Local Rotarians Bring Aid To Haiti

Posted on January 3, 2017 by  
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Los Altos RotariansAfter the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, most of the local infrastructure was destroyed, leaving the capital city Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities in rubble and more than 150,000 dead. Humanitarian volunteers poured in with aid, including two Rotary Club of Los Altos members, Allan Varni and Bud Oliver.

Varni and Oliver’s goal was to form connections with local Rotarians and nongovernmental organizations to raise funds to rebuild a school that had been completely destroyed. The quake hit in the late afternoon, so the school’s students were not in class.

The school originally was built under the auspices of a Haitian grassroots organization, Society of Providence United for Economic Development (SOPUDEP), founded to provide education for children and adults, support children’s and women’s rights and create economic opportunities for the community.

Many American high schools sent volunteer students during winter and spring breaks to help rebuild the school, including Los Altos High School, led by teacher Seth Donnelly. International architects designed the new school to withstand earthquakes.

Varni and Oliver represented the Los Altos Rotary Endowment Fund’s World Community Service Fund, which provided building materials, desks, books, school supplies and software, along with e-readers from a local partner, the Los Altos-based Books for Haiti. Google Inc., Apple Inc. and other companies matched contributions and donated supplies.

With help from many sources, the SOPUDEP School is now up and running, filled with hundreds of students who look forward to a better future.  Varni described the Haitians as being in “good spirits,” with a strong commitment to continue the work of rebuilding.


Local Walk Surpasses Fundraising Goal

Posted on October 19, 2016 by  
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pancreatic-cancer-research-walkAfter exceeding their fundraising goal, Los Altos residents Aaron and Leah Nichols deemed their inaugural event to fight pancreatic cancer a success.

The 2016 Silicon Valley Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk, held Oct. 1 at Mountain View’s Shoreline Park, raised more than $54,000. The Nichols said their initial goal was $20,000, with a stretch goal of $50,000. The night before the event, a $5,000 donation put them over the top.

The 5-kilometer walk attracted more than 160 participants and 21 volunteers.

Several of the attendees were the couple’s family and friends; others took part after learning about the event in an Aug. 17 Town Crier article.

It was personal for many of the participants. The marketing director of one corporate sponsor lost a grandmother to pancreatic cancer, according to Leah, while the event’s face painter lost two family members to the disease.

“There was a sense of community and hope, and that we are trying to do something good, making progress with it and turning this around,” Leah said. “It’s just amazing – the people that are affected by the disease are very passionate about it.”

Aaron and Leah both lost their mothers to the disease – within 18 months of one another. That inspired them to organize the walk.

The Nichols family partnered with the Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest private supporter of pancreatic cancer research, to make the event happen.

Once the walk was over, Leah was already thinking about next year. She promised that the walk will continue – with hopes of drawing more participants and raising more money in 2017.

To donate and for more information, visit: 2016siliconvalleywalk.kintera.org


Inter-generational Bonding

Posted on November 24, 2015 by  
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Grand-FriendsSanta Rita School in Los Altos expanded its call to the community in September with the inaugural “Grand-Friends Day,” summoning a new generation back to school.

Students and their parents invited their elders to visit, learn and see if they’d be interested in returning to the classroom as volunteers.

“It is ‘grand-friends’ rather than just grandparents, because you have aunts and uncles, grand-aunts and grand-uncles, and neighbors you’ve adopted who play that role, and those are important relationships – and that matters,” explained event organizer Kanesha Baynard.

A Santa Rita parent, Baynard launched the program this year after experiencing a similar tradition of school volunteering and grand-involvement several years ago while living in Colorado. Her mother-in-law lived with the family as a “granny nanny,” convincing Baynard of the power of having hands-on support across generations – even if you move and lose access to the “granny nanny.”

“When you look at the community here, there are a lot of international grandparents and families living together,” she said.

Grandparents have already been volunteering in roles such as library book shelving and story time at Santa Rita. After gathering volunteer interest forms from “grand” participants at the September event, the school is organizing how to stay in touch with interested grands looking for upcoming opportunities to be involved.


Volunteer Profile: Caroline Rumptz

Posted on August 5, 2015 by  
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Caroline RumptzLos Altos resident and former teacher Caroline Rumptz’s favorite thing about guiding farm tours at Hidden Villa is the “unadulterated joy” the schoolchildren feel on her tours as they experience new things.

“It lights them up,” Rumptz said.

Rumptz sings the praises of volunteering.

“Every day I’m here, I find something rewarding,” she said of her volunteer work. “You have these amazing experiences with children, especially with the inner-city kids, and that wonder never loses its appeal.”

During her five years of volunteering at Hidden Villa, Rumptz also has supported the organization by helping maintain the organic Education Garden each summer, providing bookkeeping services for the Environmental Education department and contributing financially.

“I think Hidden Villa is such a unique place,” she said, “that it deserves to be supported and nurtured.”

Hidden Villa, the nonprofit, educational farm and nature preserve in Los Altos Hills, provides science-based, hands-on learning opportunities for schoolchildren from communities of all means.

