Category Archives: News

West Marin Sheriff’s Logs

Monday February 16

Woodacre 12:50 a.m. A neighbor reported that the dog next door was barking excessively.

Woodacre 3:28 a.m. Couple called to report that they heard suspicious noises outside their home. They went outside to investigate and heard two unknown persons, dressed in camouflage, talking about cats. Couple then reports that two kittens were thrown into their house via a window. Deputy at the scene of the alleged cat flinging stated that both individuals he found at the home appeared to have been drinking. No merit to any crimes relating to cats or any other domestic pet.

Woodacre 5:23 a.m. Couple reported that the trespassers involved in earlier incident with the cats are back and have now broken into their home and are eating bread. Deputy had this to say, in regards to advice, stop chasing unknown individuals with your machete, turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Tuesday February 17

Tomales 5:53 p.m. 3-4 calves were reported loose near the bridge.

Wednesday February 18

Inverness 6:00 a.m. Reporting party stated that a company comes by their home at 6:30 a.m. every day to empty the porta potty. Resident would like to file a complaint regarding the noise.

Marshall 10:40 a.m. Ranger reported seeing two suspicions individuals operating a rubber raft near the channel marker around Tomales Bay. Deputies subsequently arrested a man on three outstanding warrants.

Forest Knolls 2:50 a.m. A woman finished filing a complaint against a man who had been harassing her. Complaint filed and information regarding a restraining order forwarded to the woman.

Woodacre 4:37 p.m. A woman was contacted by deputies to relay advice about obtaining a restraining order.

Thursday February 19

Point Reyes 2:24 a.m. Person turned in ammunition to be destroyed.

Bolinas 11:20 a.m. Reporting party stated that someone broke into their home.

Friday February 20

Nicasio 10:02 p.m. Husband called deputies to report that his wife had hit a fence with her vehicle. Husband wanted deputies to contact homeowner and give them their information.

Saturday February 21

Bolinas 10:20 a.m. Reporting person would like to speak with a deputy about a temporary restraining order they have in place against a local woman. They also stated that they had changed the locks at their home to keep another unwanted subject from coming in uninvited.

Bolinas 12:32 p.m. A verbal altercation was reported between two women. Women were separated and tenant was allowed to re-enter her resident.

Sunday February 22

Bolinas 11:30 a.m. Woman reported that another woman was at her house changing the locks. When she confronted unknown locksmith, the other woman shoved her. Woman described as having short grey hair and was wearing a pink sweatshirt.

Bolinas 1:04 p.m. Liquor, specifically whiskey, was stolen from a home.

Dillon Beach 2:31 p.m. Reporting party stated that seven underage juveniles were drinking alcohol and making trouble with other guests. When they were asked to leave, they became verbally abusive.

Tomales 2:41 p.m. A truck was reportedly involved in an accident which crushed its cab.

Inverness 3:25 p.m. Man would like a civil standby as he serves his daughter-in-law eviction papers.


Measles in Marin

“Having the right to do something does not mean it is always the right thing to do.” Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools

By Ellen Shehadeh
Linda Petersen

Americans value their freedoms. The spectrum is wide- from abortion to guns. Recently in Marin County, freedom has focused on the parents’ right to opt out of formerly required MMR immunizations for diseases like measles, mumps rubella for their children who attend public and private schools and day care centers. It has come to the fore as a once rare disease, measles, has begun to spread across the state, incubated in of all places, the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland in Orange County.

Parents in Marin County are viewed as interested and informed about health and safety issues but many view the perceived risks of vaccines to be greater than the benefits derived from them. The once perceived threat of vaccines causing autism has been laid to rest with many research studies, but for some the fear persists

The concept of “herd immunity” has become a reality for certain diseases. When a large enough proportion of people refuse vaccinations, once contained diseases can begin to disperse among the population and can again become a widespread danger to health

Measles is not necessarily a benign disease. Although is most cases it involves fever rash and discomfort, for some it can lead to pneumonia, swelling of the brain and in rare cases death.

California is among 20 states that allow parents to refuse vaccination for their children based on personal beliefs. However, a new law which took effect last year mandates that parents who request an exemption must consult with their doctor first who signs off on a form saying they have been informed of the risks of opting out. Those who claim an exemption for religious reasons do not need a doctor’s signature.

