Cloverdale’s Cesar Chavez event ‘bringing communities together’

The Friday celebration will feature food, art vendors and free toys for children.|

La Familia Sana, a fledgling outreach group in Cloverdale, is working to bridge gaps between the Hispanic community and other populations through various ways, including holding events.

One such event is the Cesar Chavez Celebration, set for 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Dahlia & Sage Community Market, 115 E. 2nd St. in Cloverdale.

Residents can get to know each other while oohing and ahhing over art and food for sale at various vendor tables and listening to a representative from North Bay Jobs With Justice, said Neidi Calvillo, an outreach advocate who is heading up the celebration.

“Celebrating farmworkers helping in the community makes our whole team happy,” she said.

And added Executive Director Jade Weymouth: “It’s a great opportunity to honor the work done by (United Farm Workers co-founder) Cesar Chavez … and the work done throughout the community to keep our $2 billion wine industry afloat during COVID.”

The event was previously organized by Cloverdale Council member Marta Cruz. Cesar Chavez’s birthday on March 31 was proclaimed a federal holiday in the U.S. by President Barack Obama in 2014. It celebrates his birth and the legacy of the agricultural workers labor movement led by Chavez starting in the 1950s.

So in addition to the fun, such as free toys for the kids, the event will feature tables informing the community about resources such as Legal Aid, Catholic Charities, Projecto Cura, Nuestra Communidad and On the Margins.

La Familia Sana is also offering free farmworker kits filled with respirator masks, Gatorade, work gloves, masks, socks, blankets and gift cards for groceries, put together by community members. Much of the supplies were donated by Direct Action for Farmworkers, Calvillo said, including cots, which have already been given away.

Weymouth, volunteer consultant-turned-executive director of the organization, said the group is trying to “normalize” the events, making sure the town knows the activities are open to everyone. It’s acting partially in response to a community survey on social cohesion done last year that showed major divisions in Cloverdale between whites and people of color.

Many, but not all, of the events have been more focused on drawing Latino residents, such as bilingual COVID-19 vaccine clinics and food giveaways. The group has also sponsored Las Posadas and Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Started officially a year ago January as a response to health emergencies in the Latino community of North Sonoma County (the name means “Healthy Family”), the brainchild of Latino activist Ezequiel Guzman, the organization has a nine-member board chaired by Tod Hill and a small paid staff. It is now a registered nonprofit with a $450,000 annual budget.

La Familia Sana can trace its roots back to farmworkers helping out in the community after the Kincaid fire of 2019, according to Calvillo. At the beginning of its official start, volunteers housed in a space provided by their fiscal sponsor, the Cloverdale Senior Center, focused on providing food, COVID information, rental assistance and other needs endangered by the pandemic, Weymouth said.

“A lot of the families weren’t qualified for government assistance because they are undocumented,” she said. “We were part of the (Sonoma County) Office of Equity … and they made funds a little less restricted.”

It has since opened its own office at 233 N. Cloverdale Blvd. and has branched out to offer mental health services to farmworkers and others who have been so stressed out by wildfires and the pandemic — things like worrying about paying rent, utility bills or making sure children received good remote education.

“You can imagine how that stress impacts the whole family,” said Weymouth, who grew up in Gilroy and is the grandchild of labor organizers. “Fear of not having food or being evicted. It always existed but it got worse during COVID.”

During the pandemic, Weymouth, a Cloverdale resident, finished a master’s degree in organizational development from Sonoma State University while pregnant.

Partnering with Corazón Healdsburg, Catholic Charities and other groups, La Familia Sana is becoming a family resource center that provides internal services and hosts other agencies wanting to help people sign up for Medicaid or MediCal, for instance. Outreach workers go into neighborhoods, often bringing food from the Sonoma County Food Bank, Farm to Pantry or Food For Thought, Weymouth said.

“We get a lot of phone calls from people looking for support on housing, workers rights and we refer them,” she said. “We are here to help the English- and Spanish-speaking communities to build something together.”

The group’s next event will take place 4 to 11 p.m. April 9 at the Citrus Fair in conjunction with a vaccination clinic, food trucks and gifts. It will include a free showing of the Disney movie “Encanto”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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