2016 Cal Wellness Sabbatical Program Award Honorees
Homeless Action Center
Patricia Wall went to law school to become a public defender. After some disillusioning experiences, she went to Africa, which changed her views of the world. She joined the staff at Homeless Action Center in Alameda County as the staff attorney, and a year later, she took on the role of executive director. In the 21 years that Patricia has been with Homeless Action Center in Alameda County, the agency has grown from a staff of two to 45, and from 100 Supplemental Security Income cases to more than 1,200. Another 1,750 people receive assistance in dealing with a host of other issues, such as cash benefits and health insurance. The organization is primed for another growth spurt with funding commitments to hire another 35 staff members; however, HAC needs to find suitable and affordable office space.
Patricia feels tired. She believes that the sabbatical will provide her with the energy to be creative and renew her perspective. Patricia plans to remain with the center for many years to come, and to do that, a break is in order.
Patricia hopes to use her sabbatical to do some traveling and spend time with family and friends, and she also wants to put some of her creative talents to work doing costume design for a local theater group.
Home Start, Incorporated
Laura Tancredi-Baese believes that she was born to be a social worker. She joined Home Start in 2007 as CEO. Home Start’s mission is to ensure the safety and resiliency of children by strengthening families and their communities. Its services include providing trauma-informed counseling, housing, food and case management, and Home Start applies the same values to its staff as it does to its clients. It provides both home and agency-based services. Home Start has the only shelter in San Diego for pregnant or parenting homeless women ages 18 to 24.
Like many executive directors, Laura was a working single mom with a demanding job, and she missed a lot of time with her daughter. Laura wants to rebuild that relationship and also spend time with her grandchildren. She recently married her long-term partner and this sabbatical would provide them the opportunity for a honeymoon.
Pediatric Dental Initiative of the North Coast
The Pediatric Dental Initiative of the North Coast was founded 10 years ago by providers who became concerned with the increasing number of children staying home from school due to extreme dental pain, and who had nowhere to go for treatment. The Initiative started with one dentist. Not long afterward, Viveka Rydell was hired to lead the organization. The Initiative has grown from debt to stability, from a handful of patients to thousands, and from basic services to specialty dental surgeries.
Having seen so many children come to the Initiative with severe dental issues, Viveka and her team decided that it was time to add a strong prevention component, which includes education onsite with parents and a promotoras program in the community.
Viveka is getting married in the near future and plans to spend time with her kids so they can all adjust to their new family situation. She will also use the time to relax and enjoy the simple things like drinking coffee in the morning and reading the newspaper, gardening, cleaning the chicken coop and hanging out with her kids.
Ravenswood Family Health Center
Luisa Buada has spent a lifetime committed to serving communities in need. She started with accompanying her high school teachers to work on a boycott with the farmworkers’ union. Luisa later went to nursing school, and when the union closed their health center, the nurses got together to create one.
In 2002, a consultant suggested that Luisa help out a clinic in East Palo Alto for three months because it was struggling and had been completely defunded. Luisa’s three-month stint turned into a permanent position, and she became the clinic’s executive director. She has taken Ravenswood Family Health Center from 13 employees to nearly 200. The clinic provides more than 40,000 primary care and 13,000 dental visits a year to a largely impoverished community in East Palo Alto.
Luisa has accomplished much in her 15 years at the clinic, and she is ready for a break. During her sabbatical, she intends to spend a month in Italy, a month in the garden, and a month reading.
The Sierra Fund
The Sierra Fund was founded in 2001, and Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin stepped in as CEO in 2005. Izzy is a longtime environmental justice advocate committed to solving problems and promoting equity. She was born to this work. Her family was Quaker, she grew up on a farm, and she and her siblings were raised to be in service.
The Sierra Fund brought to life one of the oldest environmental issues in California history— gold mining’s toxic legacy. Using a pragmatic scientific approach, The Sierra Fund uses data from a multitude of sources to clearly define the problem, and it brings together professionals with knowledge and experience— scientists, politicians and the residents living with the issues— to build solutions. The Sierra Fund’s work to address legacy mines in California led to a James Irvine Foundation Leadership award that is being used to strengthen the organizational infrastructure and strategic planning.
When Izzy started at The Sierra Fund, it had a staff of two; now there are six staff members. Izzy has worked very hard for a long time, and she is ready for a break. Her husband passed away recently, and Izzy needs some time to recover. Her son is in Switzerland studying, and she would like to take her daughter to visit him and travel around Europe for a bit, spend time traveling on her own and playing music, and sifting through mementos.
Valley Community Healthcare
Twenty-two years ago, Paula Wilson began volunteering at Valley Community Healthcare at the urging of her friend who was a patient and a volunteer at Valley. Paula, a marketing and design professional, worked on Valley’s outdated logo, newsletters and brochures. During this time, her friend was diagnosed with AIDS, and Paula saw firsthand the compassion and essential role that Valley played for the vulnerable people in her community. Paula wanted to be part of that, and she eventually became Valley’s executive director. Today, Valley provides comprehensive, patient-centered primary care to an estimated 22,300 men, women, seniors, teens and children each year.
After a particularly stressful few years, Paula plans to use the sabbatical opportunity to explore a better personal balance and to lend her voice as a newly single woman entering a new chapter in her life. She intends to focus on her physical health, reconnect with friends and spend quality time with her family, including her 86 year-old mother.
Westside Family Health Center
Debra Farmer was raised in a home where helping others was an important value. Debra spent decades working with nonprofits in a variety of capacities related to operations and finance. In 1999, she became the executive director of what was then the Women’s Health Center. Early in her tenure she broadened the scope of the clinic to address a broader population. Debra is responsible for transforming a small women’s clinic into Westside Family Health Center, an award winning federally qualified health center. In 2014, the clinic saw approximately 10,000 patients through more than 26,000 visits. It is now in the process of searching for a larger facility to meet the growing need.
Debra is overdue for a break. In 2015, she experienced a major health episode that has made her realize the importance of self-care. She would like to spend some time connecting to her family members who reside largely in the Southeast United States. Debra would like to tour national parks and rediscover California with her husband of 35 years. Some of the time would be dedicated to just being home without obligations.
Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Disease
Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases began in 1991 as just that: a group of women with HIV who came together to build a support network that would ensure that they were not alone in dealing with their needs. This year, WORLD celebrates 25 years of improving the lives and health of women, girls, families and communities through peer-based education, wellness services, advocacy and leadership development in the Bay area— particularly African American and Latina women.
Cynthia Carey-Grant became the executive director of WORLD seven years ago after a long history of improving the lives of women through health advocacy, economic equity and political empowerment. Cynthia has focused the last seven years on increasing WORLD’s stability, building strategic alliances that would strengthen the effectiveness and longevity of the organization. The last three years, particularly, have taken their toll on her, and she feels the need to find herself again and return to the things that bring her joy and energy. She will use the sabbatical period to restore balance in her life, travel, write poetry, garden and reconnect with family and friends.