Profiles in service:
Hospice of Santa Cruz
Family Service Agency of the Central Coast
Planned Parenthood gives everyone choices
Helplessness. It’s a feeling that Planned Parenthood (PP) works tirelessly to protect the public from—because your wallet shouldn’t determine your worth.
With all the blood pressure rising over healthcare reform in the last couple of years, it pays to take a closer look at Santa Cruz County’s locations of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM), the largest PP group in the country with sites spanning the coast of California to Northern Nevada. Despite all the headline-making controversy surrounding PP and the debate over abortion, which started when nurse and activist Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in 1916 Brooklyn, the nonprofit may be one of the most misperceived. It’s not just for women. It’s not just for abortions.
Planned Parenthood’s Westside Health Center in Santa Cruz and Watsonville Health Center are for anyone who walks through their doors.
Contrary to popular belief, 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood Mar Monte provides is preventive healthcare, with only 3 percent being abortion-related services. “Our main focus is making sure that people have access to the counseling, the healthcare, the medicines, and the options that they need to make healthy decisions,” says Fran Linkin, associate director of public affairs for PPMM. “We’re doing more every day to prevent the need for abortion than many of the people who spread the misconception that that’s all we do.”
Services Director Cathy Bright adds, “We proudly provide abortion services and believe that they must always remain legal for women, but we also believe that our role is to make those rare and so that fewer women have to face that choice.” She continues, “People are often surprised that we offer full service reproductive health, which means cancer screenings and colposcopy for women that have early cell changes of the cervix, and some of our Mar Monte centers do prenatal care.”
The two Santa Cruz County locations provide primary care for people of all ages dealing with all sorts of issues, in addition to female and male reproductive concerns. They deal with general physicals, immunizations, pediatrics, men’s health, diabetes and more. Both clinics treat the homeless, and disenfranchised youth, while providing comprehensive sexual education throughout the community.
Co-founded in 1971 by outgoing Councilmember Cynthia Mathews, who served as its first executive director, Santa Cruz Planned Parenthood merged with surrounding affiliates in 1994 to become Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. With one physician supervising at each local site, PP primarily works with mid-level providers; physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives. The Westside and Watsonville centers saw more than 41,000 visits last year and currently operate with a combined total of only 67 staff members and 100 volunteers. PPMM offers sliding scale fees with some of the lowest rates in the county for primary care; private insurance, FamilyPACT, and Medi-Cal are also accepted.
Josefina Lopez works on the ground every day as the Westside manager in Downtown Santa Cruz. From babies in their car seats to teenagers to senior citizens, Lopez understands better than anyone Planned Parenthood’s motto “We’re here.” She knows the daily ins and outs of the center, encountering patients and protestors first hand. Lopez knows that patients often become advocates, and she recalls how one particular client responded to a an anti-abortion protestor: “She told them, ‘I wish you’d go [into Planned Parenthood] and maybe you’d get to know them and all the great things they do.’ And that’s what I’d want to say. If you come in and get to know us, you’ll see all the other services we provide.”
Various demographics find unwavering support at PP. Watsonville Health Center sees people who work in the fields that face risks due to exposure to farming chemicals. In 2005 the pioneering Westside Health Center became the first PP in the country to provide primary care for transgender patients. And this year PPMM won the Queer Youth Leadership Award for “Organizational Ally.”
Still, things have become more challenging in these economic times as PP is seeing funds, both from the state and from private donors, get redirected. Bright emphasizes that the nonprofit’s ability to stay afloat results in far-reaching success. “We don’t want to be in a position in which we have to turn people away because then they’ll simply present at the emergency room—and then we all have to pay,” she begins. “Common sense tells us that it’s a bit more bang for your buck if we’re able to take care of that person here at Planned Parenthood, early, than if they wind up in the emergency room at Dominican or at Watsonville Community Hospital.”
Unlike many large nonprofits, Planned Parenthood makes it so that your donations go toward your community’s PP health center, not a distant branch or a CEO’s salary; Santa Cruz donations go directly toward the Westside and Watsonville operations. A gift of $25 can buy 100 condoms, $120 can buy one annual exam with a cervical cancer screening, and $350 can buy comprehensive sexual education for 150 teenagers.
Regardless of the anti-abortion outcry that attempts to silence Planned Parenthood and its multifaceted work, Bright maintains that “whether it’s about comprehensive sexuality education, making sure that health care shouldn’t be a privilege for just people who have money, that women should be able to make decisions about their body, or that abortion should remain legal—we continue to just stay strong.” | Linda Koffman
The Heart of Hospice
Hospice of Santa Cruz County provides peace during death
The night before Thanksgiving, five years ago, Paul Donovan was diagnosed with cancer. He thought he had indigestion. It turned out that he had six months to live. He tried chemotherapy; his wife, Linda, took him to other doctors, but they soon came to realize that nothing was going to change the diagnosis. It was suggested that the family contact Hospice for end-of-life care, but Donovan was initially reluctant. “I thought Hospice was a place where you go to die,” Linda says. “Instead what I discovered is that Hospice is like a medical concierge, providing the services needed so your loved one can have a quality life in a peaceful environment and in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by a tremendous support system.”
