Chris Smith: Santa Rosa nonprofit helps fix, move broken down trailer left on its property
An abandoned junker of a car would have been bad enough.
But a perfectly good day headed sharply south when Robin Bowen, one of Sonoma County's veteran providers of services to families, learned that left in her nonprofit's parking lot was one sorry eyesore of an old single-wide, 40-foot-long trailer home.
"I try to be compassionate," said Bowen, chief of the 42-year-old Child Parent Institute, headquartered southwest of Santa Rosa on commercial-industrial Standish Avenue.
But she was deeply pained about a month ago to imagine CPI getting stuck paying to have the trailer, with its mangled tow hitch and a couple of tireless wheels, towed off or demolished on the spot.
"We are so immersed with helping families in crisis right now," Bowen said. "I really don't want to divert money to towing a trailer."
She did hear from an apologetic Juan Cano. He told her he owns the trailer but had nothing to do with it being dumped in the CPI parking lot.
Cano, a 36-year-old handyman, said a man who'd allowed him to place the trailer on a rural property nearby abruptly changed his mind and used few men and a dump truck to manhandle it off his land.
Evidently that crew turned into the CPI Iot when the steel tow hitch tore, at least one axle broke and a partial separation of a wall raised the specter that the trailer might fall apart like a soggy cardboard box.
I drove by CPI to check out the situation and met Cano and his girlfriend, Tifa Silver. Cano told me he'd bought the trailer, originally a movable worksite office, and was in the process of converting it to a residence that he intends to tow to a piece of land he owns in Lower Lake.
"It's going to look like a brand new little home," he vowed.
At that moment, though, the thing was the nightmare on Standish Avenue. Cano had some serious tools in his pickup and he promised to do all he could to make the trailer roadworthy, then move it.
"I don't want to be a thorn in nobody's side," he said.
But a couple more weeks passed without the funky trailer moving even an inch. Cano got replacement tires onto it, but repairing the badly damaged tow hitch was beyond him.
CPI's Bowen spoke with sheriff's deputies and county code enforcement officials, who did what they could to compel Cano to fulfill his responsibility to repair and remove the trailer. Bowen winced upon inquiring about what it would cost her agency to have the thing demolished and the wreckage hauled off: multiple thousands of dollars.
At last, a compassionate and workable solution came to her: She summoned a welder who came and repaired the tow hitch.
And a few days ago Cano hauled the trailer to a piece of property not far away.
Bowen is relieved but also hoping that people in the community might help to replace the $2,400 the nonprofit paid the welder. "That came from our basic needs money to help families," she said.
When I checked with Cano by phone to see how things were going with him, he said he'd already heard from code enforcement officials that he can't leave the trailer where he just moved it. But that's another story.
FROM HAWAII, Cecilia Christenson-Wade told me over the phone, "I've been crying all morning."
Word of the Walbridge fire had reached Ceci on Oahu and she'd made some calls to Sonoma County to implore: Had the splendidly restored, 137-year-old one-room school on Mill Creek Road come through the lightning-sparked disaster?
Advised that the Daniels School was destroyed, Ceci wept not for herself but for her late husband. The extraordinary Stewart Wade had attended Daniels School through most of the 1920s.
Stewart was 103 and a marvel to many on Oahu when he and Ceci traveled to greater Healdsburg to take part in the April 2018 celebration for the completion of the loving, painstaking, decades-long restoration of Daniels School
Stewart, who'd become a real estate broker and community titan on Oahu, recalled to Press Democrat reporter Clark Mason in 2016 how 90 years earlier he and his pals would trap skunks and "the school stunk from that." The kids would trap raccoons, too, and sell their pelts for three bucks each.
Stewart once wrote: "After running our trap line on the way to school, we would do the janitor work. This consisted of bringing one or two buckets of water from a spring that was located down an old abandoned road.
"Then we would sprinkle oiled sawdust on the school floor and sweep it up, clean the blackboard, dust the desks and bring in the wood and start the stove."
As the oldest living alum of Daniels School, Stewart and his Ceci were received like royalty at the community celebration of the grand restoration in 2018.
"I was so privileged to meet the people there in Healdsburg," Ceci said.
The man she adored was 104 when he died on Oahu on July 13, 2019. As much as Ceci misses him, she said it's a good thing he wasn't here to hear that Daniels School had burned down.
And yet Ceci is happy, and she knows Stewart would be, that no lives were lost along with the 1883 school.
You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and firstname.lastname@example.org.