Helping individuals and communities get and stay healthy is mission of Petaluma Health Care District

Community Philanthropy Awards: Petaluma Health Care District

Ramona Faith


1425 N. McDowell Blvd., #103, Petaluma 94954


Read about North Bay Business Journal’s other Community Philanthropy Awards winners.

Petaluma Health Care District is a public agency and California special district that serves the changing health and wellness needs of southern Sonoma County residents. As a special district, it receives no tax revenue nor does it engage in its own fundraising. Instead, it supports its community through funds acquired like that of a private business.

The district uses its assets to directly support and improve the community health through funding evidence-based health programs, investing in local nonprofits providing critical social services, and giving technical assistance and back-bone support for projects and initiatives the work to address the root cause of poor health.

What three events or activities would you like to highlight?

Annual grant program: In the 2019 fiscal year, PHCD invested more than $350,000 in charitable funds, sponsorships and in-kind and technical support to more than 35 nonprofit organizations, schools, civic organizations and social service providers. We were able to double our previous year’s grant funding, which allowed us to fund 11 amazing organizations, including Buckelew Programs, Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), Mentor Me, Petaluma Adult School, Redwood Empire Food Bank and Seeds of Awareness.

Personal resilience: Over the last two years, PHCD became increasingly focused on the matter of resilience as it pertained to overcoming existing trauma and trauma caused by Sonoma County’s new reality of fires, floods and related triggers (i.e. PG&E planned outages). The PHCD has embraced the idea that resiliency can be strengthened in individuals and communities, driving education on adverse childhood experiences and the creation of a south county hub of trained facilitators offering workshops and training on stress reduction and building inner resilience.

PHCD is also engaged with the south county schools which are beginning to incorporate mindfulness practices into the school day to combat ongoing student and staff anxiety. During the most recent fires, Petaluma became the main evacuation center for Sonoma County. There were six official centers opened throughout the city, and countless other groups and individuals who opened their homes to evacuees. The District designated an employee full-time to help coordinate the volunteer and distribution center for the city shelters, run by Petaluma People Services Center.

Petaluma Walking Day: For the first time in its history, Petaluma Walking Day will be run entirely by the Petaluma Health Care District, allowing sponsorship funding to be funneled directly back to the community’s HeartSafe initiative. Petaluma Walking Day is a local iteration of national walking day — a day to celebrate the health benefits of everyday movement — and will feature a health fair, guided wetland tours, and heart-healthy snacks at Shollenberger Park on April 1. The walking day initiative aligns directly with the PHCD’s mission to support heart health in the south county community.

What ways does your organization help support the idea of helping others?

The Petaluma Health Care District is the convener. The District brings together Petaluma-area leaders, residents and organizations to tackle southern Sonoma County’s greatest health needs through the Community Health Initiative of the Petaluma Area (CHIPA).

Now in its eighth year, CHIPA has more than 165 members and is composed of business leaders, local nonprofits, schools, early childhood educators, Sonoma County employees, health care providers, local police and fire, city officials, farmers, and community residents.

These diverse stakeholders take action to engage in policy, system and environmental changes to improve health outcomes.

As mentioned above, the District also celebrates the outstanding philanthropy that it witnesses in its community. As a public agency and authority in community health, it annually recognizes and provides grant funding to organizations via its Community Health Grants and Awards program and also serves to provide backbone and technical support to local collaborative initiatives to improve local health outcomes.

How is the idea of helping others or working to solve community issues incorporated your personal life or in the company’s culture?

The Petaluma Health Care District’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in Southern Sonoma County. Our organizational work is driven by our mission and each employee is committed to serving the needs of our community. Working with local, regional and state partners, we address the social determinants of health in a variety of ways.

Our health initiatives are the catalysts for cross-sector community collaborations that tackle our greatest health priorities. Our grants and sponsorships empower our partners to serve residents through evidence-based practices. Collaboration, dignity, excellence, innovation, integrity and social justice are our organizational values that guide our thinking and our actions.

What inspires you about the North Bay spirit of helping others?

Tami Bender: I have been an employee of the Petaluma Health Care District for 17 years and serve as the HealthQuest CPR Program Manager. I work with our local community and throughout Sonoma County providing AED and CPR certification and training to help save lives from a sudden cardiac arrest.

The North Bay and specifically south county, is a generous community that focuses on volunteerism. People come together to work together to address a specific cause. You often see the same people (lots of people) who attend various fundraisers to support our non-profit community. When I see people working together as employees, as parents, as community members, it makes me proud to live in south county because there is an overall spirit of giving and caring — be it time or money or presence. Together we can accomplish a lot and we do.

Describe why you do what you do in the community in six words.

Creating healthier and equitable communities together.

Why are you inspired by helping others?

Halley Cloud, community health program manager for the district: I am inspired by helping others because when the least among us rise, we all rise. As a community, especially a tight-knit community like ours in south county, we cannot afford to operate in silos. We are invariably connected and the faster we all learn to recognize that and can embrace the things that make us alike, the sooner we begin to grow into safer, healthier and equitable communities.

How has this group has helped our cause or me?

Allison Goodwin, Redwood Empire Food Bank, district grant recipient: The Petaluma Health Care District has helped the Redwood Empire Food Bank in our mission to “end hunger in our community.“

Funding has allowed us to expand our reach in Petaluma, adding Senior Basket to two existing Groceries To Go locations, as well as three new Senior Basket sites at senior affordable housing complexes. The expansion has already served over 200 additional food insecure individuals, with anticipated growth to continue throughout the year. Not only are participants offered fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, milk, eggs, and staple food items, they are offered CalFresh application assistance to further meet their food needs.

The money saved on groceries helps seniors and families afford other essential items, like health insurance, prescriptions, rent, utilities, and other basic needs.

Vicki Whiting, Kids Scoop News, district grant recipient: Petaluma Health Care District funding has provided thousands of students with important health education resources each month during the school year. Educational topics have included why immunizations are important, being responsible online, how to talk about feelings, nutrition education and more. In addition, funds provide 300-plus students with their very own literacy resource each month during the school year – it’s like giving children a book a month.

Community Philanthropy Awards: Petaluma Health Care District

Ramona Faith


1425 N. McDowell Blvd., #103, Petaluma 94954


Read about North Bay Business Journal’s other Community Philanthropy Awards winners.

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