Cloverdale’s Cesar Chavez event ‘brings communities together’

La Familia Sana, a fledgling outreach group in Cloverdale, works to bridge the gaps between the Hispanic community and other populations in a variety of ways, including organizing events.

One of those events is the Cesar Chavez Celebration, scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Friday at the Dahlia & Sage Community Market, 115 E. 2nd St. in Cloverdale.

Residents can get to know each other while listening to art and food for sale at various vendor tables and listening to a representative from North Bay Jobs With Justice, said Neidi Calvillo, an outreach advocate who leads the celebration.

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

Added executive director Jade Weymouth, “This is a great opportunity to honor the work done by (United Farm Workers co-founder) Cesar Chavez…and the work done throughout the community to keep flood our $2 billion wine industry during COVID.”

The event was previously hosted by Cloverdale Council Member Marta Cruz. Cesar Chavez’s birthday, March 31, was declared a federal holiday in the United States by President Barack Obama in 2014. It celebrates his birth and the legacy of the farm labor movement led by Chavez from the 1950s.

So in addition to fun, like free toys for the kids, the event will feature tables educating the community about resources like Legal Aid, Catholic Charities, Projecto Cura, Nuestra Communidad, and On the Margins.

La Familia Sana also offers free farmworker kits filled with respirators, Gatorade, work gloves, masks, socks, blankets and grocery gift cards, assembled by community members. Much of the supplies were donated by Direct Action for Farmworkers, Calvillo said, including cots, which have already been donated.

Weymouth, a volunteer consultant turned executive director of the organization, said the group was trying to “normalize” events, making sure the town knew activities were open to everyone. It is partly in response to a community social cohesion survey carried out last year which showed major divisions in Cloverdale between white people and people of colour.

Many, but not all, events have been more focused on attracting Latino residents, such as bilingual COVID-19 vaccination clinics and food giveaways. The group also sponsored Las Posadas and Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

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

La Familia Sana has its roots in the farm workers who helped the community after the Kincaid fire in 2019, according to Calvillo. At the start of its official launch, volunteers housed in “a closet” at Cloverdale Senior Center focused on providing food, COVID information, rental assistance and other needs endangered by the pandemic, Weymouth said.

“A lot of families weren’t eligible for government assistance because they didn’t have papers,” she said. “We were part of the (Sonoma County) equity office…and they made the funds a little less restricted.”

He has since opened his own office at 233 N. Cloverdale Blvd. and has branched out to offer mental health services to farm workers and others who have been so stressed by the wildfires and the pandemic – things like worrying about paying rent, utility bills or to ensure that children receive a good education at a distance.

“You can imagine how this stress affects the whole family,” said Weymouth, who grew up in Gilroy and is the grandson of union organizers. “Fear of not having to eat or of being expelled. It’s always been there but it got worse during COVID.

During the pandemic, Weymouth, a Cloverdale resident, completed 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 becomes a family resource center that provides in-house services and houses other agencies interested in helping people enroll in Medicaid or MediCal, for example. Outreach workers travel to neighborhoods, often bringing food from the Sonoma County Food Bank, Farm to Pantry or Food For Thought, Weymouth said.

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

The group’s next event will take place from 4 to 11 p.m. on April 9 at the Citrus Fair in conjunction with a vaccination clinic, food trucks and giveaways. It will include a free screening of the Disney film “Encanto”

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

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