Both the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Marin County Superintendent of Schools have taken strong stands on the advisability of vaccination. In loud and clear language, Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis, MD, MPH issued a press release stating that “if your child is unvaccinated or cannot provide laboratory confirmation of immunity and there is a case in their school, they will be excluded from attending school for 21 days to protect themselves and to limit further spread of disease.” He further points out that it takes two weeks to develop immunity after receiving the measles vaccine

Willis does not hold to the belief that excluding unvaccinated children from school where there is no evidence of measles transmission is an effective strategy for limiting the spread of the disease.


Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools, made a particularly forceful statement in her press release. She believes that “while parents may have the statutory right of refusal, they do not have the ethical right to expose others to their children’s lack of protection. Having the right to do something,” she states, “does not mean it is always the right thing to do.” She also quotes a recent NY Times article that points out “before 1963 when vaccines became widespread millions of Americans were infected (with measles) annually, and 400-500 died each year.

She fully supports the recent Public Health pronouncement issued by Matt Willis.

As of January 27, 2015 there have been 68 confirmed cases of measles in California in the year 2015. Last week, according the Marin IJ, two unvaccinated children became the first reported measles cases in Marin. The same article reports that “6.45 percent of Marin’s kindergarteners are not fully vaccinated against communicable disease, with some schools showing rates of 50 percent of more.” According to the state Department of Public Health, Marin has long had the Bay Area’s highest rate of “personal belief exemptions.”

Staff of our local Coastal Health Alliance report that due to the outbreak they are experiencing “a surge of interest” in vaccinating. “Parents who were against vaccines are changing their minds and are having their children vaccinated.” Interestingly, these same parents are also being vaccinated themselves.

Those with compromised immune systems are not eligible to receive vaccinations. These same students, some who have been treated for cancer, are the most vulnerable of all. The Marin IJ did a moving story on a 6-year-old boy, Rhett Krawitt, who has fought leukemia for over 4 years and is in remission. His father is calling for the Superintendent to require all children to be vaccinated so that children like his son can benefit form herd immunity and attend school.

Even more locally Alex Porrata’s son Ezekiel Porrata Powell has just finished a year of cancer treatment. He would love to go to school but probably won’t be able to because of the risks posed by unvaccinated children. Ironically Porrata’s other child, Yolanda, contracted whooping cough at age 6 weeks and was hospitalized for 10 days. Whooping cough is another disease that was almost wiped out before the fear of vaccine allowed the disease to reemerge.





Point Reyes Pilates instructor invents new office chair

Begin with chairs-2Begin Chairs
By Dan Mankin
Point Reyes Pilates instructor Maria Mankin started out with an idea to help her aging mother and ended up inventing and patenting a chair that can be used both for the office and for exercising—the Begin Chair™. Begin Chair, the only portable ball chair available with comfortable lumbar support that adjusts to the spine’s natural curves, is now being produced and sold through Balanced Body®, the leading source of mindful movement equipment, information and education.

Like many older individuals, Mankin’s mother Lina found it difficult to get up out of a chair and was unable to lie on the ground to exercise, and Mankin wanted to find a way to help her develop her core muscles to increase her well being and independence. Drawing on her background as a Pilates instructor, circus performer and creative artist, Maria created the Begin Chair, a portable ball chair that promotes healthy posture and provides the right amount of instability to activate core muscles.

According to one of Maria’s client’s Lorraine Almeida, “I found that the chair allowed me to begin exercise and strengthening, when it was difficult to exercise standing or on the floor.  I used to get out of breath quickly before the chair was used.”

As Maria began testing the Begin Chair with older adults, she soon discovered wider applications, including use as an office chair. “With increasing concerns about the health risks of sitting for hours on end, this is a great time to start sitting smarter at the office and at home,” said Mankin. “My chair is designed to help.” Studies show that sitting for long periods of time is linked to an increased risk of obesity and of dying from ailments such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The Begin Chair is a stylish, portable ball chair that comes with or without wheels, depending on whether is to be used as an office chair or exercise chair. It is made in the United States and available through Sacramento-based Balanced Body® (, the world’s largest Pilates equipment manufacturing company. The chair is currently for sale in 106 countries.

