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For Petaluman Hempel, no fire victim left behind

By HANNAH BEAUSANG Petaluma Bounty Farm action, time would pass your neighborhood, then
ARGUS-COURIER STAFF helped distribute produce before the reality sunk in, where?” she said. “We
When Elece Hempel and other goods local she said. need to be more under-
sought to transition from agrarians weren’t able to “It wasn’t until about standing and open to other
the high-powered tech sell at farmer’s markets, three or four days after did people … listening before
world into the nonprofit Hempel said. it hit home about what’s reacting is really, really
realm, she had to convince Case managers reached going to happen to all important.”
Petaluma People Services out to Petaluma seniors to these people who lost their While the Washington
Center’s leadership she prepare them in case the homes in the fire,” she native devotes much of
was right for the job. flames reached the city said. “I have to tell you – her time to managing her
After two months of limits, and offer support there’s trauma and angst staff of about 63 and the
working for free, she was during some of the most associated with the help- more than 400 volunteers
hired by the nonprofit, destructive wildfires in lessness you feel dealing that support the organi-
and she hasn’t looked California’s history. with the insurance compa- zation, she also serves
back since. With creative Shared Housing and nies and the county.” as the president of the
thinking and tenacity, Resource Exchange, or Hempel knows it will Petaluma Health Care Dis-
she’s grown the organiza- SHARE Sonoma County, CRISSY PASCUAL / ARGUS-COURIER STAFF be a long road to recovery trict’s Board of Directors.
tion, which serves as a key a partner program with Elece Hempel, Executive Director of Petaluma People Ser- for shell-shocked Sonoma Hempel, who has worked in
Petaluma resource with PPSC, was expanded to vices Center visits with lunch guests of the Senior Cafe at County. Her nonprofit, various roles from startups
programs in high demand help house displaced fire the Petaluma Senior Center in Lucchesi Park. like many others, faces to aerobics, holds commu-
after October’s ferocious victims as flames were funding challenges in nity service close to heart.
fires. still devouring more than sometimes awful life and combined families, was coming months and years. She’s part of the coor-
“When I think about 5,000 homes in the county. we continue to try to find reduced to dust and ash, While money poured into dinating committee for
how we reacted to the fires, About 85 people are now the silver lining,” the she said. After the fire, she fire relief funds, nonprof- the Petaluma Community
everyone at this agency living in long-term home 57-year-old said. “We’re was forced to go through its continue to depend on Relations Council, serves
accepted responsibility,” shares, an effort powered seeing a need for that and the heart-wrenching community support to on the board of directors
said Hempel, the current by volunteers who stepped we’re in conversations to exercise of itemizing lost meet growing demands for for the Petaluma Chamber
executive director who has up to help, Hempel said. build programming for belongings for her insur- services after the fires. of Commerce and serves
worked in various capac- Her organization is cur- first responders.” ance company. The couple As the rebuilding pro- on the subcommittee of
ities at PPSC since 2004. rently drafting a blueprint Hempel is no stranger waited until neighbors who cess unfolds in the county, Age-Friendly Sonoma
“We were one of the few to serve residents whose to the trauma caused by live in the area full-time she challenged local lead- County, among other local
large nonprofits that wasn’t lives were turned upside natural disasters, and is reconstructed their homes ers and service providers roles.
impacted by the fires and down by the fires, while also still dealing with the af- to start rebuilding their to consider all solutions. “I love this town, I really
we needed to step up.” reaching its regular clients termath of the deadly 2015 own residence. “It’s going to take a do,” she said. “I grew up in
PPSC provides ser- in Petaluma and beyond. Valley Fire that claimed As Sonoma County’s whole community and a a little town that was very
vices for seniors, housing “We’ve already seen an her second home on Cobb fires ignited, Maciel’s collective effort,” she said. similar with agricultural
programs, adult and youth increase and a growing Mountain. daughter evacuated to “One of the things that’s roots, but it didn’t have the
employment and training need for trauma-informed The residence, filled with Petaluma, where Hempel frustrated me more than ability to grow in the same
programs as well as coun- counseling … for many memories and mementos spent the early hours fol- others is the ‘not in my way Petaluma has. For me,
seling and food assistance. clients, this is just one from Hempel and her lowing Nixle and the news. neighborhood’ attitude. it’s my passion.”
