As COTS’ CEO, each month I take a moment to consider what I want our community to know about our organization and our progress in serving Sonoma County’s homeless. I look forward to sharing these thoughts with you in this Virtual Cup of Coffee – my monthly communique about the business and mission moments of COTS (Committee On The Shelterless). In the Business portion, I will share the nuts and bolts of what we do to serve the homeless – our successes and our challenges. In the Mission Moment, I will share stories about our clients and our wonderful staff who make it all happen. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your feedback.

My best,

Ironman and COVID

Many of us have heard of triathlons – that crazy sport where athletes swim, bike, and then run. Length of the races vary from the short Sprint Triathlons to the full Ironman distance of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. The prizes of course are bragging rights (for some), you get to eat a lot after the race, and oh yeah – a Finisher T-Shirt.

There just so happens to be an Ironman Foundation that was started in 2003, and has awarded over $50M to some 9,500 organizations that are in cities where they have races. One of those cities is Santa Rosa. The Foundation has an Ironaid COVID-19 Support Fund that awards grants to nonprofits that focus on homelessness, seniors, and mental health, and who need funding to support their response to COVID and the pandemic. Thanks to our terrific Grants Manager Andrea (Andy) Guarino, she wrote and COTS received a grant of $2,500 for COVID-related expenses to keep our shelter and staff safe.

So what did we get? We purchased electrostatic sprayers to spray or fog disinfectant throughout the shelter and our administrative offices, thermometers, disinfectant, a portable handwashing station, a test kit to determine how effective the disinfectant is at killing germs, and of course Tyvek suits, so we can look like… Ghostbusters. Shown here is our fearless and multi-talented Chief Financial Officer David Tausheck testing out the sprayer.

As COVID spikes continue and homeless clients are discharged from Sonoma State University back to our shelter, we want to make sure we are taking every possible precaution to keep our shelter residents and staff safe. We are doubling down on mandatory masking for residents, staff, and guests of the shelter. We are installing a new permanent heavy-duty hand washing station in the dining room and installing touchless water faucets in the bathrooms. Thanks to a grant from the State, we are installing our new HVAC system later this Fall that will better circulate air throughout the building and also installing new “store front doors” for easier entry and exit to/from our shelter.

We will continue to increase our health and safety protocols as needed. Until then, keep supporting the Ironman when it comes to Santa Rosa, stay safe, and if you see someone in a white Tyvek and a sprayer on his back at COTS, well…it’s not Dan or Bill.

The Quiet Style of Leadership

Leadership comes in all forms. One is the extrovert – the person who seems to draw energy by being in large groups – articulate, confident, decisive with a strong sense of who they are and where their going. Then there is the quiet – every bit as powerful – more introverted leader. Humble, listens first and talks later…maybe, draws strength from within, and keeps calm. They are motivated by different factors and get more satisfaction by being productive and doing quality work. They can seem aloof or disconnected from people, but don’t be fooled. They just have a different style and often thrive in more meaningful one-on-one settings instead of large groups.

I am describing Jesus Toledo Morales, our wonderful Site Coordinator at the Mary Isaak Center. He goes by Jesse and he prefers to let his actions speak louder than his words. Robin Phoenix, Jesse’s Supervisor, says Jesse does not miss anything, is observant, approachable, calm, and very respectful to our clients. She said he has a huge heart, is a kind soul, and our clients always feel better around him because he truly cares and is respectful towards them.

I sat with Jesse last week to get to know him. Giving back, being helpful, doing the right and moral thing is what drives Jesse. After being a student of the Bible for over ten years, he believes his initials, JTM, means Just Trust Me and is a message from Jesus to do the right and moral thing in helping our homeless clients. After all, moral is short for Morales. Jesse believes that COTS is the perfect place to honor Jesus’s name. He said there are lots of positives and negatives in life and we have a choice in which one we choose. He is so thankful to Mary Isaak and Laure Reichek for starting the shelter because it helped him when he was a resident at COTS. It turned his life around. He remembers his case manager Sam who pushed him to do better and be better. Robin said Jesse wants to give back to the same people he lived with on the streets and be a role model for them to strive for something better. That gives him the inner strength to do the moral thing and as Robin said, makes him a person of character.

For Jesse, perhaps its not what he says that defines him. Instead, its what he does that defines him. Thank you so much Jesse for your kindness and patience with our residents, for being their example and someone they can strive to be like, and for helping them live with dignity and respect. Just Trust Me. We trust you Jesse.

Until next month,

Chuck Fernandez