Maria Mankin is the owner and operator of the Begin Pilates studio ( in Point Reyes. Born and raised in Catania, Sicily, Mankin moved to the United States in 1983. She has more than 30 years of experience in bodywork and movement, from coaching soccer teams to walking the slack rope in the circus ring. A Pilates instructor for the past 15 years, she draws on her diverse background in circus arts, acrobatics, the Feldenkrais technique, the Franklin method, and a Stott Pilates certification to create a thoughtful and engaging practice for her students.

Begin Pilates is located in the Livery Building in Point Reyes and information about classes can be found at and the phone number is 415-663-9303.

The Begin Chair can be purchased on line from Balanced Body:




What is Team Care at the Coastal Health Alliance?

By Mike Witte, M.D.
Dani Vincent, RN, approached me this week about a new patient. The man showed up at one of our health centers with a minor injury, which she tended to. He was very appreciative, but while treating him, Dani noticed, in getting his deeper story, that he had some serious issues that were more chronic. She also discovered that he was homeless, and not able to easily find a place to stay. She called Health and Human Services in Point Reyes, and got the social service team activated to help him. That day, one of their staff met him in town to help find him shelter and to get him access to services. Dani alerted me to all this so that one of the doctors in our group would know what was in progress to help this man. She also contacted one of his relatives in another state to alert them to his situation and get more information to be able to help him. She set him up with future appointments with one of our doctors to pursue helping his other problems.
Allan Zephyr, RN and Allison Cole, RN were discussing one of our very complicated patients today. They were sharing updated information regarding her care, as she had just had major orthopedic surgery and was entering a rehab hospital. She wouldn’t be able to come in for her regular visits during this time, and they wanted to consult each other regarding next steps in how to best help her from a distance while she is rehabilitating from her major surgery. They parsed out her various needs in transitioning to home: a hospital bed, in-home caregiver, nutritional needs, in-home physical therapy and occupational therapy, medication adjustments and possible side effects.
Jennifer Dow, RN and Maricela Luna, one of our many great Medical Assistants, spent their entire lunch hour, with the Health Center otherwise closed, sitting with one of our patients who had nearly passed out when she had her blood drawn. They quickly assessed her for safety, and called in a physician to evaluate her. Once they knew she was safe, they stayed with her to emotionally support her through a scary event. When she felt up to going home, fully recovered, she was very grateful for the caring support from Jen and Mari

The general practice of medicine has evolved dramatically over the past generation. Doctors in primary care—GPs, family doctors, internists and pediatricians, are continually inundated with new information and new demands on their time to help their sick patients get well and help their healthy patients stay that way. They are also being asked to screen all patients, young and old, to help prevent many common diseases.
At Coastal Health Alliance we empower each and every staff member to develop skills in listening and communication, as well as to show empathy and sincere interest for our patients’ needs. Our front office and phone team members are likely the first person that a patient will talk with when accessing the health center, and therefore play a vital role in making our patients feel welcome and supported. They set the tone for our interactions in the health center in which all staff members strive to help each patient receive “the kind of care they want, when they want it.”
We have formed four care teams made up of all our staff. Each team has a panel of patients for whom they are the primary contact. At the beginning of each clinic day, the teams each meet for 15 minutes to prepare for all patient visits that day. Beforehand, the RN on each team has identified more complex situations and addressed them to the team. The RNs and MAs (Medical Assistants) partner with the doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help patients get their lab results, medication refills, and communicate advice to them.
This Team Care concept is in the works with us. We are just now learning this concept and identifying how to best work together as teams. And, at the center of this care is the patient. Our teams have no one leader. Different people rise up to lead different aspects of what we do. But the team would never be complete without each patient being centrally involved in decisions about her or his care. We see our roles as providing expert and appropriate tools to help the central member of our teams, each one of our patients, to reach their goals for good health.

Gentle Bodywork to resolve pain and restore health

And it’s not just for human animals

by Cathy Teague with Linda Petersen

David Willingham, a local practitioner of Bowenwork, will be teaching an introduction to Bowenwork beginning March 29 in Mill Valley, and he regularly sees clients throughout Marin and Northern California.