As disaster struck, PPSC’s more thing to add to this partner, Alan Maciel’s Though she jumped into If it’s not going to be in


What: Discussion of budget and financial forecast followed
a city fund that can be
tapped to help develop-
ers construct affordable
Junior College about a
similar program for stu-
dents, she said.
about housing solutions diversity and inclusion as by a discussion regarding housing needs and policies. housing communities such Lina Hoshino, a down-
Feb. 12, more than four such a high value and yet When: 5:45 p.m. Feb. 12 as Logan Place, a 66-unit town business owner who
months after the disaster. we come out and decry the Where: City Hall, 11 English St. complex managed by non- last February distributed
With that as a backdrop, negative consequences of profit Burbank Housing. a petition urging local
community leaders and affordable housing in our More information: On March 5, the city officials to address a lack
local officials convened community?” he said. “I council will consider of affordable housing, said
Monday to address Peta- believe it’s because we’ve slippery slope of disaster,” city that in October had a increasing those fees, she hopes action will come
luma’s dire housing crisis, attained a certain level he said. “Be aware of that 1.12 percent vacancy rate Castellucci said. Recent soon. Her husband and
a complex issue some say of affluence or status as when you start coming up in its major apartment legislation will also allow business partner Angelo
is threatening to alter the individuals or families and with all these solutions complexes, which equates cities to require that devel- Sacerdote praised the city
social fabric of the city it’s very difficult for us to for all of this. I appreciate to 35 vacant units, there’s opers of rental complexes for easing restrictions on
and Sonoma County. accept living with others all the good work that I much incentive to hang on include affordable units, accessory dwelling units
“From the county stand- that are not at the same hear you’re all doing, but to a lease, she said. an option the city can also and junior second units, or
point, what we did immedi- level from infiltrating our I hate to tell you, from my “I do feel that (just cause consider, she said. bedrooms converted into
ately after the fire is loosen world – we’re not really point of view, it’s an abject eviction) is a low hanging There are currently 905 independent living spaces.
up as many regulations as as inclusive or diverse or failure.” fruit solution to deal with units under construction Still, their employees
possible,” Sonoma County broad-minded as we might Gabriela Orantes, a the very, very real housing in the city, 48 of which will struggle with housing.
Supervisor and Petaluma think.” member of the North crisis that residents in be affordable, she said. An “They need to do a lot
resident David Rabbitt said. Johnson encouraged Bay Organizing Project, Petaluma face right now,” additional 250 units have more,” Hoshino said.
“The fires didn’t impact attendees to rethink what asked the city to give she said. been approved but are not
Petaluma, but Petaluma homelessness means and tenants more protection The city is currently yet under construction,
has a role to play in recov- its impacts on those who by adopting rules for just limited in its ability to she said.
