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Pakistani-American Muslim brings campaign against ‘Islamophobia’ to Marin

Pakistani-American Muslim brings campaign against ‘Islamophobia’ to MarinPresident Donald Trump has told Americans that Muslims hate them, but a 58-year-old Muslim woman stood in front of a gathering at Whistlestop in San Rafael Tuesday as living proof comments like that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Wearing a head scarf as a symbol of her born-again Muslim faith, Moina Shaiq spoke to the group as part of the “Meet a Muslim” neighborhood meetings she started to counter the spike in hate crimes and widespread “Islamophobia” that has gripped the country, ignited during the recent election by Trump’s threat of a Muslim registry and Muslim immigration ban.

A wife, mother, grandmother and former computer saleswoman, Shaiq and her husband came to this country 40 years ago from Pakistan. She’s lived for the past 35 years in Fremont.

“I never imagined that after 40 years of living in America I would be reaching out to my fellow Americans,” she told the group. “I thought by now people would know who we are, but that’s not the case.”

She has spoken at some 71 events since she began speaking out after the San Bernardino shootings in 2015. Tuesday’s session was part of Whistlestop’s “World Religion Series.”

She brought up the most recent terrorist attack in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people in an apparent suicide bombing at a pop concert. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

“For me, it’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “It’s not only that I’m sad that innocent lives have been lost, I’m also sad that people in the name of my faith are doing this. So it’s an uphill battle.”

Shaiq pointed out several times that there is nothing in her Muslim faith that calls for jihad or for a war against the West, as ISIS claims.

“When these people take their lives (suicide bombers), they think they are going to be martyrs, but that is not the case,” she said, noting that suicide is a major sin in the Islamic faith. “In fact there was a study that says 76 percent of ISIS recruits have minimal or no knowledge of Islam.”

During a trip to her native Pakistan two years ago, she spoke to countless Pakistanis whose family members were killed, “in front of their own eyes,” by U.S. drone attacks. Anti-American sentiment is being aroused not on religious grounds, she suggested, but because of the American war against terrorism.

“In 2015, the U.S. conducted drone attacks in Pakistan and in Yemen practically every single day, which we don’t ever hear about and don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t know. So these people who have no education, who have no money, who have no family members, who have nothing can be recruited by ISIS at the drop of a hat.”

She told the group of about 30 people that in the Afghanistan community in Fremont, where she lives, “Every single Afghani I’ve met so far has lost a father, a brother, a son, to the war. We all know there is a billion-dollar war machine in America that does not let the wars end.”

She said that “as citizens we need to take charge. We have a lot of power in our hands. But sadly, we don’t exercise that power.”

Asked how she counters the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists, she said, “I ask people if they think members of the KKK are Christians? I do not. So why do you allow ISIS to speak for all Muslims? They don’t follow Islam one bit. They are fighting for power and control. And they are a very small percentage of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today.”

Bay Area Woman Bridges Divides With Meet-a-Muslim Project

Bay Area Woman Bridges Divides With Meet-a-Muslim Project

Jesse Colin Young returns from the brink with a new band and a lot of heart

Jesse Colin Young returns from the brink with a new band and a lot of heartThe first time I interviewed Jesse Colin Young was way back in January 1979. Wearing a blue western cut shirt and jeans, he was sitting in his Point Reyes Station office with his feet up on his desk and his shoes off. I called him “the quintessential Marin County rock musician,” writing that images of Marin color his best-known songs — “mellow paeans to ridgetops and red tail hawks riding the wind and yards full of pine needles and dirt driveways and all the romanticism of life in rustic isolation.”

During his years here, beautiful tunes like “Sunlight,” “Ride the Wind,” “Morning Sun,” “California Child,” “Lovely Day” and “Song for Juli” poured out of him like fog rolling over the Inverness Ridge.

Young had moved from New York’s gritty Lower East Side to pastoral West Marin after the breakout success of 1967’s “Get Together,” the peace and love anthem by his band, the Youngbloods, that became part of the soundtrack of the Summer of Love.

A decade after that first interview, I caught up with him again. He’d split up with his first wife two years before and was embroiled in a bitter divorce. At the same time, he was starting over with his new wife, Connie, in the hilltop home in Inverness he’d made famous in his song, “Ridgetop.” He told me about a new song he’d written for one of his kids, “Street of Broken Dreams,” that was full of heartache.


Young’s bucolic life on the “windy and foggy and quiet” Marin coast came to a tragic end six years later when his Inverness house and more than 40 others were reduced to ash in 1995’s catastrophic Mount Vision Fire.