The Massagetherapy website explains that the Bowen Technique was developed by Thomas Ambrose Bowen of Australia in the 1960s and 1970s. The hands-on, light-touch body therapy consists of gentle rolling movements over muscle bellies and tendons to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. Originally intended to help people suffering from muscular-skeletal problems, the technique has also been successful with many other adult conditions as well as ailments in children, pre-teens, and animals.

Willingham, who moved to Northern California in 1989, considers that “discovering Bowen was a miracle.” He has been practicing for more than ten years and has received accreditation for Advanced Bowen 1 and 2 from the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia. According to Willingham, some 20,000 people have received Bowen training and there are more than 700 practioners worldwide.

A Bowen session lasts from 60-90 minutes while lying on a massage table covered with a sheet or blanket. Bowen does not “treat” specific conditions but rather stimulates the body to activate its own healing mechanism. The technique is relaxing, so some people fall asleep during the session.

David says: “I am a picky person and discovering Bowen was a miracle; at times the work bounces me to places I’d never known of, so I trust it is the right thing because I’ve met some amazing people.


Receiving Bowen is good for all, and  I am also employed with Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Mill Valley as a wellness practitioner. Bowenwork is a light touch modality and people have been entrained to harder, deeper, faster bodywork, which is not how Tom Bowen approached the body when he created this modality. Once the body receives a Bowen move the body knows what to do with it. People usually throw their body into the milieu of life and want quick fixes and sure fire remedies when there is a blow out, so Bowen is one of many options, albeit a little understood one.  I wish I could invent the one-a-day magic cure all pill! For toddlers and older.”


Dogs and horses respond very well to soft tissue manual therapy, while cats can be a handful. Fewer sessions are usually required with animals because animals seem to receive and process the work easily and with good results.

David began Equine Bowenwork in 2005 and now offers “Equine Synchrony Bowenwork.” Using Bowenwork and hands-on touch, a horse and rider are given sessions to balance both for a more integrative and fluid experience during competition and everyday work times. Working with horses is gratifying because they respond to the Bowenwork moves quickly, and one can see results in a short time.

Equine Bowen (Bowenwork for Horses) is formally called Equine Muscle Release Therapy, known as EMRT. It is popular in the horse world, originating in Australia under the direction of Bowen trained Ali Goward, who operates the Equus College of Learning and Research in Queensland, Australia.

For additional information, contact David at david@purebowen.comor call (415)328-7894.

Photo courtesy of David Willingham


Community plans for a new Dance Palace era

By Teri Mattson
Dinner and a movie started a new era of community outreach by the Dance Palace. Monday night the Dance Palace Community Center staff and board served a room full of concerned citizens soup and salad followed by the John Korty short film, A Dance Collage. Billed as a town hall, the event officially introduced interim executive director Louise Franklin to West Marin. Among many tasks, Louise’s role includes transitioning the Dance Palace’s presence in the community as well as assisting in the search for a full-time executive director.
Opening comments by board president Ann Emanuels shared the success of the fall 2014 Fundraiser, which as of January 26, raised $91,000. Ann further emphasized that the annual Dance Palace budget requires $51,000 just to open the doors, turn on the lights and maintain the grounds of the facility. Additionally, a community center once the recipient of heavy local government funding, now receives less than 2 percent of its revenue from the County of Marin.
With an implicit focus on finances, the town hall format allowed for the introduction of the Dance Palace’s 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. Community commentary and participation followed with the formation of breakout groups. The plan, created in early 2014 by Dance Palace board members and staff, contains four specific Pillars and Goals: fundraising, marketing/public relations, facilities and community access. Individual board members presented and defined each goal. The four subsequent break-out groups, one representing each pillar, allowed for audience members to brainstorm and directly participate in guiding the Dance Palace’s future. The top three suggestions from each group move to the Board of Directors for consideration and potential implementation.
Enthusiasm filled the auditorium as long-term residents once again felt their voices heard by an institution recently mute. Noticeably missing from Monday night’s conversation were community members under age 40, Latino residents, and those owning vacation homes. Regional demographic and funding changes weigh heavy on a board and community as the Dance Palace prepares for a reinvigorated role in West Marin. A dynamic and visionary Strategic Plan complimented by a strong Dance Palace/community relationship helps chart the course. Monday evening’s town hall reset that relationship.

