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SAY celebrates its first 50 years and the 60,000 young souls it has served

SAY loves a good party.

Known also by its full name, Social Advocates for Youth, the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit would under normal circumstance be marking its 50th anniversary with grand, effusive and perhaps even elegant face-to-face festivities.

Thanks to the pandemic, circumstances have yet to fully return to normal. So on Saturday, SAY marked its semicentennial with one playful, festive, drive-thru spectacle of a celebration.

The SAY Birthday Cavalcade featured music, food, performers and a boisterous parade at the service organization’s Finley Dream Center campus at Summerfield Road and Hoen Avenue.

Greeting and amusing the guests as they drove through were stunningly costumed members of the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, stilt walkers, a circus-worthy juggler and Clover Sonoma’s Clo the Cow.

Live music burst from inside the great-horned and imposing “Rhino Redemption” art car that Kevin Clark of Petaluma and his Reared in Steel studio built for the 2014 Burning Man. Members of the Rollin’ Rosies classic car club kicked off a parade in which SAY supporters hooted and cheered from their decorated cars in salute to five decades of helping young people in crisis to stabilize and lift up their lives. Many of those who attended took home fine meals ordered in advance from the Dine & Donate program of Park Avenue Catering.

It was 1971 when Social Advocates for Youth was founded in Sonoma County.

“Half a century on the front lines is something I’m extremely proud of,” said SAY’s CEO, Anita Maldonado. “We’ve made a positive impact in the lives of nearly 60,000 young people.”

The pillars of the nonprofit’s mission are to provide housing, career, counseling and crisis services to teens and young adults who are homeless, disconnected or vulnerable.

Maldonado, who came to SAY a year ago after serving as CEO of California Human Development, said the organization has enjoyed tremendous community support and relies on the caring of supporters as it works to meet challenges imposed by the COVID crisis and the harsh realities that confront many young people.

She noted that the most recent point-in-time count of people who struggle with homelessness in Sonoma County found 304 individuals age 12 to 24 living on the streets.

“The work is not done,” she said.

There is more on SAY at its website, saysc.org.

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