Pictured: the Lace House Linen Family.

The Libarle family of Lace House Linen knows something about losing it all. Twice in their history, they’ve had to start from scratch—once after the 1906 earthquake and once after a fire in 1948.

Each time, they rebuilt bigger and better than before. Pre-COVID-19, they operated seven days a week, providing freshly laundered linens to over 700 clients all over the Bay Area. They owe their growth and success to hard work, and, family members are quick to add, to the goodwill and support of neighbors, business colleagues and the community.

Maybe that resilience and gratitude explain what seems to be the Libarle family’s genetic predisposition to help others, including those, like our clients at COTS, who have lost much.

For over ten years, we’ve been the lucky recipients of an endless supply of clean towels and aprons. They arrive at our kitchen door every week, free of charge, delivered by a friendly Lace House employee. They not only help us feed people, they help us change lives.

“Meals are more than food around here,” Shelter Services Manager Robin Phoenix says. “Meals are the way we make people feel welcome. They’re the way we build relationships that make it more likely for people to accept help. Lace House Linen is part of that work. We’re so grateful.”

Lace House Linen’s lost about 70 percent of its business in recent months. The restaurants and hotels that make up the bulk of their business have had to close entirely or cut back operations in wake of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Still, the company continues to serve COTS.

Fourth generation co-owner/operator Phoebe Ellis (ne Libarle) downplays the contribution. “You’re in our backyard. It’s easy,” she says. “And, sometimes, you give our employees muffins!”

But then she says that her parents, and their parents and grandparents, made giving back “a part of our family culture. It’s assumed that you’ll help others and volunteer. It brings us a lot of happiness. It feels good to be a productive part of your community.”

COTS is by no means the only cause the Lace House family supports. Education, children, and community health and heritage are huge concerns. Phoebe served on the Petaluma School board and on the PTA for her kids’ schools. She also serves on the Petaluma Health Center’s board. Sister Nicole, also a co-owner and operator, serves on the Sonoma Marin Fair Board.

“Our parents, Carol and Dan Libarle, set a high standard for volunteerism and engaging with your community,” Phoebe says. Carol Ann Libarle has devoted much of her life to improving educational opportunities in Petaluma. She’s a Petaluma Educational Foundation board member and also a member of the SRJC committee dedicated to raising funds for the Petaluma campus. In a 2015 profile with North Bay Business Journal, Carol Ann explained her work this way: “I personally believe that every child is born with the right to have food, shelter and health care. I also believe the education of our children is the most important mission facing us as a society.”

Dan Libarle also supports education, serving as president for Sonoma State University’s foundation. He’s been active with Rotary, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Chamber of Commerce, and he serves on the Exchange Bank’s board of directors.

Both Dan and Carol Ann were huge boosters of the Green Music Center. They’ve been COTS supporters since our earliest days. In their time, Carol Ann’s and Dan’s parents each gave back. Among other notable contributions, Carol Ann’s Dad was a co-founder of the Petaluma Boys and Girls Club, and Dan’s Mom served a term on the Sonoma County Grand Jury.

Little known fact: after the 1906 quake ruined their laundry facility in Petaluma, Dan’s grandparents returned home to their native France. But they took a leap of faith and came back to Petaluma to work for another laundry company. They bought that business in 1915.

We are so glad that the Libarle ancestors were brave and optimistic (and homesick for Petaluma). Their decision to return has enriched this community for over a century. When the Bay Area opens up again, we know that business will boom again for Lace House Linen.

Thank you, Libarle family!

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