“My peace of mind burned up with it,” he says. “It took me 20 years to get over that.”

Too emotionally devastated to rebuild, he moved to Hawaii to begin a new life, starting a coffee plantation in Kona, on the Big Island. He and Connie had two young children by then, and when they found the school situation less than ideal, she led a campaign to build a new Waldorf school for them and other neighborhood kids. Life was good again.


In 2007, I got Jesse on the phone for an interview before he headlined the Marin County Fair that year. He and Connie and their two teenagers had just left the Big Island of Hawaii and had resettled in her hometown, Aiken, South Carolina, a horsey haven that became famous in the late 19th century as a winter colony for polo-playing, upper crust families from the Northeast with names like Astor and Vanderbilt.

Young was suffering from culture shock as he adjusted to life in the South, plus he was recovering from a case of Lyme disease. He wasn’t his old self. I could sense from his performance at the fair that his heart just wasn’t in it.

Sure enough, not long afterward, he quit touring and dropped out of the music business altogether.

“It wasn’t fun anymore,” he explained. “I was sick of it.”


When his youngest son, Tristan, a bassist, was studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Young went to his senior recital last spring. It turned out to be a life-changing experience. He was so inspired and invigorated by the young musicians who played that night that the desire to get back on stage and sing again shook his creative soul like a thunderclap.

“I sat in the front row, about 30 feet from the stage, and those kids just blew me away,” he recalls. “Six years before, I knew it was time for me to get off the road. But those kids woke me up. I started imagining what my music would sound like with these amazing youngsters playing it.”

He didn’t have to imagine for long. With his son on bass, he put together a band of young Berklee students — guitarist Aleif Hamdan, saxophonist Jack Sheehan, keyboardist Jenn Hwang Wong, drummer Donnie Hogue and backup singers Virginia Garcia Alves and Sally Stempler.

Before long, 75-year-old Jesse Colin Young was out there playing gigs with a band of kids 50 years younger than he is.

“I was having more fun than I knew what to do with,” he says with laugh. “At the end of one of our shows I came out on stage for an encore and said, ‘These kids are gonna kill me.’”

He was joking, of course, but things turned deadly serious in March when he and the band played the prestigious South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin. After the gig, he wasn’t just tired. He was beyond exhausted.

“I came home and found out that I had an aortic heart valve that was close to going critical,” he says, explaining that the valve was almost completely closed shut. “I was not going to play anymore until I got it replaced. But I had only six weeks before this June tour.”


Rather than undergo open heart surgery, he opted for a new, less invasive operation called transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

“My mother-in-law calls it drive-by surgery,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s incredible.”

It certainly is. He had the operation three weeks ago, spent just 24 hours in the hospital and was recently given the green light by his cardiologist to pick up his career where he left off.

“From the brink of death, I’m back on track,” he says with gratitude in his voice. Riding a wave of nostalgia on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, he and the band play Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on June 3. That show is sold out, as is a June 9 date at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Young and company return to Marin on Sept. 24 to headline the Whistlestop Festival on the Lagoon Stage at the county fairgrounds.

Having an eight-piece band on the road is an expensive way to tour, but at this point in Young’s life and career, it isn’t about money.

“It’s about joy,” he says. “Joy first. That’s what this part of my life is about. And that’s what playing with this band is about. I don’t know how long it will last or how far it will take us. But what a marvelous ride it is, and me with a new heart. This band is all about heart.”

Staying Independent after Giving Up the Car Keys

Staying Independent after Giving Up the Car Keys

Marin Voice: Creating ‘Aging Equity’ across Marin

Marin Voice: Creating ‘Aging Equity’ across MarinMay has been Older Americans Month, and the theme for this year was “Age Out Loud.” It’s less a slogan than a rallying cry for older adults to have more of a voice in this community: You do not have to be silent as you grow older; your voice can always be heard.

Whistlestop envisions a connected community where older adults are celebrated and nurtured, and where all people have equitable access to whatever resources, connections and services they need in order to age with dignity, independence and grace.

I call this Aging Equity, and it’s my personal belief that we all share in the responsibility to make this vision a reality.

As a father and grandfather, I have watched and applauded the success of the educational equity movement in our county. Nonprofits, grassroots organizations and schools have come together to form “cradle to career” partnerships to ensure that all children, no matter their challenge, have equal and fair access to a public education.

I’d like to propose that it’s time to mirror the huge success of our educational equity efforts focused on our county’s younger population, and apply the same energy to an Aging Equity effort focused on our older adults.