ery and in housing those are living in poverty. He cause eviction, which make meaningful con- While housing is being
who are left houseless in suggested that the city would preclude landlords tributions to help buoy built, Petaluma People
Sonoma County.” adopt similar measures to from kicking tenants out affordable housing proj- Services Center currently
The greater Bay Area is those embraced in Santa of housing unless the evic- ects, since funding sources operates a home share
continuing to expand, with Rosa and Sonoma County, tion meets certain criteria. continue to wane and the program that’s expanded
2 million more residents including expanding addi- As it stands, some resi- city’s funds are lagging, since the October fires,
expected by 2040, Rabbitt tional temporary housing dents can be evicted for Housing Coordinator Sue providing housing for
said. Growth in the job options and streamlining any reason, Orantes said, Castellucci said. about 100 people, SHARE
market has outpaced the aspects of the permitting which creates fear and of- Currently, developers Sonoma County Executive
development of housing, process. ten causes tenants to keep of major projects are Director Amy Appleton
and in some cases, Peta- “My message to you is issues that affect health required to either build said. She’s also been in
luma-based workers are that people living in poverty and safety under wraps affordable units into their talks with Sonoma State
commuting in from other or homelessness or the for fear of retaliation. In a projects or pay a fee into University and Santa Rosa
counties because they can’t working poor, because
afford to live in the city. they’re in that situation
Though participants in doesn’t mean that’s their NOMINATION FORM
the forum organized by the character, it doesn’t mean
Sonoma County Human that they’re not trustworthy
2018 Petaluma
2018 Petaluma
Rights Commission and or honest or worth having
the Petaluma Community in our community,” he
Relations Council agreed said. “Next time someone
Community Awards Community
there’s no single solution
to the problem, advocates
proposes a large affordable
housing complex, we have
of Excellence Awards of Excellence
For complete awards criteria and nomination form visit
made it clear that collabo- to believe that it’s going to
ration is key. enhance our community, About the Awards:
Recovery will also take not drag it down.”
a shift in community per- A homeless man who Petaluma is blessed with a great Nominations are due
spective, said Committee on identified himself only as number of outstanding and caring by Feb. 9, 2018
the Shelterless’ CEO Mike James urged the panel to persons whose many contributions
Johnson, a formerly home- do more to create action- make this community a better
less man who now runs able solutions.
Please list the nominee’s community
the city’s largest homeless “When these disasters place to live, work, and raise a involvement.You may attach additional
services nonprofit. happen, lots of people family. In anticipation of the pages for more information.
“How is it we can cele- wind up in a fluctuation Petaluma Community Awards of
brate diversity in our em- point right on the prec- Name of Nominee:___________________
Excellence in March, we invite you
ployment, on our boards ipices of disaster and it Abraham Solar to help us identify people worthy Business (if applicable): _______________
of directors and in groups doesn’t take very much to 2017 Petaluma Address:_____________________________
like this that hold up just push them over the of recognition in the following
Citizen of the Year categories: Phone: ______________________________
Category of Nomination: _____________
CIG 200% DWELLING REPLACEMENT Citizen of the Year: Excellence in Education: Reason for Nomination: ______________
Awarded to a person who has Awarded to a person whose
COST COVERAGE exemplified a model of civic contributions have helped improve
responsibility through outstanding and enhance the lives of students in _____________________________________
service and involvement in the Petaluma area schools.
Twice the Dwelling limit community.
Large Business: _____________________________________
Volunteer of the Year: Awarded to a Petaluma business _____________________________________
Awarded to a person whose with 40 or more employees, _____________________________________
extensive volunteer contributions operating for at least three years, _____________________________________
have helped enhance the which is recognized as a leader in its _____________________________________
community. industry and the community. _____________________________________
Service to Youth: Small Business: _____________________________________
Awarded to a person whose Awarded to a Petaluma business _____________________________________
contributions have helped improve with fewer than 40 employees, _____________________________________
and enhance the lives of young operating for at least three years, _____________________________________
people in Petaluma. which is recognized as a leader in its _____________________________________
industry and the community. _____________________________________
Service to Seniors: Your name: __________________________
Awarded to a person whose Excellence in Agriculture: _____________________________________
contributions have helped improve Awarded to a person who has Your phone: _________________________
and enhance the lives of Petaluma demonstrated an exceptional
Owner or Tenant occupied seniors. commitment to Petaluma
agriculture. Return by February 9 to:
Sponsored by MAIL: Community Awards, c/o Petaluma
CIG Redwood Empire Area Chamber of Commerce, 6 Petaluma
INSURANCE CENTER, LLC Blvd. No., Ste. A2, Petaluma, CA 94952
FAX: (707) 762-4721
(707) 778-9200 • License # 0F56568

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