As is typical with Hospice, as soon as the family contacted the organization, they were on board immediately with providing myriad services to the Donovan family. “It made everything so much easier,” says Linda. They received medical care from nurses, spiritual counseling, care from a social worker, grief support and much more. Paul received bathing, massages, support, comfort, a chaplain to talk to, specialists who monitored his progress, and the comfort of living his remaining days with those he loved, in his own home.
Providing peace, care and comfort during the dying process, Hospice is a unique institution and the people who work for it are some of the most empathetic people you might meet. Not everyone can do what the Hospice staff can do. Simply meeting Hospice workers will tug on your heartstrings. These people are, in essence, caretakers through death and grief—for the person who’s dying and their family.
There are 4,300 Hospice organizations in the United Sates, and our local office based in Scotts Valley serves Santa Cruz County and has more than 100 employees, as well as an extensive volunteer base.
When a patient has been given a six month or less terminal diagnosis, that’s when it’s time to contact Hospice and bring on their care (if you’re so inclined) rather than having your loved one live his or her final months of life in a hospital room. It works like this: someone has been given the tragic news, their family makes one simple phone call to Hospice, and from there Hospice manages everything. They bill the proper insurance companies and Medicare, and if a client doesn’t have insurance, Hospice will find a way to ensure that that person will still receive care. That’s another part of the beauty of Hospice—people aren’t turned away for lack of funds.
The nonprofit operates on a $12 million budget per year. One million dollars of that budget is money that is raised by way of donations, including through things like this year’s Community Fund. Money that is raised with the Community Fund this year will go toward providing services for clients who don’t have insurance, as well as grief support and funding for the Transitions program—for those who are may be severely ill, but have not yet been given a six month life prognosis.
As soon as a client comes under Hospice care, the organization works endlessly to provide the aforementioned myriad services, plus many other offerings, including getting a hospital bed into the home (if desired), offering grief support to the family, personal care for the ill person, companionship, pain relief, medical needs and much more.
Executive Director Ann Carney Pomper oversees Hospice of Santa Cruz County and says, “Hospice is a way of providing care at the end of life. It’s a philosophy and a system of caring that is medical, social, and spiritual. … The goal is to make someone comfortable.”
And these are exactly the things that were provided to Linda Donovan’s husband, Paul, and their family five years ago, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Nowadays, due to the impact that Hospice had on her, Linda is a volunteer grief support counselor for Hospice. “I was so impressed with what they did for Paul, and I could never pay back how they gave him a peacefulness and quality of life,” Linda says. “They helped our family deal with this in a graceful way. … With Hospice, you have the resources to devote the time you can to make sure that the person you love gets the best possible love and care.” | Christa Martin
Local nonprofit leads movement for peace on the streets
Just steps away from busy Soquel Avenue, and behind the large, main building at Barrios Unidos, is a small pocket of total solace.
It’s an unassuming memorial tucked between some small buildings Barrios, a community development nonprofit, rents out, and a makeshift car shop, where the back end of a ’57 Chevy peaks out from under a blue tarp. Barrios Unidos staff and volunteers, scattered around the block-long property, are planning, chatting, and building Dia de los Muertos altars. But here, it’s quiet.
“I consider this to be the heart of the whole thing,” says David Beaudry, Barrios’ outreach coordinator. We have entered through a narrow archway and stand before a mural of a blue sky, empty except for wisps of cloud and the words “I Remember You, Homie” and “You Shall Not Be Forgotten.”
“It’s what drives my work and what drives a lot of us—[memory of] the ones who have fallen already,” he continues. “The young ones, the ones from our own generation, from the current generation, who have been lost to the madness of violence or drugs. If there are a couple of youngsters having a conflict, I usually bring them back here, and right when we walk through [the archway] everything changes.”
I ask if there are plans to paint anyone in the large, unfilled center. “No, it stays like this,” he says. “At one point we talked about putting names in here. But with all of us, and where we came from and all of what has happened, it would get ridiculous. This is better. People can remember whomever they want and just get a quiet moment.”
Barrios Unidos has been a crusader for nonviolence and gang prevention since it was founded in 1977 (it has been a certified nonprofit since 1993). Outreach, after school programs, community events, peace marches—everything the organization does is aimed at curbing “the madness,” a term founder and current Director Nane Alejendrez says was thrown around long before “nonviolence” was a part of the community’s vocabulary. It was also something that he, himself, was part of.
“There was a lot of violence going on in the streets—that was the madness,” he says. “And I was a Vietnam veteran, so when I came back from one war to a street war, that was part of how I realized we were just killing each other. Not in the numbers or ways we do it today, but that we were hurting each other.”
Alejendrez also struggled with drug addiction. “Being in the war, being involved in drugs, I was a participant,” he adds. But having grown up working the fields of San Joaquin Valley, the inspirational words of Cesar Chavez—that change could happen through nonviolent means—stuck with him. After transferring to UC Santa Cruz in 1977, he started thinking more seriously about a small, simple concept that had been floating around the activist scene, a phrase often chanted at marches and rallies: “barrios unidos” or “united neighborhoods.”