What many folks don’t realize is that older adults in Marin actually outnumber our children. In 2000, Marin had 11,000 more children and youth (ages 0-17) than people over 62, and by 2015, older adults outnumbered children and youth by 7,000. That number will continue to grow.

It’s time to give our older residents a voice and get behind a countywide “Retirement to Rest” initiative that mirrors our exemplary work in educational equity.

What are some of the resources, connections and services older adults might need as we strive for Aging Equity?

Some might not have access to proper nutrition; others might need housing and still others might need their options translated into their native language. Some older adults might have a home, but perhaps they have no nearby family and are isolated and prone to depression, while others need transportation to and from not only medical appointments but also to social engagements and the grocery store.

Still others may have the physical things they need such as housing and food, but lack a purpose and need to find belonging.

And those suffering from dementia or end-of-life challenges have another unique set of needs.

No one organization can fully address the multitude of challenges that might cause inequity in access to the services and resources our neighbors need in order to age with dignity, independence and grace. We must band together.

The great news: We already have an initiative here in Marin dedicated to Aging Equity. I am honored to serve as chair of the Marin County Aging Action Initiative, whose vision is to cultivate a county-wide, age-friendly environment, especially for those in need. Thanks to funding from the Marin County Board of Supervisors and support from the Aging and Adult Services division of Health and Human Services, the initiative has grown to become a collaborative, collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commissions and neighborhood groups, working together toward its vision through education, advocacy and coordinated services.

Older adults are a treasure for this community. Aging Out Loud means celebrating the memories, experiences and contributions of Marin’s older adult population every day. Together, let’s ensure that every Marin resident has the connections, resources and services they need as they grow older.

It’s the right and equitable thing to do.

Joe O’Hehir is CEO of Whistlestop, a Marin nonprofit that promotes independence and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities in Marin. He is also the chair of Marin’s Active Aging Initiative.

San Rafael gets new Zipcars near downtown SMART rail stop

San Rafael gets new Zipcars near downtown SMART rail stopIn anticipation of commuter trains rolling into downtown San Rafael later this month, two on-demand Zipcars have been placed at the Whistlestop building within feet of the rail stop allowing for greater mobility options, according to transportation officials.

Two Zipcars with Marin-flavored names — a dark gray Honda Civic, “Hoo Koo E Koo”, and a blue Subaru Impreza,“Lightsaber” — are available for reservation by the hour or by the day.

The vehicles are parked at the Whistlestop lot at the corner of Tamalpais Avenue and Fourth Street and can be reserved on Zipcar’s mobile app or online. The Transportation Authority of Marin, Whistlestop and Zipcar hammered out the deal to bring the cars.

“This fits perfectly with TAM’s work to expand mobility options in Marin,” said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of TAM. “With the trains right here, it’s just another tool for people to get around.”

The new Zipcars at Whistlestop also will help workers who ride the train who may need to get home or to another location mid-day due to unforeseen circumstances.

Zipcar is a car share program that offers more flexibility than traditional rental cars as they can be used on an hourly basis, from between $8 and $10 an hour. The two new Zipcars join two vehicles located in a private lot at B and Second streets — the only Zipcars in Marin. Zipcars need to be returned to the area from which they were rented.

Zipcar officials see the service as way to help rail riders and others make trips as needed.

“With the SMART train here it helps riders travel that last mile to where they want to go,” said Franco Arieta, Zipcar general manager. “It’s just like your own personal car for the time you have it. Some people do not need a car all day long.”

Zipcar users apply online and once approved, a Zipcard is sent to access vehicles. Details for use are set up online and then the card is used to access the cars, with keys inside.

“The new Whistlestop Zipcar location is friendly to commuters and residents who may not own a vehicle, and the program helps move Marin towards a shared economy,” said Joe O’Hehir, who heads Whistlestop. “Some of the seniors who we serve can see this as an option. Having a car is not always cheap. It’s really good for everyone.”

Prospective members can join the service online at

In addition to Zipcars, rail commuters will be able to get discounted rides between the rail station and work through a subsidy for the Lyft service.

The subsidized rides will be offered under a six-month, $70,000 pilot program approved by TAM. TAM will offer subsidized rides via LyftLine, a rideshare service operated by Lyft.

Whistlestop takes a human-centered, measured approach to managed care

Whistlestop takes a human-centered, measured approach to managed careMarin County, Calif., has the greatest longevity for women in the United States, and currently a quarter of Marinites are older than age 60. By 2030, it is estimated that one in three Marin residents will be older than age 65, and those older than age 85 make up the fastest growing segment of the population.

