Kat Kosta: The nonprofits mentioned in this story were clearly not the only ones who helped during the fire. And it's clear local volunteers like you played a critical role, as indicated in this sentence: "Within hours of the outbreak of the fire, local volunteers stepped up to help." While I don't mention the good work you did I don't believe the article takes away from your efforts.
Viri Agapoff: The purpose of the CVNL story was to explain their role as the county-designated emergency volunteer center coordinator. There are certainly more stories to tell and I'm interested to hear about your experiences (positive and negative) with CVNL and the work you and others did.
I agree with the above two comments
My name is Viri Agapoff,
I recently came across your article titled, "Into the Breach North Bay nonprofits rose to challenge during Valley Fire" and I believe you have been miss informed or at least not given the whole story due to not being present during this tragic event. I'm not sure if another article being written is in order or if you should alter your current publication but, there are a lot of people that volunteered which have been effected by the idea you have portrayed when you wrote the CVLN came in a few days later and "fixed" our overwhelming donation situation. It also states that they CVLN came in and worked with the local volunteers and did not just "take over". This is incorrect too. I can see how they would like to portray themselves as the donation situation saviors, but this is inaccurate.
My town of Calistoga was faced with aiding our friends from Lake County who were affected by Valley Fire. Collectively we got organized and started running a donation and distribution center. I worked over many days directing dozens of volunteers to bring some calm and comfort to the fire evacuees. We had over 200 volunteers each day, over the 14 days that the shelter was open. "Valley Fire Volunteer, Calistoga" was a grassroots group that was formed because we saw a lack of direction from Red Cross. The Red Cross was turning away not only donations but, Volunteers. Their reasoning was, "We are not set-up to handle physical donations and are only asking for monitory donations to help the fire victims". With this knowledge, we set up a volunteer booth. Where "the local resident volunteers", could receive and organize the donations.
We organized a mini "store" for the fire survivors to find the items they needed. The first few days we had many clothes, limited toiletry items (ie: shampoo, conditioner, and soap.) and blankets, sleeping bags and minimal tents on the first three days. For three days we ran shop 9am-10Pm. As the rain was coming we used facebook, word of mouth and local volunteers to bring needed donations. Tents, tarps, air mattresses and flashlights were supplied by donations from people and businesses from all over. We helped get the survivors through that rainy Wednesday. The next few days is where piles of donations were nice but, lacked the items being requested. Hair ties, specific size sock and underwear requests, flashlights, rope, work boots for men to get or go back to work, diapers, baby bottles, baby food, baby wipes, etc. We asked for specific items and the community came through. There was one mother with a special needs child needed to have them sleep on a cot. The Red Cross said that she could sleep inside with her child however her other two children would have to sleep in a tent outside. We asked the public if they had a RV that someone could lend and someone came through and they were able to all sleep together in the RV. Our volunteers walk through the tented area to ask for specific donation needs throughout the 14 days. As lists came in, we filled the requests by going through the donation piles. The items not found, local volunteers were given lists and went to Walmart, the dollar store and other stores to fulfill the needs of these survivors. On Tuesday evening days after we had been working A member of red cross approach our table and said we were working illegally and that we needed to bring our volunteer sign in signs down. I met with the regional CEO of Red Cross, and call them out on their lack of management. I left the meeting with the promise that they would have a plan in place by the next morning so we could worked under their direction. This is something that never happened. In fact we got the endorsement of Carlene Moore the fairgrounds manager to continue our efforts on site.
Our work there ended when the Calistoga Fair Grounds Closed it's location and moved everyone to Middletown, The hidden Valley golf course and the moose lodge in Clearlake Oaks. The Wednesday and Thursday prior to the Calistoga Fair Grounds closing local volunteers and CVLN volunteers were asked to help pack the donations into Home Depot boxes which were donated by Home Depot. There were quite a few volunteers from CVLN that did show up to help pack items and move them via forklift and golf carts. This is the point when CVLN brought in volunteers to help pack. One of our local volunteers delegated in the main "store" area which item should be packed first include our "store" within a few hours. CVLN volunteers and management told us that they were there to help with the logistics of packing the items and shipping them up over the mountain. There was a discrepancy at one point. A CVLN volunteer information collection person thought that we were going to share our whole list of volunteer contact information with them so, they could use the volunteers for future situations. When our volunteer booth Coordinator heard about this she tried to let me know but, I was so busy I didn't understand what she was talking about. Our volunteers from local areas did not expect to sign up for a list for CVLN to use in the future. About an hour later the head of CVLN asked me to dismiss this volunteer because she was causing issues. At this time, I was also belittled by the head of CVLN in charge of the location being told that I was backstabbing and two-faced. After The manager of the CVLN was rude and belittled me I didn't really feel like I want to do work with them anymore. Conveniently, this happen the day before the end of our help as local volunteers was needed. The last day of packing the items, local volunteers, were told by CVLN that they had the situation "under control" and no longer needed our help packing the donations into boxes. At this point, the non-profit, "Points of Light" President George H. W. Bush's thousand points of light group and their partner, UPS, delivered the goods to fire victims once they were allowed back into the fire area. This was a big help because there was no way for us to get the boxes that were packed over the hill.
