Briefs: Back-to-school efforts, Relay for Life, dance contest, upcoming in Geyserville

North Sonoma County Services will fill these backpacks for students entering grades K-12 who live in the agency's transitional housing units. (photo by Susan Schmid)



Agency seeks to fill backpacks

North Sonoma County Services is seeking money and supplies to fill at least 10 backpacks for students K-12 who are living in transitional housing in Healdsburg. The agency plans to fill the bags before Aug. 19, when school starts.

Each backpack will be filled with school supplies such as binders, paper, pencils, pens, calculators, rulers, art supplies and individual-sized alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

The agency, which works in partnership with the Committee on the Shelterless and the City of Healdsburg, provides services for the homeless and the working poor that include rent assistance, help with water and utility payments, and 11 units of transitional housing. In conjunction with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the chronically homeless are provided with showers as well as free counseling on Thursdays, according to Colleen Householder, executive director.

The agency is now working with some of the families displaced from rental units on Prentice Street, recently evicted when a developer purchased the property.

Clients have lived in cars, with relatives or in other tenuous living arrangements. Each adult must pass drug and alcohol tests and set goals that include budgeting, parenting, career, a mandatory savings account, clearing legal issues such as immigration status or child support delinquencies. They must apply for HUD assistance, also known as low-income housing or Section 8.

Clients also receive advice on how to be a good tenant, are encouraged to take English classes and receive help with resume writing and interviewing skills.

At the end of an 18-month stay in transitional housing, their goal is to find permanent housing.

Backpack pledges can be made at 433-6161 or 209 Matheson St. North Sonoma County Services’ annual fundraiser is from 4-8 p.m. Aug. 22 at Hoot Owl Vineyards. Tickets are $60.

Ann Carranza


‘Stuff the Bus’ with supplies

The PTAs of Windsor Unified School District, Cali Calmecac Language Academy and Windsor High School Boosters want you to stuff a school bus to its windows with classroom supplies on Aug. 6.

The bus will be in the Walmart parking lot between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., and at the Staples store at 2222 Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Aug. 15.

Each of Windsor’s schools will post a list of the items it needs on its website, and lists will be distributed in the parking lots on the days of the event.

“What better way to celebrate our community than working together?” said Windsor Creek Elementary School Principal Maureen Grafield. It’s the first year of the “Stuff the Bus” event.

Tax deductible donations also may be dropped off at Yogurt Farms, 626 McClelland Drive, Windsor.

James Lanaras


Relay for Life raises cash

Nearly two-dozen teams raised close to $70,000 during the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour Relay for Life at Keiser Park last weekend.

The theme of this year’s event was Carnival of Hope, and participants observed a “Celebration of Jack” on Saturday evening to honor Jack Setzer, 3, of Windsor, who was diagnosed in 2012 with Stage 4 neuroblastoma.

“He survived and today is a normal boy,” said Diane McDowell, a Relay for Life organizer and member of the Hoof ‘in for a Cure team. “He likes superheroes, and we gave him a truck full of toys and a Superman cape. Jack ran the track to ‘save the relay.’ ”

The teams raise money for the American Cancer Society by taking pledges, camping overnight and taking turns walking around a track.

Relay for Life began in May 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., raising $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. The following year, 350 people joined the overnight event, and it has since gone global, raising nearly $5 billion.

The event includes a Survivors Lap and a Luminaria Ceremony, during which candles are lit inside personalized paper bags and placed around the track in tribute to those who have battled cancer.

The Windsor teams were $10,000 short of their goal before the July 18-19 event, organizer “Mama Cass” Gleason said.

“We are one team with one purpose. We’re all here to raise money to put an end to cancer. I see this as a Relay family reunion,” Gleason said during the closing ceremony Sunday morning, which was preceded by the Kiwanis Club’s pancake breakfast.

This year’s turnout was comparable to last year’s, but the emphasis was not on teams competing to raise the most money, McDowell said.

“We’ve been having a hard time retaining teams, so we tried to make it noncompetitive rather than focus on money. If we thank the teams, the money will come,” she said.

They also emphasized the community value of Relay for Life, including those whose lives have not been affected by cancer.

“We want people to come and see what we do,” McDowell said.

Alicia Torres and Erika Hernandez helped organized this year’s event, and State Senator Mike McGuire stopped by to witness the cardboard costume contest.

Other events included a “Grease” movie tribute in honor of Stephanie Bettiga, who lost her five-year battle with cancer; poker; Scrabble; human bingo games; dance party, and a costume parade.

“The one thing I want you to take away from this is hope of finding a cure,” Gleason said during the closing ceremony.

James Lanaras


Dance instructor wins contest

Arthur Murray dance instructor Zach Crawford of Santa Rosa has won this year’s instructor competition at the 2015 Arthur Murray International Dance Festival. Studio Director Cara Recine came in second in the studio executive division.

Held every spring, the festival gives Arthur Murray studios the chance to compete against thousands of other studios around the world. Instructors and their studios receive points each time students enroll in a program during the festival or attend a group class, practice party or private lesson.

“We want to extend a huge thank you to our student body here at the studio,” Recine said. “If we didn’t have their support and participation, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Arthur Murray Santa Rosa is located at 416 Davis St. in Railroad Square, 843-3447,

Mary Jo Winter


Raising money for local causes

Geyserville Fire Fighters raised $53,000 at the department’s 100-year anniversary dinner dance on July 18 at Clos du Bois Winery, with State Senator Mike McGuire serving as auctioneer. The money will be used to buy new breathing apparatus devices.

Upcoming events include:

Wines, Vines & Canines, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at Alexander Valley Vineyards, 8644 Highway 128. Tickets are $25 per dog, which includes two people, and $10 for each additional person. $5 per ticket will be donated to Sonoma Humane Society. More info at (800) 888-7209,

Artist Bob Wolf will teach “Drawing the Right Portrait Using the Sight-Size Method” Tuesday and Wednesday mornings Aug. 13-Sept. 16 at the Russian River Atelier studio, 21001 Geyserville Ave. Cost is $600,

Wags, Whiskers & Wine Gala, a fundraiser for Sonoma Humane Society, is 5:30-8 p.m. Aug. 14 at Trentadue Winery, 19170 Geyserville Ave. Events include auctions, adoptable pets, a kitten smooch booth and champagne. Tickets are $175 at

Trione Vineyards and Winery’s Pig Roast Winemaker Dinner is 5-10 p.m. Aug. 22 at 19550 Geyserville Ave. On Trione Flatridge Ranch, co-owner Mark Trione found the perfect wild pig that will be prepared, along with other wild and domestic pigs, in a La Caja China box roaster by the culinary crew at Peloton Catering. Tickets are $95 at

Deborah Rust