Joe O’Hehir is CEO of the nonprofit community-based organization (CBO) Whistlestop, which promotes the independence, well-being and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities. O’Hehir says these individuals’ needs remain the same as they were in 1954 when Whistlestop was founded, but the magnitude of demand has increased significantly. Other CBOs hoping to succeed in the new managed care world will likely be interested to hear how Whistlestop is seeking multiple partnerships.

Four Pillars of Service

There are four cornerstones to Whistlestop’s services: transportation—key in Marin, as many older adults live in communities not easily linked by public transportation; nutrition—older adults can lunch affordably at Whistlestop’s Jackson Café, or benefit from home-delivered meals and, for those able to cook, a food pantry; social connection—many of Marin’s older adults live alone without family support (Marin County is an expensive place for younger family members to live), but through Whistlestop’s Active Aging Center, they can take classes and socialize with peers; and referrals—Whistlestop connects older adults to many services beyond transportation and nutrition, such as help with legal, financial and even cognitive impairment issues.

Through a new grant from the Marin Community Foundation (MCF), Whistlestop is researching how best to accelerate its existing business practices, as well as expand service lines.

“There is a new paradigm forming where nonprofits approach funding by being a business partner for healthcare providers and payers. The new contracts we are pursuing will not only allow us to focus on value-driven work, they also will provide sustainable revenue streams to keep Whistlestop financially secure and address the growing demand for our services,” says O’Hehir.

Shirin Vakharia, director of Health & Aging at MCF, says the Foundation “saw tremendous opportunity for Whistlestop to leverage over 60 years of trusted service in Marin County by repurposing their skills and expertise to add value to the healthcare sector in Marin.”

Whistlestop is not new to business partnerships; it has contracted for more than 40 years with local transit agencies to provide paratransit services, and also contracts with the Institute on Aging (IOA) to provide frail older adults in San Francisco with transport so they can participate in the PACE Center’s programs and services. Recently Whistlestop expanded its transportation offering to IOA through a contract with the ride-sharing service Lyft.

Research Accelerates New Possibilities in Transportation

The MCF’s initial planning grant allowed Whistlestop to research what the best next steps might be for building capacity to secure contracts with healthcare payers and providers to work toward a new collaborative model of value-based care. Whistlestop’s key objectives for forming partnerships with healthcare entities and others is to improve health outcomes for Marin’s older adults by providing models of care that address healthcare, social issues and transportation.

That grant was followed by a three-year implementation grant, which went toward hiring a healthcare research consultant. With the consultant’s support, Whistlestop has conducted an assessment to better understand the needs of healthcare payers and providers and how its existing areas of expertise meet those needs.

The county’s demographics are such that most Whistlestop clients are Medicare or Medicare Advantage enrollees, so Whistlestop hopes to create a PACE-like model designed for people with higher incomes.

“We’ve been doing lots of homework and research, and are writing a business plan to be done at the end of the year,” says O’Hehir. He appreciates the work of Dr. Joanne Lynn, a geriatrician, hospice and long-term care physician and health services researcher, who wrote the healthcare reform guide, Medi-Caring Communities. This guide promotes anchoring the care delivery system in the community where people live—hence, Whistlestop’s idea to build a PACElike model.

“We’re really excited, we’re just at the beginning, we have good connections with local healthcare payers and providers, but we’re figuring out what are their pain points, and one of them is missed appointments,” says O’Hehir.

“Because we have been a trusted source of transportation in the community for more than 60 years, we are opening the door to our negotiations with providers by solving some of their transportation challenges,” adds O’Hehir.

Whistlestop is a long-established pre-sence in Marin, and clients often tell staff when they are confronting issues that they wouldn’t necessarily share with their children. “This trust is valuable, it could help with plans of care and compliance; we can help to provide transportation, nutrition and social connection,” says O’Hehir. “We think we have the ‘value add’—the challenge is establishing and creating this added value in the minds of payers and providers,” says O’Hehir.

More than a Ride: Solutions that Serve Clients and Partners

Whistlestop’s ongoing successful transportation program (special needs paratransit vans with Whistlestop-employed drivers, a volunteer driver program and the Lyft partnership) led O’Hehir to approach a local clinic with the plan of MARS—Missed Appointment Reduction Service. When explaining the plan to potential healthcare partners, Whistlestop is careful to emphasize one of its key advantages to the provider: avoiding missed appointments, which are costly to the provider, and can lead to patients’ hospital admissions and readmissions.