Community input
In support of that goal, breakout groups comprised of the audience brainstormed

Cuba, Christmas and New Year’s 2015

A family trip

By Linda Petersen

My daughter Saskia van der Wal, her partner Alexis Zayas, a Cuban citizen, and my granddaughter Ariana spent the holidays with Alexis’ family in Cuba. The trip had been long planned, well before the recent changes in US policies. As usual, they spent most of the time visiting family. Several of Alexis’s family members are involved in the tourism business in the Viñales Valley, west of Havana.


SUBHEAD: First a word about the Viñales Valley


Tourism centered on the Viñales Valley is developing. The area has been protected by the constitution since February 1976, and it was declared a national monument in October, 1978. The Viñales Valley has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since November,1999 for the outstanding karst landscape which is characterized by sinkholes and caves and underground drainage systems. It’s also known for traditional agriculture as well as vernacular (local) architecture, crafts and music.


Transportation everywhere in Cuba is a challenge, with streets cluttered by horse-drawn carts, the occasional ox-cart, cyclists, walkers and food vendors. Without easy means of getting from one place to another, time slows down as one accepts and adapts to lack of transportation and internet and phone service beyond the island.



SUBHEAD: Daily life in Viñales: finding food is a daily adventure


Says Saskia, “The most common street vendors sell “pizza” which is really like a toasted bread with lots of cheese and sometimes ham. The few stores in town were always full of empty shelves. There are the “dollar” stores that sell products in the “cuc” currency which is close to the American dollar equivalency. But people don’t get paid in that currency unless they work in tourism, so not everyone can shop there. That is where you can get things like cereal, mayo, toilet paper, sometimes yogurt (though we were only lucky one day to find yogurt), soap, shampoo and cookies. Then there are state stores where you can buy things in the other currency, moneda nacional which is what most people earn and where you can get your supplies through the ration booklet everyone is entitled to, la libreta. These are mostly basics like rice, beans and chicken. Vegetables and fruits are sold on the street by farmers, usually walking and calling out in a loud voice so you can just pop out of your house to buy produce as they pass by in carts.”


“Other things might be sold in this way too, like bed sheets or blocks of cheese. Bread can be hard to come by. There are panaderias but they have random hours and make random quality bread. There was one bread we bought once that I liked. It was soft and a bit sweet and we were never able to figure out when that bread would be available again. We heard that a lot of bread was bought up by the guesthouses at midnight when the first batch comes out. The panaderias don’t always have the ingredients to make decent bread. Alexis’ aunt was proud of getting hotdog bun type bread that would stay soft and fresh for a few days longer. She would buy it in the local gas station market, called Cupet, also a popular place to get random things occasionally like beer, yogurt, cheese, bread and ice cream.”


As a B&B owner Alexis’ aunt and family receives many benefits from being in the tourism business. She has special food connections giving her access to a wider variety of food and other products essential to the business, and not readily available to most Cubans.


Alexis’s uncle lives in the town of Pinar del Rio. “While we were there,” said Saskia, “we had to pick up a huge load of rice, toilet paper, cheese, yogurt and various other products that she had him buy. The aunt has connections to get lobster and even beef.”

According to Saskia, local beer was hard to come by at the time of their visit. The government had some type of contract with Heineken, but since it only came in bottles and was more expensive than the local brands, Crystal and Bucanero, no one would buy them. So the local brands disappeared periodically from all the stores and Heineken was the only option. People were buying up cases when the local beer was available so they wouldn’t run out.


In spite of the hardships Cubans make the most of life. Music and dancing happen every night of the week in cultural centers. In Viñales the center is called the Polo Montaner. It offers a live salsa show from about 9-11pm, sometimes with dancers from local towns that put on a choreographed show. The DJ comes on from 11pm-1am.


SUBHEAD: Back to Havana

“To get to Havana (from Viñales) 115 miles away without a car rental took almost a whole day. First we had to take a taxi to the next town over, Pinar Del Rio, and wait at the town taxi/bus station until we could find a car that was going to Havana. A taxi, if it is an old not updated 1950s American car, is called in slang un almendron. Alexis says this refers to pre 1959 Castro era cars. Usually they are rattley cars without seatbelts and terrible diesel emissions that make your eyes and chest burn after 20 minutes. Other taxis are old Ladas that they call ladrillos (square boxes). On one occasion we had to wait over an hour for a van to fill up with enough people to make the trip worthwhile.”


