Cloverdale’s Cesar Chavez event brings communities together

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La Familia Sana, a young Cloverdale outreach group, works to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and other demographics in a variety of ways, including hosting events.

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

Residents can get to know each other while saying ooh and ahh at various sales tables about art and food and listening to a representative from North Bay Jobs With Justice, said Neidi Calvillo, an outreach attorney leading the celebration.

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

And added Executive Director Jade Weymouth, “It’s a great opportunity to recognize the work of Cesar Chavez (Co-founder of United Farm Workers)… and the work that has been done across the community to bring our $2 billion… keeping the wine industry afloat during COVID.”

The event was previously organized by Cloverdale Council member Marta Cruz. Cesar Chavez’s birthday on March 31st was declared a public holiday in the United States in 2014 by President Barack Obama. It celebrates his birth and the legacy of the rural labor movement led by Chavez since the 1950s.

In addition to the fun, such as free toys for the children, 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 respirators, Gatorade, work gloves, masks, socks, blankets, and grocery gift cards put together by community members. Much of the relief supplies were donated by Direct Action for Farmworkers, Calvillo said, including cribs that have already been given away.

Weymouth, a volunteer adviser who became the organization’s chief executive, said the group is trying to “normalize” events to ensure the city knows the activities are open to everyone. It’s acting in part in response to a community survey on social cohesion conducted last year that revealed major divisions in Cloverdale between whites and people of color.

Many, but not all, events were more focused on attracting Latinos, such as B. Bilingual COVID-19 vaccination clinics and food gifts. The group has also sponsored the celebrations of Las Posadas and Dia de los Muertos.

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

Calvillo says La Familia Sana can trace its roots to farm workers who helped out in the community after the 2019 Kincaid fire. Early in the official launch, volunteers housed in “a closet” at the Cloverdale Senior Center focused on providing groceries, COVID information, rental support and other needs vulnerable to the pandemic, Weymouth said.

“Many families were not eligible for government assistance because they are undocumented,” she said. “We were part of the (Sonoma County) Office of Equity … and they were a little less resource constrained.”

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 so stressed by wildfires and the pandemic — things like worrying about paying rent, utility bills or making sure kids get a good distance education.

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

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

In partnership with Corazón Healdsburg, Catholic charities, and other groups, La Familia Sana is becoming a family resource center that offers in-house services and houses other agencies that want to help people enroll in things like Medicaid or MediCal. Outreach workers go into the neighborhood and often bring groceries from the Sonoma County Food Bank, Farm to Pantry or Food For Thought, Weymouth said.

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

The group’s next event will be held on April 9 from 4pm to 11pm at the Citrus Fair in conjunction with a vaccination clinic, food trucks and gifts. It will include a free screening of the Disney film Encanto.

You can reach Associate Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.

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