In partnership with Marin Transit, Whistlestop hosts three Travel Navigators who counsel clients on their transportation options. Its volunteer driver program, CarePool, provides free rides to medical appointments or to the grocery store for older adults across Marin. CarePool has provided more than 3,400 rides since its inception in 2015.

To dig deeper into finding potential transit solutions, Whistlestop has staff shadow front-line hospital admissions clerks as they book appointments, asking them to add questions on intake forms to determine how patients are
getting to and from appointments.

Whistlestop’s Lyft partnership currently provides clients with same-day, non-emergency rides from IOA to other San Francisco medical facilities; this benefits Lyft by adding ride volume in midday, a generally low-demand time period. Lyft provides Whistlestop with the software staff use to order rides, a convenience for clients who may not have smartphone access or savvy. To date, Whistlestop has used more than 900 Lyft rides to transport IOA clients to their medical appointments. Prior to the Lyft partnership, San Francisco taxis fulfilled the majority of these rides, which typically cost 40 percent more than a Lyft ride.

Whistlestop’s Director of Program Innovation Anita Renzetti held an informational gathering for Lyft drivers on best practices for interacting with older adults, such as: listen attentively, consider helping the rider with assistive devices such as walkers, and confirm exactly where to drop off and pick up clients at the hospital. Lyft is expanding its healthcare collaborations and has been solicitous of Whistlestop, seeking data on outcomes; such information could help meet outcomes measurement mandates required by new healthcare partnerships.

In the near future, Whistlestop seeks to capitalize on its successful collaborations with the IOA and Lyft to secure more partnerships with a large local hospital and a health plan. Thanks to a pilot project funded by Marin General Hospital, Whistlestop is already beginning to provide similar Lyft-enabled services in Marin. Whistlestop is also considering reaching out to a health group that monitors patients at home, to offer on-demand, more immediate medical transport for patients. If a patient experiences difficulties and needs to be seen by a physician that day, Whistlestop could be called instead of the usual emergency medical transport service, which can cost clients upwards
of $250 per trip.

Lessons Learned: Humans First!

Whistlestop’s cautious approach to partnerships has allowed it to concentrate on what O’Hehir calls the “human-centered design process.” Instead of jumping on the technology bandwagon as many organizations do when trying to problem-solve, Whistlestop works to understand the human-centered interface. What issues are healthcare entities facing, and what are the clients’ needs? When booking a medical appointment, are patients asked if they have transport? If not, can they be referred to Whistlestop?

Whistlestop also wants to determine if the MARS pilot program can truly work. For example, if a healthcare clinic has a 25 percent missed appointment rate (which is not unusual), Whistlestop could conduct a 90-day study, while offering transport services, to reduce that rate.

If the missed appointment rate can be reduced to 5, 10 or 15 percent, that translates to revenue for the healthcare provider. And that type of data is what Whistlestop needs to show to ensure success. “If you’re going to get into this work, you’ll have to find funding to do a proof-of-concept for healthcare providers,” says Renzetti.

“I appreciate the Marin Community Foundation grant because it slowed us down, allowed us to check our assumptions and really find out what healthcare providers and payers need,” says O’Hehir. “We also learned it’s a long haul, you have to have a patient board of directors and organization to see a return on investment,” O’Hehir adds.

Bay Area Life Segment on Whistlestop

Bay Area Life Segment on Whistlestop

Pure Prairie League co-headlines Whistlestock benefit

Pure Prairie League co-headlines Whistlestock benefitAsk music fans who came of age in the 1970s what they remember about the country rock pioneers Pure Prairie League and chances are they’ll recall the Ohio-born band’s most memorable hit, “Amie,” a tune with a hook that’s so irresistible that it defies you to forget it once it gets into your head.

Pure Prairie League will of course play that signature song, infecting a whole new generation, when the band co-headlines — with Jesse Colin Young — the fourth annual Whistlestock, a Sept. 24 benefit concert for Marin Senior Coordinating Council, aka Whistlestop, a San Rafael nonprofit that has been caring for the needs of older people in the county since 1954.

Written by band co-founder Craig Fuller, “Amie,” wasn’t released as a single when it came out as a track on the group’s second album, 1972’s “Bustin’ Out.” After Fuller applied to become a conscientious objector, refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, he was sentenced to six months in prison for draft evasion. With the band’s future in jeopardy, RCA unceremoniously dropped the group from the label.

Fuller later won conscientious objector status and was eventually given a full pardon by President Gerald Ford. But, at the time, all the remaining members could think of to do to keep the band working was to hit the road, playing a heavy schedule of mostly college gigs up and down the East Coast and throughout the Midwest.

