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Chris Smith: CEO marks birthday, 20th anniversary with Redwood Empire Food Bank

David Goodman won’t like this.

If there’s a more modest, attention-deflecting genius of a CEO in the North Bay, I’d like to bump that person’s humble elbow.

Goodman assumed leadership of the Redwood Empire Food Bank on his 37th birthday. The day was Sept. 11, 2000.

Exactly one year later, he marked his 38th birthday by traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby for support for his goal in life: to end hunger in the Redwood Empire.

Goodman recalls being on a train in Baltimore on 9/11/01, headed for the nation’s capital, when he and everyone else aboard were abruptly advised there was trouble and they were to disembark.

He stood alongside the track, aware that “I had no idea if I was north, south, east or west of D.C.”

Soon, he gathered his bearings and began to comprehend the horror carried to D.C., New York and Pennsylvania by hijacked airliners.

In the intervening years, Goodman has rallied the Sonoma County community to think big, really big, and to act big in the face of an epidemic of hunger.

With profound passion, vision and leadership, he has grown the Redwood Empire Food Bank into a major league philanthropic juggernaut that last year provided $44 million worth of quality nutrition to children, seniors, families and others in Sonoma and four other counties. The REFB figures that in 2019 it distributed food to 1 in 6 residents of those counties.

Shares Bill Friedman, a member of the Friedman’s Home Improvement family and a supportive fan of Goodman, “When he starts talking about things, you can see a tear in his eye. He’s so passionate about taking care of people.”

At the food bank’s expansive and bustling home off Airport Boulevard on Friday, Goodman put up uneasily with 20th anniversary and 57th birthday greetings and praise.

He wrote in a note to his staff, which since 2000 has grown from about nine to 70, “Getting to this point has been a team effort in every sense ... you have given me the opportunity to be creative, risk, fail forward, be true to myself, be honest with you, and be part of a most exceptional team that inspires me every day.

“I am happy to say that I wake up every day with the same excitement and enthusiasm to come to the Redwood Empire Food Bank that I did 20 years ago. A fine organization, surrounded by great people, in a tremendous community.”

Well said, David Goodman. Well done.

...

STEWART’S TREES: The heartbreaking destruction by the Walbridge fire of the one-room, 1883 Daniels School west of Healdsburg has prompted our recollections of an extraordinary former student, Stewart Wade.

Stewart was 103 and a longtime resident of Hawaii when he returned home to Healdsburg in 2018 for the triumphant celebration of the completion of a decadeslong community project to restore the schoolhouse on Mill Creek Road.

Stewart had been retired as a real estate broker for only a few years when he died on Oahu in July of 2019, at the age of 104. I mentioned recently that his wife, Ceci, told of thinking it’s a good thing he wasn’t still here to hear of the burning of Daniels School.

But Ceci will be forever grateful that she was able to accompany Stewart to Sonoma County for the dedication of the restored school. She witnessed how he was honored and adored in Healdsburg, and she saw the 46-star U.S. flag that he retrieved from the school when it closed and donated to the Healdsburg Museum.

Ceci is aware, but I’ve just learned, that there is more to Stewart Wade’s legacy in Healdsburg. He and his brother, Bob, had much to do with the redwoods that grace the town’s gem of a central plaza.

In 1927, the resourceful Wade boys were asked by Julius Myron Alexander, Healdsburg’s city clerk, to uproot some redwood seedlings for transplantation in the park plaza.

Stewart Wade recalled how he and his brother dug up tiny redwoods from their family’s ranch “on top of the Ladder” well up Mill Creek Road. Ceci shared from Hawaii days ago, “He said they were just little shavers.”

Stewart and Bob delivered the approximately foot-high redwoods to Alexander, who rewarded them with 10 cents per tree.

Stewart would recount also that Alexander took leftover seedlings and planted them alongside a sweeping turn of the new Highway 101.

It surely pleased Stewart Wade to watch those redwoods grow, and to see how majestic they’d become when he returned to Healdsburg a bit more than two years ago for the restoration celebration at his former school.

He’d appreciate, too, that there’s already talk of rebuilding Daniels School.

You can contact columnist Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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