It was then that he committed himself to a life of nonviolence, recovery, and what would be 30-plus years of running an organization by the same name: Barrios Unidos. At a high point, there were 27 national chapters of Barrios Unidos. Now there are 14 (blame lies mostly with the economy), but the Santa Cruz headquarters, the first of the chapters, is staying strong despite serious funding woes and escalating gang violence. While society continues to try and arrest and incarcerate its way out of the gang problem, it becomes ever more critical that groups like Barrios Unidos push for prevention, intervention, and healing.
“When we first began we thought we could take care of it because we were from the neighborhood, we thought we could end the violence,” says Alejendrez. “Here we are in 2010 and it’s worse than what it was. More sophisticated. More guns. No respect. Territorial issues, boundaries are different. Rules are different. Incarceration is different. How do you stay focused to keep people out of that? You have to keep chugging away. Show by example. Give. Let people see what the realities are. And not be afraid to confront our own people when they aren’t telling our young people the truth.”
For Alejendrez, the key to prevention and healing is to approach it holistically. He is spiritually and culturally connected to his work, and so, too, is Barrios Unidos at large.
Much like the small, tucked-away shrine in the back of the property, the entirety of Barrios Unidos is a temple of reflection and change. Walk through the backyard memorial’s small archway and feel anger, conflict and madness dissolve. Walk through the front doors of Barrios Unidos—a passage that leaves judgment, gang affiliation, immigration status, and preconceptions behind—and find support, safety, hope, positivism, togetherness and passion for change. For healing.
The organization is currently facing deep financial troubles, and is looking to the community for donations and volunteers. But Alejendrez and his Barrios team are no strangers to hardship, and they don’t plan on giving up, no matter what comes their way.
“The economic situation might be bad,” says Alejendrez, “and I might get bad phone calls about funding. But when I walk out there,” he says, pointing out his office door, “I walk with my head held high, and proud of what we’ve done.” | Elizabeth Limbach
Full of Service
Family Service Agency of the Central Coast
In therapy at the Family Service Agency, a little boy hides under a chair. He is afraid; he saw his father’s arrest and the domestic violence that led to it. Now, his dad is in prison and the boy’s mother has abandoned him. He is only 6 years old, but he understands that her drug addiction is more powerful than her instincts of motherhood. He feels abandoned. The boy’s little sister was exposed to drugs in her mother’s uterus. She has learning disabilities and mood swings, typical behavior for a drug-addicted child. In therapy, she throws tantrums.
For members of the Santa Cruz County community who are struggling to face life’s challenges, a helping hand and some practical encouragement can make the difference between failure and success. For 53 years, Family Service Agency of the Central Coast has been helping the community of Santa Cruz County, providing counseling, suicide prevention, education, outreach and supportive services to the people who need it most.
“Because of these economic times, people are under a lot of stress,” says Rita Flores, the assistant director at FSA. “And that stress affects relationships, families. Before people decide to split up, they can get help. The Family Service Agency offers services to people who could not afford to get counseling anywhere else in the private sector.”
One year later, the little boy and his sister have experienced the miracle of Family Services Agency. The boy is now active in sports and received an outstanding award in school. His little sister’s behavior has stabilized. Their mother completed drug rehab programs and is in counseling. She is once again a positive part of her children’s life.
It is true stories like this one that inspire the volunteers and staff at Family Services Agency to continue their hard work, even as their funding is cut back a little more each year.
Besides counseling for children, families and individuals, the FSA offers several programs aimed at improving the quality of life for seniors in our community. The I-You Venture strives to overcome the isolation experienced by people who live in care facilities through activities and programs such as the Ageless Art Project. Through art classes and art shows, Ageless Art brings the cultural life of the community to seniors. The Senior Outreach program is staffed by peer volunteers, who visit seniors in their homes to help develop a higher quality of life and better manage the transitions of aging. Renaissance provides counseling for seniors with Medicare.
Family Services Agency is always looking for new volunteers to help out with its seven community-focused programs, so don’t hesitate to get involved. From small commitments of an hour or two a week to the rewarding feeling that comes with volunteering in Suicide Prevention or Senior Outreach after completing extensive training, Family Service Agency is truly a place where community members help one another. The Agency could not function without the many volunteers who donate their time and compassion.
“The need for our services has been increasing greatly, but the ability to pay has been decreasing,” says Flores. She recounts how financial hardship causes extra stress for couples and families, causing kids’ performance to decrease and leading them to act out at school. For children, counseling can build self esteem and prevent problems later in life. For adults, counseling increases their coping skills and supports their efforts to stabilize their lives.
“Donations allow us to offer affordable counseling to people in economic distress,” says Flores. A sliding fee scale, scholarships and a free counseling program, made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation, ensure that nobody is turned away from counseling for financial reasons.
Family Services Agency is a private non-profit organization funded through public donations, Friends of the Family, the United Way and The Daisy Auxiliary. If a financial donation is beyond your means, you can drop off your quality used clothes and pick up some new ones at The Daisy shop at 1601 41st Ave. in Capitola. The Daisy shop is a clothing resale store benefiting Family Service Agency. | Gretchen Wegrich