“When RCA finally re-signed us in 1975, it was because we had been playing 275 college dates a year, cramming ‘Amie’ down every college student’s throat,” says 68-year-old Mike Reilly, the band’s bassist and spokesman for 45 years. “That’s the story of the success of that song.”

After radio stations began playing “Amie” by popular request, RCA finally put it out as a single. It climbed into the top 40 on the pop charts and was so ubiquitous on college campuses that Amie (more commonly spelled “Amy”) became one of the most popular girls’ names of the decade. In fact, Whistlestop CEO Joe O’Hehir named his daughter Amy after the song.


Ironically, Reilly says, “There never was anyone named Amie that the song was written about.” Fuller, he explains, was inspired by “mon amie,” a French phrase for a female friend.

“A lot of Amys come up to us and say, ‘That song was written for me, right?’” Reilly says. “We say, ‘Of course it was.’ But the genesis of the song remained shrouded in mystery until this very moment.”

Pure Prairie League, named after a fictional 19th century temperance union that was in the 1939 western movie “Dodge City,” continued to score hits like “Two Lane Highway” in 1975 and a duet with guest singer Emmylou Harris on the country song “Just Can’t Believe It.”

The group went through numerous personnel changes over the decades. It enjoyed its greatest commercial success after future country star Vince Gill joined the band in 1978. He sang lead on the singles “Still Right Here in My Heart,” a number seven chart hit, and “Let Me Love You Tonight,” a pop song that featured a saxophone rather than a pedal steel guitar and shot up to number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. Gill left in 1982 to pursue his successful solo career.


“We’ve been a springboard for a lot of artists who went on to bigger and better things,” Reilly says. “Vince just happened to be the golden boy.”

Reilly, who lives in Sag Harbor on Long Island in New York, came back from a life-saving liver transplant in 2006 to lead the band alongside guitarist-singer Donnie Lee Clark, drummer-singer Scott Thompson and founding member John David Call. They’re all in their late 60s and early 70s, and still play about 55 dates a year.

“We’re getting a little long in the tooth, but I’ll tell you this, we still go out there on stage with fire in the belly,” Reilly says.

The idea for the Whistlestock benefit concerts came from Pete Slauson, a former Marin music business insider who is now Whistlestop client. He’ll serve as this year’s stage manager.

The first three Whistlestock concerts were staged at Rancho Nicasio with such heritage acts as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe McDonald, It’s a Beautiful Day and the Quicksilver spinoff Imperial Messenger Service. Each one raised about $140,000 to support Whistlestop, which offers transportation and food services for seniors, plus peer counseling, classes and workshops. And they proved that you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll.

This is the first year Whistlestock will be at the county fairgrounds, a much larger outdoor venue with the potential to raise twice as much money as the previous shows. The goal this time is $300,000.

“This is absolutely our biggest single fundraiser of the year,” says Jennifer Golbus, Whistlestop’s marketing strategist. “And it’s a feel-good thing, too, bringing a concert like this to a community that has supported us all these years. And we’re trying to bust that old stigma about older people. Yes, we have services that older adults need, but we’re also about fun and enjoying life.”

If you go

What: Whistlestock, with Pure Prairie League, Jesse Colin Young and Rewind

When: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24

Where: Fairgrounds Island, Marin Center, San Rafael

Admission: $69 to $129


Marin social scene: Whistlestop, The Marin Center for Independent Living and Sunny Hills Services

Marin social scene: Whistlestop, The Marin Center for Independent Living and Sunny Hills ServicesWhistlestop raised more than $267,000 during its Whistlestock benefit concert at Fairgrounds Island at the Marin Center in San Rafael. The event was attended by 1,000 people, including Bill Tichy, Dennis Ryan and Jeri Dexter, all of Greenbrae; Patty Garbarino, Joe O’Hehir and Joanne Vincent, all of San Rafael; Dennis and Susan Gilardi, of Larkspur; Molly Hines, of Tiburon, and Peter Rubens, of Novato.

The Marin Center for Independent Living raised about $450,000 at its Angels by the Bay fundraiser at the Meadow Club in Fairfax. The event — which also raised money for fire victims — was attended by 220 people, including Debra McDaniels, of Tiburon; Linda Kerslake, Rosie and Megan Feeney, Mary Lou Maddison and Joe Kelly, Michael Pritchard and Richard Cons, all of San Rafael; Kathleen and Keith Woodcock and Patricia and Jim Lazor, all of Greenbrae; Isobel Wiener, of Ross; and Patrick and Soraya Aughney and Lori and David Garcia, all of Novato.