As time is going on our local volunteers have gone over the hill to sort donations at the Lions Club in Middletown and kept in touch with local fire survivors helping them replace items needed that they lost in the fire. A month ago, life changed for a lot of us but, we are in this for the long haul. We will be communicating with valley residents as the days continue. This will be an uphill struggle to help and assist any that need it. Our Facebook page in a few days had over a 1000 followers. We just held an event this past weekend where we went Middletown and distributed over 150 new VANS shoes to the kids affected by the Valley Fire. These were generously donated by Freedom Skateboard Shop in Ukiah. We just feel that there are other stores that need to be told.
I have no idea where you got your facts but being a community member for my whole 31yrs of life being a graduate from Calistoga and also having my own house that faces Carlene's office and is less than 50 ft away from evacuation center and worked my ass off helping the community for the whole week these evacuees had nothing. I had them shower at my house and do laundry. I volunteered on top of my 60 hour work week. I was there the first night of tragedy and was up untill 4am guiding traffic and assisting. Yes the first night red cross was there. But let me tell you the next morning it was the community that took over not RED CROSS or CVNL. This is appauling to read and you as a writer need to get the facts straight before you publish shame on you!!!
Minkoff Chatoy here, Thank you Bohemian and Tom Gogola for an inspiring article. We at KOWS were not looking for a news release and yet here Tom Gogola presented himself, (btw Tom, love saying your last name Gogola, Gogola!) Thank you for being the news release for KOWS and attentiveness, I had so much fun talk with you! The Bohemian is one of the BEST here in Sonoma County! Grazie!
Thanks to each of you for responding to this piece. It should be noted that I was the editor of this item and take responsibility for whatever problems any reader might have with it, including our use of the word "catastrophic" in relation to a leaf-blower ban's impact on residents. Yes, that was intended to be tongue in cheek, a tone that is a hallmark of this column. I regret that it was taken as seriously as it has been. I would also ask that factual issues raised by any commenters are appreciated and should be directed to my attention, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for taking the time to comment, and please keep reading. Tom Gogola
Thank you for this in depth look at this important issue. Very interesting and informative.
Thats my little sister.... im so unbelievably proud of you. I love you sooo much and miss you
This is demeaning to the efforts of Sonoma residents from all walks of life who are only trying to have some relief from the constant din and dust and exhaust of gas leaf blowers. The headline, "Leaf Blower Foes Bring the Noise" sets the biased tone. Sarah Stierch had 24 hours to write this piece and it shows -- she did not do her homework and collected quotes via email.
The grassroots group Sonoma Neighbors Against Leaf Blowers has consistently and deliberately conducted itself in a civil and rational manner, sticking to fact and science, as opposed to some of the more visible ban opponents who have raised their voices in meetings, and verbally harassed women after Council meetings, including calling them bitches and saying "F--- You." Even one Council woman was harassed and threatened in the parking lot. If anyone is bringing the noise, it is them. They are the reason the Mayor now has a police presence at every meeting where leaf blowers will be discussed.
There are more than "a handful" of towns with bans on all blowers or on gas blowers. As of 2013 there were 21, and dozens more with heavy restrictions and/or trying to enact a ban. Regarding your assertion that cities with bans are wealthy -- and I'm not sure what your point is in mentioning it (you might also have chosen to point out that many of them are environmentally-oriented, "green" communities) -- I would point out that neither Berkeley nor LA are wealthy cities. Certainly we currently see more wealthy communities with bans, because I doubt poor communities have the political power or frankly the time to stand up for themselves. In Sonoma, Boyes Hot Springs is one of the most effected (no this is not an East Side issue) and you might be interested to know that many of the ban proponents who have spoken at the City Council meetings were from the Springs, describing the many ways leaf blowers negatively impact their lives. They know a ban would not help them, but hope that if Sonoma bans them, the County might eventually follow suit. It is our intention to create packets of information to share with other communities.
