Smith: Santa Rosa eye doctor treats struggling families to dinner

That was one big, lively, uncommon party that filled a good chunk of the Chevy's restaurant in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square the other day.

Most of the 60-some dinner guests were children and adults living at present in the family homeless shelter across Highway 101, by Macy's and the county museums.

Their hosts were staffers at the Eye Care Institute ophthalmology practice who regularly answer an internal call to extend a hand to people who find themselves struggling out on the margins.

It was Dr. Gary Barth's idea to invite all residents of the Family Support Center to walk to the Roxy to take in the new “Star Wars” movie and then have dinner at Chevys.

What a treat. During the meal, a father of three stood and, near tears, thanked the people of the Eye Care Institute for the kindness they showed him and his children. One day, he said, he will do something like that for others.

Dr. Barth, who picked up the entire bill, could have had buffet-like platters of food delivered to the tables, and that would have been fine. Instead he invited the wide-eyed kids and their parents to order whatever they wanted.


A SUPERHERO? Wouldn't you say combat veteran Dan Nevins is the closest we know to one?

Since the former Windsor resident lost both legs below the knees to a 2004 roadside bomb in Iraq, he has climbed mountains, become a yoga teacher, excelled in business and inspired and almost certainly saved the lives of fellow vets through his work with the Wounded Warrior Project.

Now this: Dan has helped Marvel Comics bring greater realism and complexity to character Eugene “Flash” Thompson, a double amputee who receives prosthetic legs in the new “Venom: Space Knight No. 3.”

Dan described to the Marvel writer, for example, the disconnection from the earth he felt after undergoing his first amputation. He spoke of how a single hair can make a prosthesis grate.

The comic-book author thanked Dan for helping him to grasp “a lot of the larger issues with living with prosthetics, but more importantly the day-to-day details of life with prosthetics; the emotional journey that people go through.”


DON'T SPRAY IT: Put yourself in Mark Scott's shoes.

The Petaluma animal-control officer arrived on fairly rural Eddie Court, near Cypress Hill cemetery, to answer a call for help Tuesday morning.

Scott arrived in the reporting family's backyard to find a skunk with its head stuck in a peanut-butter jar. What to do?

When dealing with a distressed skunk, one hopes most to maintain a safe distance. But no bright idea for dislodging the Trader Joe's PB jar remotely came to Officer Scott, for good reason a south county hero.

“There's only so many options you have,” he said.

Moving slowly so as to not alarm the skunk and risk triggering an objectionable response from the end of the animal not in a jar, he approached cautiously, quietly.

Then he plucked off the jar and ran like a man of straw from a firestorm.

The liberated skunk emitted what appeared to be a look a relief, maybe of gratitude, and ambled off.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

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