Sunny Hills Services raised more than $170,000 at its Reach for the Stars gala fundraiser at a residence in San Rafael. The event was attended by 200 people, including Mike Higgins, of Fairfax; Mary Denton, of Larkspur; Shelley and Jay Cahan, of Ross; Kristen D’Offay, of Kentfield; and Terry Sarni, Chris and Julie Dolan and Laura and Brian McLeran, all of San Rafael.

If you have news about the fundraising and benefit scene in Marin County or about an event that just took place, email Please send high-resolution (300 dpi, 2 MB) JPG photos no later than 9 a.m. on the Monday immediately following your event. Please identify the names and towns of everyone in each photo (from left), and give us a photo credit for the photographer. Please tell us how much money your organization raised and how many people attended your event.

Marin nonprofits to share $2.8 million asset pile

Marin nonprofits to share $2.8 million asset pileA new organization for seniors and the disabled will take over office space and receive $125,000 from MarinSpace, a nonprofit distributing its assets as it prepares to dissolve.

The Aging and Disability Institute, to be led by Whistlestop senior center and the Marin Center for Independent Living, is one of five nonprofits selected to receive a slice of $2.77 million in resources, including $270,000 in cash and a Terra Linda property worth an estimated $2.5 million that can house nine nonprofits.

“We wanted to provide a broad array of assets to a broad array of nonprofits serving a large array of the population,” said Peter Lee, interim executive director of MarinSpace, which was established in 1988. “I think that happened. I’m happy about the way it turned out.”

MarinSpace, a nonprofit promoting collaboration among nonprofits, announced earlier this year that it would distribute its assets by Dec. 31. The group is expected to remain in operation through late February.

The group’s board voted to dissolve the organization after longtime CEO Shelley Hamilton announced she would return to project-based consulting. She transitioned in May from her full-time role to a part-time position as director of project consulting.

The organization started with a goal of providing below-market rent to local nonprofits. It fulfilled that goal when it established its 14,500-square-foot building at 70 Skyview Terrace in Terra Linda, which today houses the Center for Restorative Practice, Senior Access and five other organizations. A use permit limits the building’s use to office space for nonprofits.

The property has been awarded to the Aging and Disability Institute, an entity to be made of numerous organizations working to address the growing need for support for Marin’s older adult and disabled populations.

“What we want to accomplish is having a campus dedicated to providing one-stop services — professional development resources for other providers in the field, caregiver support, family resources for individuals looking to help take care of family members and workforce training for caregivers and individuals in the field,” said Eli Gelardin, executive director of San Rafael’s Marin Center for Independent Living.

Whistlestop CEO Joe O’Hehir said the organizations are thankful to have been chosen to receive the Skyview Terrace site.

“I think we’re incredibly grateful to be selected to be able to take the assets of MarinSpace and really continue their legacy through the work we’re doing,” O’Hehir said. “We have a vision of creating an aging and disability institute at that campus there that should be a real game changer for the community.”

The building brings in roughly $280,000 a year in revenue, not including related expenses, according to MarinSpace. The Aging and Disability Institute is expected to take on $570,000 of mortgage debt. O’Hehir said the organizations will honor existing tenants’ leases.

Over the next couple of years the goal will be to relocate senior and disability nonprofits to the site for a true one-stop shop for senior and disability services and programs, he said.

There are no plans to relocate Whistlestop to the campus, O’Hehir said. The plan remains for the senior center, situated at 930 Tamalpais Ave. in San Rafael, to move to the former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. site at 999 Third St., which would be shared with San Rafael biotech company BioMarin. A design package was recently submitted to the city of San Rafael and a study session is anticipated for the proposal in February, O’Hehir said.

With the $125,000 the Aging and Disability Institute is receiving in assets, the plan is to pay for deferred maintenance at the Skyview Terrace site.

Other organizations benefiting from the asset distribution include Marin Promise Partnership, a San Rafael collective dedicated to education equity, which will receive $100,000. The organization plans to expand its programs and services.

The remaining $45,000 will be split evenly among three groups including Larkspur-based Enriching Lives through Music, which plans to expand its programs serving low-income families; San Rafael’s, which plans to purchase a new refrigerated truck for food deliveries to partner organizations serving low-income and homeless populations; and San Rafael’s Ritter Center, which plans to use funds to assist with its relocation of services from its downtown location.

Holiday tour shines light for Marin memory loss group

Holiday tour shines light for Marin memory loss groupFor Marin seniors with clouded memories, a sunny breakthrough came this week in the form of spectacular and dazzling holiday lights at private homes.