The cathedral pictured is in Old Havana, Havana Vieja, in La Plaza de la Catedral de Havana. There was a classical concert with an opera soloist. The cathedral was decorated with a Christmas tree and Nativity scene. According to Alexis, the celebration of Christmas was banned for many years by the government. People who wouldn’t denounce their religion were barred from joining the communist party, meaning they faced a tough road to secure the good, state-run jobs or attend state-run universities. After the Pope’s visit in 1998, Christmas Day became a holiday once again.


Many American news reports have emphasized the hope of the people that their economic situation will improve rapidly, even expressing the thought that next Christmas will be very different from the past 50 years. However, Saskia and Alexis told me that family and friends are mostly skeptical, although some expressed hope. Many thought there was some hidden agenda. Don’t forget they are used to being left in the dark when it comes to the government. Most don’t think any major change will happen quickly and are skeptical about how change would affect their own lives on a daily basis.



The Havana airport is ill equipped to handle current traffic. The arrivals building is always packed with people waiting for a family member which makes it necessary to wade through throngs when exiting. Travel in and out is slow and tedious, with long lines and delays. It will be interesting to see how the government will handle increased air traffic.


Those who are familiar with Cuba say that change will nothappen fast, at least not for most Cubans. They imagine that the tourism industry will be the first to develop but that it will be a long wait for most residents to see improvement in their lives. Basic infrastructure, food and clothing production and distribution, availability and affordability of essential products, running water, all of this has been neglected during the Castro regimes, and it will take years, possibly decades, to reach a level which benefits all Cubans. There are reports of wealthy art dealers beginning to buy from Cuban artists, and we hear that the old cars will be hot items for collectors in the US. A few may benefit and the prediction is that the first to take financial advantage of increased trade will be the military elite, who have tight control over every aspect of the economy. As many Cubans are saying: “wait and see”………



Christmas at Laguna Honda


“When life is at its worst, there is still life to be had, there is still hope to be found.” – Laguna Honda
Spiritual Care Director, Bob Dee
Christmas morning – quiet, clear, not a cloud in the sky. The air is crisp after the recent rains. The sun casts its bright light on the hillsides of Point Reyes which are afresh with a soothing green. Tomales Bay shines like a jewel, a brilliant treasure and feast for the eyes of us who are blessed to live here.
I am on my way to San Francisco, my devoted terrier, Scruffy, securely belted into the back seat next to colorful gifts and tasty goodies. We are going to visit my 28 year old son, Dylan, who, tragically, was struck by a car while hailing a cab in the Mission District on August 17th, 2014. Following two months at San Francisco General Hospital, most of the time in the neurological intensive care unit, he transferred to Laguna Honda Hospital where he is now in rehabilitation for a severe traumatic brain injury. My purpose for writing is not to focus on him, but to acquaint you with Laguna Honda and to contemplate and hold close those who are spending this festive season in acute and chronic care facilities. It is my belief that most of us do not give them considerable thought, especially at this time of the year.
Following a smooth ride through Marin, south on 101 and across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, I stop to pick up Hugh, Dylan’s father, at his Mission District apartment. We then proceed through the nearly-empty city streets to visit our son.
A grand facility, Laguna Honda is perched atop a hill between the Forest Hill and Mt. Davidson neighborhoods of San Francisco. In existence since 1867, initially as an almshouse for the city’s first residents, the pioneers of the Gold Rush, it has evolved into today’s 62 acre campus which provides three levels of care: Acute (open to Laguna Honda residents only), rehabilitation, and skilled nursing. Owned and operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, it houses 780 residents. Requirements for admission are that one must be an adult or senior San Francisco citizen and have a medical condition as a primary diagnosis.
As noted on their website, Laguna Honda’s rehabilitation sector provides physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as vocational programs. The skilled nursing services include:
• The only skilled nursing facility for people with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay Area
• A nationally-recognized program for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias
• Group living for people with developmental disabilities
• Treatment for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases
• Therapeutic services for those with traumatic brain injuries and the effects of stroke
• Guidance and support for people with psychological difficulties
• Complex care for those with multiple diagnoses
• An award-winning restorative care program that assists residents to retain and reclaim physical competency
• Pain management and end of life care emphasizing comfort and dignity, including an in-house hospice oriented in conjunction with the Zen Hospice Program of San Francisco. No one dies alone at Laguna Honda. There are two staff chaplains, eight interfaith volunteer chaplains and two pastoral leaders from the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The new Laguna Honda features three buildings which comprise California’s first green-certified hospital. It is composed largely of recyclable materials. Alternative fuel and electric vehicles are used in its operations and management. The hospital is cleaned with environmentally friendly chemicals and patient rooms are full of natural light and operable windows. Funded partially by the endorsement of city voters in 1999 to use 141 million dollars from a settlement against the tobacco industry, the green hospital has also commissioned 18 artists through the Art Enrichment Ordinance. Throughout the facility one can appreciate projects that energize the senses.

