
    • Dan and Rene Foppe of DNR Pest Control, who donated the necessary pest inspection.
    • Terry Lewis of North Coast Inspection, who donated his inspection services.
    • Rebuilding Together Petaluma, which is going to help us with repairs and upgrades on the property. (Sign up to volunteer at!)
    • and Bill Gabbert and Karl Bundesen of Century 21 Bundesen who negotiated the sale and donated all their fees.

With the addition of the house to our permanent Integrity Housing portfolio, we will be able to house clients in Petaluma long into the future. We could not have done it without so many generous community members pitching in to help us make it happen.

“I hope people will see this as a model for providing affordable housing,” said one resident.

Richard Stark, a COTS client and a long-time Petaluma resident whom people might remember from his days playing piano at Copperfield’s, says that he remembers many afternoons chatting with Mary Isaak in her backyard back in the early 1980s. “We were talking about a way forward for humanity,” he said, “about saving the world.”

Mary went on to co-found COTS with her friend Laure Reichek and the help of thousands of supporters.

“I didn’t know it then,” Richard said, “but she really did it. She saved people. And her work saved my life.

Please join us at The Big Thanks

We can never thank you enough for your support.

But we’d like to try!

Please join us at The Big Thanks at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 at the Petaluma Woman’s Club.

We’ll show you how we put your support into action—what your donations, your volunteer hours, your advocacy accomplish. And we’ll enjoy great music from Hannah Jern-Miller as well as good company, food and drink.

We are so grateful to you for your support. Thanks to you, COTS can now provide the supports to keep over 400 people in permanent housing annually and 140 people in shelter on any given night.

This is a free event. Please RSVP by clicking here!