“I’ve always heard of these decorations, but I never got a chance to see them before,” said Herb Roedel, 78, of San Rafael, marveling at the Rombeiros’ Christmas House on Devonshire Drive in Novato. “This is the first time.”

Roedel, accompanied by longtime fishing buddy Tom Manuel of Corte Madera, was one of more than a dozen clients and their caregivers from San Rafael-based nonprofit Senior Access on a special holiday lights tour Wednesday in two Whistlestop paratransit buses.

The clients, all dealing with varying stages of memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia or related conditions, are part of a daily Bay-Area-fee-based outings program run by Senior Access. The day center, housed in a bright and spacious nonprofits complex on Skyview Terrace, charges $125 per day for the outings or for supervised activities at the facility. Government assistance programs or longterm-care insurance pay for some clients’ participation, which allows their caregivers some much-needed breaks.

“This is perhaps Marin’s best-kept secret in senior day care,” said Denise Merleno of Novato, whose 93-year-old mother, Miriam, has been coming two days a week to Senior Access for the past four years. “When she’s here, I’m able to focus at work, because I don’t have to worry about her here — the staff is so attentive.”

Wednesday’s tour, however, was a special gratis night event organized by Kit Lewis, excursion coordinator at Senior Access, as a “thank you” gift to the members and their families.

Whistlestop helps

Staff drivers from Whistlestop, the downtown San Rafael active aging center that offers athletic, social and cultural activities and organized trips and transportation for Marin residents over 60, volunteered Wednesday night to take the Senior Access clients on the holiday lights tour. Senior Access has an ongoing contract with Whistlestop to provide transportation for clients to and from their homes and on the outings.

“I wanted to give the families a chance to be with each other and do something fun with their families this holiday season,” Lewis said. “With memory loss, sometimes, they don’t get to go out with their families as much as they would like to — and this sort of gives them that opportunity.”

Outings assistant Barbara Millstein of Novato said she knows what the caregivers are going through because she experienced their same situation first-hand when her husband suffered memory loss about six years ago and he became a client at Senior Access.

“He (her husband) found that it was such an amazing place to connect with other clients,” she said.

After he died a few years later, Millstein volunteered at the agency and was then hired on staff.

“My heart is in it,” she said. “I’ve gone through it, and I know what it is to have a smile on someone’s face.”

Lewis said the outings serve many purposes for the clients who are able to participate.

“It helps them to get out, stay mobile and fit and helps stimulate memory,” Lewis said. “It spikes interest — especially if we go to places that reflect (the culture) around their (World War II) era.”

Variety of visits

Recent outings, which typically last from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., have included the Rosie the Riveter Museum, the “Summer of Love” exhibit at the DeYoung Museum and the Mechanics’ Institute in San Francisco.

“If we can make it there and back by 3 p.m., we’ll do it,” Lewis said.

Pat Derenzo of San Rafael said she drives her husband, Ron Derenzo, 81, to Senior Access three days a week, mostly for outings.

“He was one of the first (to go) when they started the excursion groups,” she said. “In the moment, he appreciates it.”

Derenzo said the program allows her to schedule necessary time for herself after being a full-time caregiver for Ron, who has Alzheimer’s.

“I can drop him off here, and then go from here to get a massage,” she said with a smile.

Similarly, Karin Ludwig of San Anselmo said being able to take her mother, Adele Ludwig, 90, to Senior Access has allowed her to keep working. Ludwig said Adele took the Whistlestop bus to Senior Access five days a week for five years, allowing Ludwig to maintain her job at Marin General Hospital.

“If it wasn’t for this place, our lives would be a lot different,” she said. “It was a lifesaver.”

Adele, who is in a wheelchair, is now down to two days a week at Senior Access after moving to a care facility about six months ago, Ludwig said. Edwin Lopez, an assistant at the care facility, accompanied Ludwig and her mother on the tour Wednesday.

Caregiver relief

Bill Kier of San Rafael said his wife, Helen Kier, also has been coming to Senior Access five days a week after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. He said she enjoys it, and it helps give him some relief as a caregiver. Helen does not go on outings, he said, but she enjoys staying at the day center.

Meanwhile, back at the holiday lights tour, Roedel, who is bent over and who shuffles along with a cane, shows off a photo of himself in an old Oakland Raiders uniform in the 1960s, when it was part of the old American Football League.

“I was too small for offensive tackle,” he said.

Active all his life, Roedel said he began coming on the Senior Access outings earlier this year after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“A ton of them are pretty good,” he said, gazing at the holiday lights at the Rombeiros’ home. “We even went to John Muir’s house.”