Ample, free parking is available and I find a spot close to our destination. Hugh and I proceed to the South building, packages in hand. Scruffy is excited; he loves visiting here and he is welcomed. In the spacious lobby decorated with a tree and buzzing with the activity of other visitors, Scruffy gets a good deal of attention. Earlier in the morning he obediently sat in the kitchen sink to get a warm bath which was followed by a blow dry. He looked especially festive in his red harness and leash and collar, the later with a big green bow attached.

After checking in, we proceed down the Esplanade, a beautiful, stimulating, wide corridor exemplary of a town’s main street. There are art studios, an indoor-outdoor cafeteria, a beauty salon and barber shop, community theater and multi-media library. Works by the commissioned artists, as well as those by residents, fill the walls. Tapestries depicting the hospital’s history add interest such as President Teddy Roosevelt’s visit in 1909 and images of all the Directors of Nursing. One can also see from the Esplanade the lush park which is central to all the buildings. Alongside the park is the farm: home to hogs, chickens, goats and others. It is a petting zoo and central to the animal therapy program. Animals are brought into the hospital to visit those who are unable to get outside. Also in the park is the site of the horticulture program. Residents can grow their own food in raised beds which are wheelchair accessible.

Planned for healing and well-being, each residential floor is composed of four households each structured as an individual neighborhood with a Great Room at its center to encourage activities and a community atmosphere. Decorated for the holiday, it is filled with tables and benches where people gather. It is here that we find Dylan. He had just finished exploring the hallways in his wheelchair which has an alarm device attached that goes off if he disengages the belt. We spot each other and he eagerly wheels over to us, with a smile and Merry Christmas wishes. Bending over, he picks up Scruffy and places him in his lap where Scruffy happily settles.

Due to divorce and the separation that it brings, it has been years since Hugh, Dylan and I have spent a Christmas together. I must say, that despite the current circumstances, it feels cozy and warm – like the good ole days. Conversation is filled with lots of laughter (the brain-damaged come up with some very funny comments at times!) and reminiscence. We dine, exchange gifts and take photos. We talk about love and Dylan tells me it makes him feel warm inside.

In addition to the residents and visitors, the presence of the staff is manifest. It is tangible that they regard each individual that they care for as a whole person, not just a diagnosis. I wonder what brings them to work on this special day, so I proceed to ask:

Priscilla, a Home Health Aide and Dylan’s favorite caregiver (he has a big crush on her), enjoys working on Christmas because, unlike most days, there is a lot of family visiting. Chris, an LVN, savors the happy atmosphere and enjoys dressing in red and green with the rest of the staff. Gabriela, an LVN for three years who has also worked at San Francisco General Hospital and City Jail #3, volunteered to work on Christmas because she loves holidays. Besides, her husband is at home cooking dinner! Merry, a CNA, also requested to work on Christmas because she enjoys sharing the occasion with residents and staff. Matty RN, and charge nurse of the day shift, has worked at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for 22 years. Having observed Christmas with her husband and daughter the eve before, she believes she is doing extra service to her patients on this day.

Time has passed quickly and the duration of our visit has ended. Hugh and I exchange big hugs and lots of kisses with Dylan. Scruffy hops off his lap, now eager to depart. As Hugh and I leave, we agree that the visit is a bittersweet one. Thus is Christmas at Laguna Honda.

Christine Lucas

Addendum: I highly recommend the book GOD’S HOTEL: A DOCTOR, A HOSPITAL, AND A PILGRIMAGE TO THE HEART OF MEDICINE BY Victoria Sweet.