Having several issues of importance does not preclude dealing with leaf blowers, another important issue (unless you dismiss the science on the serious health risks of breathing in fine particulate matter, and the other health and environmental impacts associated with leaf blowers).
The issue of job loss is a red herring. This report from Burlingame prepared by a citizen's committee for the City Council is one of the best and most recent -- there are others as well -- to spell out the satisfaction in towns with leaf blower bans, and the total absence of any evidence that anyone lost their jobs or went out of business. (The interviews with cities are summarized starting about 2/3 through the document.) http://www.burlingame.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=7862
Finally, Waldron's letter did not predict "catastrophic" effects as you describe them, and your own quote confirms this. "A little less tidy" for the same price is not what I'd call catastrophic. I've spoken to him myself and I know his feelings about a ban have consistently been: it's probably inevitable (for good reasons) and he can deal with it - for some jobs the cost will go up slightly or the result will be less perfect.
I think you've done a disservice here to the public, who have a right to know the facts.
Speaking of facts, there is ample research on the health risks associated with the filthy emissions and fine particulate matter leaf blowers produce, including reports from the Harvard School of Public Health , Harvard Medical School, NYU Medical School, the American Lung Association, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, an Orange County Grand Jury Report on Leaf Blowers, physicians groups, the EPA, The New England Journal of Medicine, The NY Times, Scientific American, Environmental Health Perspectives, and many other sources.
I would like to point out, that the refugee crisis in Europe is more important than affordable housing, but what does that have to do with affordable housing not being an important issue? On the drought, as we have been told by our arborist, if people did not blow the leaves off, the ground would not become rock hard and unhealthy for our native trees. This would also help stop the spread of sudden oak death, by keeping the trees healthier. I am 64 years old and weight 107 pounds. I sweep the leaves out of our driveway and off the street in front of our house and place them under the oak trees on a regular basis. So, I do not buy into this "We must have our leaf blowers as a necessary landscape tool, or our world will fall apart, our property values will plummet if we can not keep our yards devoid of all naturally occurring elements" litany in favor of leaf blowers. Maybe it is time to embrace our natural world, and contribute to its health and be just a bit less tidy without our leaf blowers.
Boyes Hot Springs
Wow. Sarah Stierch got so much wrong about this five year effort to ban leafblowers in Sonoma, and is so clearly committed to journalism as an exercise in hyperbole vs. getting the facts straight, it would be a miracle if anyone working on either side of this issue ever talked to a Bohemian writer again.
What a shock it is that DA Ravitch took a pass. I'm sure ever since she faked her investigation of Eric Gelhause, she will double down from now on. Those local defense attorneys must have been pretty sure these allegations had meat on 'em to get Attorney Izaak Schwaiger involved. I bet if the attorneys with juevos in the area did a little digging, they'd find a can of worms at that jail.
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The federal government should make it legal to grow up to 500 or 1,000 plants so that it will be legal to farm on a commercial level without allowing mega-corporations to monopolize the market.
I like that it's grown by thousands of people in relatively small amounts with love and care about the product and not for the love of money.
The issue of legal marjuana has very little to do with weed itself. More of a government issue of how to tax it. Many years ago tobacco companies designed packs for joints. How to get billions of dollars from citizens legally growing pot. Another case of the "Almighty Dollar" over common sense.
Just another example of "rogue police". Unexcuse-able behavior for the protectors of the Friendly City. If I am not mistaken, this isn't the first time. What if Barney Fife's gun went off and killed one of their kids? Resisting arrest???
This is outrageous behaviour from a local police dept supposedly pledged to "serve and protect" their community. "Surveil and harass" is more like it.
With so many in every community being incarcerated for non violent crimes and first time offenses, why have the police increase the sense of injustice with these tactics? Good grief, 3 officers to conduct a parole search when no crime was suspected, no complaint made?
That's not only a waste of tax payers money, but very poor public relations.
Crackpots after easy money.
This article has inspired me to return to Peter Lowell's for another meal. I've experienced both good and bad from the restaurant (food is nearly always 4-5 stars imo), but service has been tricky at times. Glad to hear they are taking leadership on income inequality in our community!
BTW, Lowell Sheldon is just ahead of the game, one day soon, tipping will go away in California....mostly because of a high minimum wage.....I've been in the restaurnat business 35 years, I know. I've been an owner the last 16....Tipping is going away....
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