On Saturday morning, September 29th, more than 50 Impact100 Sonoma members and prospective members met at Booker Hall, a former church building, now the meeting room for a vast array of activities sponsored by La Luz and their community partners. After a warm and enthusiastic welcome from La Luz Board President Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, Impact100 Sonoma President B.J. Bischoff and Membership Chair Ann Reder shared a bit of Impact100 history and described the benefits of membership.
But that day, the focus was really on La Luz. We enjoyed a tour of their facilities and learned all about what happens in the relatively small footprint of La Luz. In Booker Hall (named for Ligia Booker who started La Luz 30 years ago from the back of her car) and the adjoining patio, everything takes place from child care to counseling sessions, to English and computer classes, to parenting classes and food distribution, to a free animal spay clinic sponsored by Pet’s Life Line. Every space is utilized in multiple ways to provide services to the largely immigrant and low income population that La Luz serves.
The tour moved to the offices next door and Juan Hernandez, the new Executive Director, and Kara Reyes, the Program Director, continued to amaze us with what can be accomplished in the small house where clients are met and helped with whatever brings them to La Luz on any given day. Roughly 1200 people are served in some capacity each month. It was obvious that La Luz needed more space in which to provide their growing services. Local Architect, George Bevan, shared some ideas for the expansion build-out that the Impact100 grant will help to fund. The majority of our $100,000 grant will fund new and expanded staff for counseling and education.
The best part of the morning, though, was listening to the personal stories of some staff members and how La Luz fostered them first as clients, then as volunteers, and eventually to becoming paid members of the staff, learning the skills necessary to be advocates for the community. One young mother shared her story of coming to La Luz as a small child with her parents, volunteering at La Luz as part of her senior project, becoming a receptionist, and later becoming a skilled Family Advocate. When another staff member congratulated her on her recent U.S. Citizenship, there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole room.
La Luz’ mission ‘to empower the community through education, advocacy and leadership’ happens every day and it is done with dignity, respect and sensitive compassion that touched everyone attending.