Future of the Dance Palace: a conversation with the Board President

Three more after forty-three

A conversation with Dance Palace Board President Ann Emanuels

“The Dance Palace began with a dream and was built by community members working together, giving of themselves and their skills. It will continue to thrive through our collective energy and commitment,” said Ann Emanuels, Dance Palace Board President in conversation last Monday morning.
Working over a four-month period, beginning in January 2014, the Dance Palace Board and staff created the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. They conducted extensive data reviews and interviews including internal staff and board surveys, town hall meetings, external reviews of key supporters, focus groups of young families and Latino community members and internal data reviews of programs and funding. Additionally, the process utilized benchmarking reviews comparing The Dance Palace with two other similar centers in the region. The research and interview process culminated with a two-day retreat involving all board members and staff.
Creating financial stability is the Strategic Plan’s principle goal, which includes fundraising, donations, grant procurement and membership growth. The Dance Palace requires $51,000 annually just to turn on its lights and open its doors. Insurance and interior and exterior maintenance are included in this figure as well. Historically, the Dance Palace received major funding from The Marin Foundation. Today less than two percent comes from the foundation, as the foundation’s focus has changed from supporting the arts to funding social services.
Looking forward, building financial stability also requires rebuilding community relationships, increasing awareness and appreciation of the Dance Palace, creating a sense of shared-ownership among the West Marin population and investment in the community center’s physical structure. These efforts enhance the public’s experience, which, in turn, create greater donor reinvestment.
And rebuilding community relationships also begins with selecting a new Executive Director, along with the refocusing of Board priorities. The Board has drafted a revised job description and prepared for a four to six month search beginning in January. While searching for a full-time executive director, the Dance Palace will be headed by an interim director. This person will continue operations and also serve as an outside consultant, and will, by default, be a third-party observer. The interim director’s comments will be important to assess administrative and facilities management procedures, as well as board and staffing efficiencies and the Palace’s role within the community. “This is an opportunity to revitalize the community’s interest and participation in the Dance Palace,” says Board President Ann Emanuels
To some the need to increase awareness and appreciation of such a venerable establishment as the Dance Palace might seem unnecessary. Yet, as with all long-standing institutions, sometimes they disappear in the public eye. “People assume we will always have a Dance Palace,” says Ann Emanuels.
The Dance Palace Board and staff envision a vigorous public communication strategy and a strengthened marketing program to help re-educate the public as to the community center’s vital role. This includes defining the Palace’s market niche, which currently encompasses senior services such as exercise classes, a book club and ceramics courses that complement vital services currently funded within the community, as well as providing meeting and event space, showcasing local artists, and producing significant performing arts programs.
The changing demographics in West Marin, including increasing cultural diversity, underscores the need for shared ownership of the Dance Palace. “In the early days, there were not enough old people supporting the Dance Palace. Now we don’t have enough young people,” says Emanuels. The Dance Palace, by definition, is a community center so it is important to support utilization of the space to share culture, ideas and talents, as well as to commemorate milestones such as births, weddings and memorials. All this develops a sense of ownership and participation among all community members. As an example, a standing room only performance last Sunday of the Latino Empowerment production of La Pastorela exemplified cross-cultural interest and unity throughout the community. Similar programs will be encouraged.
The success of programs and events very much depends on the quality of the facility. The new Strategic Plan also addresses the importance of having a positive experience with the Dance Palace. Investment, and more importantly reinvestment, of time and money happens when facilities are well run and maintained. To insure a user-friendly experience, increased financial stability will lead to upgraded restrooms, constructing a better stage and purchasing risers for better audience viewership. These projects may require a “project specific” fundraiser.
In addition to defining core values and a three-year vision, the 2014-2017 Dance Palace Strategic Plan encompasses fundraising, marketing/public relations, facilities and public access. The Strategic Plan can be found online at The Dance Palace Board and Staff encourage public review of the stated goals and objectives.
A community discussion regarding goals and objectives is planned at a Town Hall meeting January 26, 2015 at 6pm. The Dance Palace will provide soup and salad and asks that attendees bring a dessert item. Participation is heartily encouraged.
A complete job description for the position of Executive Director will be posted at in two or three months.