Believe in Resilience

This month, we invite you to learn more about Mental Health Talent Pipeline recipient Yadira Esparza, and to read Donna Merideth's thoughts about community resilience.

Dear Friends,

We are still buzzing in our separate pods over the amazing success of our first-ever virtual gala. Thanks to over a hundred generous sponsors (see list below), dozens of auction item donors, and over 400 households that viewed the livestream event on August 29th, we raised $450,000! What does that say about this community? We know how to come together amidst the fires and the pandemic, have a cocktail and glass of wine together, be entertained, and still get to work to raise money for those in our community who are truly struggling for survival. Together we are strong. Together we recover. As Board member Donna Merideth eloquently describes in her story below, together we are resilient.

I want to spotlight the commitment of Mark Freed of Talon Creek Vineyards, along with Alan Baker and Serena Lourie of Cartograph Wines, who put together a $10,000 matching challenge in honor of the firefighters battling the Wallbridge fire. We raised $17,500 toward the match during the livestream – for a total of $27,500! Thank you Mark, Alan and Serena and all the Emergency Fund-a-Need donors who helped exceed the match!

If you missed our BELIEVE IN OUR FUTURE virtual event, or would like to re-experience the magic, the full recording is on our homepage, and here is the link to highlight clips of the incredible performers such as Charlie Musselwhite, Lavay Smith, Stanley Jordan, Pete Stringfellow, GroupLove, Jared Huffman and Craig Anderson, Marcus Shelby, Paula West, and Cantares de Mi Tierra LBC. There are also clips of our special guests Herman G. Hernandez, Pastor Marvin K. White, CA Senator Mike McGuire, and US Senator Kamala Harris. All of these people donated their time to make our celebration extra special.

Please also take a look on the highlight clips page at the feature on Mental Health Talent Pipeline recipient Yadira Esparza, as well as in the article about her below.

As we move into the Fall season, and the air is finally clearing, let’s take a deep breath, appreciate all that we have, and most importantly, take care of ourselves and each other.

In gratitude,

Kim Bender
Executive Director

Spotlight: Mental Health Talent Grantee Yadira Esparza

As our community has faced challenge after challenge in the form of floods, fires and this pandemic, we have repeatedly had to tap into our mental fortitude, our reserves of resilience. It’s one of the reasons we invested in the Wildfire Mental Health Collaborative following the 2017 fires and why mental health continues to be a priority for the Healthcare Foundation.

As part of our Believe in our Future Virtual Gala, we introduced you to Yadira Esparza, one of our incredible bilingual and bicultural Mental Health Talent Pipeline recipients. Yadira is a powerful force in our community, working to support families as they overcome setbacks, disasters and injustices and learn to thrive. She is finishing her master’s degree to become a marriage and family therapist and has worked with domestic violence survivors with local law enforcement and the Family Justice Center, as well as children and families in local public schools.

Most, but not all, of the domestic abuse survivors she works with are women. When she first meets them, they are often terrified, she says. If they are undocumented, they worry that filing a police report might lead to their own deportation, leaving their children alone in the U.S. with their abuser. When she arrives, she says, they realize “here’s someone that looks like me, speaks my language,” and then she is able to explain their options and the resources available to them, promising to walk alongside them through the process.

Yadira says there is a shortage of Spanish-speaking mental health practitioners in Sonoma County and plans to devote her career to working in systems that provide no-cost therapy and mental health support. She’s seen too many people recognize that they need help, actively seek therapy and get stuck on waitlists for over a year. There are either too few therapists or the cost is too high.

“If they can’t afford groceries, they aren’t going to spend the money on therapy instead of feeding their families,” she says of the low-income community she is committed to serving.

Yadira says one of the first domestic abuse survivors she ever worked with recently reached out to her to thank her for her support and to tell her that she had just received her U visa, a special visa for victims of specific crimes, including domestic violence. “This visa is something she wouldn’t have known about if there weren’t people like me in the field,” Yadira says. “It really motivated me to keep pushing forward. I can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Please watch this video to learn more about Yadira and how your support of the Mental Health Talent Pipeline is helping make mental health services available to everyone who needs them.

Believing in Resilience

By Donna Merideth, Board of Directors

All of us in Sonoma County have been impacted by the challenges thrown at us over the past few years. While my family’s resilience has been tested, our struggles don’t compare to many of my friends and neighbors that have lost their homes in the devastating fires; or those who have to choose between risking exposure to Covid by continuing to work or face the financial hardship associated with staying safe.

As the smoke begins to clear from the Walbridge Fire, we are all trying to get our lives back to as close to normal as possible and still remain diligent in holding off the virus. My personal focus during the early days of the Shelter-in-Place mandate involved providing support for my 89 year-old parents. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. Over the past few years my father and I had coordinated a schedule that included a significant level of outside support. The pandemic forced us to eliminate all of this support, which added to both of our caregiving challenges.

Two months into the Shelter-in-Place, I broke my leg in three places and had emergency surgery at Healdsburg Hospital to mend the breaks with a plate and 9 screws. I am finally on the backside of my recovery and have been able to introduce hiking, fishing and yoga back into my life. Eddie and my friends were an incredible support during my healing process and I certainly couldn’t have made it through this ordeal without them.

Resilience is the “capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”. The one aspect this definition does not address is the fact that we are more resilient together. Without the support of each other in our tight knit community, many of us would be in much worse shape during these challenging times. Personally I have benefited tremendously from friends helping with my parental caregiving responsibilities. While some have cooked dinners for my parents, others provided the four of us a place to stay in San Francisco when we were evacuated both in 2019 and in August of this year.

As a Healthcare Foundation board member and a member of our Virtual Gala event committee I am so inspired by our community and the generosity of so many. Through my volunteer work, I am constantly reminded of how our community is incredibly resilient with the help of each other.

Healthcare Foundation and Alexander Valley Film Society present

A Place to Breathe

Film Opens Virtually Thurs 9/24 at 9AM
Post-Show Panel & Discussion on Fri 9/25 at 8PM
Click Here for Tickets

A PLACE TO BREATHE explores the universality of trauma and resilience through the eyes of immigrant and refugee healthcare practitioners and patients. This feature-length documentary intertwines the personal journeys of those who are transcending their own obstacles by healing others. Combining cinema verite and animation, the film highlights the creative strategies by which immigrant communities in the U.S. survive and thrive.

Be sure to join us for a post-show panel and discussion on Friday 9/25 at 8PM, where we’ll dive into a conversation on healthcare challenges for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Panelists include director Michelle Grace Steinberg, Healthcare Foundation’s Kim Bender, Dr. Michael Valdovinos, and Alliance Family Nurse Practitioner Juana Alvarez.

Be sure to watch the film before the panel. This panel is included with the ticket price of the film (you do not need to buy both as individual tickets).
This panel is sponsored by:

Donate Now

Related News + Stories