After volunteers are trained at their own pace, each develops his or her own unique style while guiding groups – for example, by encouraging children to pretend to turn into butterflies before tasting nectar or providing invisible horses for them to ride around the farm.

The mother of three sons, Rumptz and her husband of 25 years, Eric, brought their boys to Hidden Villa when they were young, on average, once every two weeks.

“This place is stunning and rewarding, and at the end of the day, you can go for a hike. You’re not going to find it anyplace else. I looked,” Rumptz said.

When not volunteering, Rumptz enjoys spending time with her family, hiking with her dog Champ, gardening with her husband, tending to her four hens, kayaking, skiing, spending time in Lake Tahoe and rooting on her youngest son’s water polo team.

Hidden Villa invites potential volunteer guides to its next orientation, scheduled 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 12 at the preserve, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. If visitors subsequently decide to volunteer, all necessary training is provided free of charge. No experience is required.

For more information, call 949-8643 or email: hveepvolunteers@hiddenvilla.org


Another Lap To Fight Cancer

Posted on June 12, 2015 by  
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Los-Altos-Relay-For-LifeRelay For Life of Los Altos is slated to return to Egan Junior High School 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

The event, the American Cancer Society’s signature fund- raiser, is designed to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors and caregivers, remember those who have died from the disease and fight back with actions that encourage people to stay healthy.

This year’s event will feature a “1980s” theme, a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Gordy Klatt, the first supporter to walk and run for 24 hours around a track to fundraise for cancer research. Klatt ultimately raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. Since those first steps, Relay For Life has grown into a worldwide movement, raising nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.

Egan Junior High is located at 100 W. Portola Ave., Los Altos.  To register, sponsor and donate, visit relayforlife.org/losaltosca.


Rotary Club Helps With Nepal Relief

Posted on May 22, 2015 by  
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Rotary Relief - NepalThe Rotary Club of Los Altos’ World Community Service Committee has launched a fundraising campaign to help with relief efforts in Nepal in the aftermath of the 7.8 earthquake that hit the nation April 25.

Funds raised will support the Sunrise Rotary Club in Kathmandu and the nongovernmental organizations Save the Children and ShelterBox.

To kick off its efforts, the Rotary Club of Los Altos is transferring $5,000 in cash from its World Community Service fund to the Kathmandu Sunrise Rotary Club for emergency food, shelter and water.

Los Altos Rotarians have focused on Nepal as a service project area since 2002, participating in 18 projects. The projects addressed rural village economic development, clean water and sanitation using sustainable technologies such as solar cooking and lighting, solar drying of fruit and mushrooms for sale and the use of stoves that burn little wood. Examples of the projects were on display at the Fine Art in the Park show at Lincoln Park May 16 and 17.

“These Kathmandu Sunrise Rotarians have proven themselves as motivated, reliable responsible and – importantly in the Third World – honest partners,” said Los Altos Rotarian Allart Ligtenberg. “We have total trust and confidence in them and their commitment to do the right thing.”

A retired engineer, Ligtenberg spent each fall in Nepal independently setting up and overseeing projects before joining Rotary in 2002. He has volunteered in Nepal since 1992 to improve the lives of poor villagers through solar and sustainable technologies.

Kathmandu Sunrise Rotarians have begun surveying the damage in rural villages, designing pit latrines and delivering safe water, food and tents. They plan to expand their survey to more remote villages as conditions allow.

Save the Children, which focuses on children’s health and welfare, has partnered with the United Nations and the World Health Organization on many of its projects and operates clinics throughout the Third World. Save the Children sponsored numerous clinics in Nepal prior to last month’s earthquake and is importing additional staff and supplies to expand its efforts.

ShelterBox has staff members on the ground in Nepal and will fly in more to organize the receipt of ShelterBox kits, which contain tents to house displaced families.

For more information, visit losaltosrotary.org.


Los Altos Physician Assists in Nepal

Posted on May 6, 2015 by  
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Paul AuerbachLongtime Los Altos resident Paul Auerbach, M.D., received a phone call the night of April 25 alerting him to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. The next day, the emergency medicine physician from the Stanford University School of Medicine and member of the International Medical Corps was on his way to Kathmandu.

Auerbach, who traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, wasn’t able to land in Kathmandu immediately, as the airport’s single runway was crowded with planes shipping supplies to the devastated area.

The commercial flight, filled with first responders, including a Japanese search-and-rescue team, and a number of Nepalese residents returning home, was diverted to India and eventually landed in Bangkok. Auerbach finally arrived in Nepal April 26, the following morning California time, according to his wife, Sherrie Auerbach.

In addition to dispatching its chief of emergency medicine, Stanford plans to send more help, Auerbach wrote on his April 28 blog.

“The local medical community has responded aggressively to this situation, and the health professionals have been working around the clock to tend to patients,” he wrote. “The overall community led by volunteers is assessing its capabilities to support shelter, hygiene, provision of safe water and food and integration of its capabilities with those that are coming in relief.”

The physician has been to Nepal before, including trekking to the Mount Everest Base Camp.

“It was very sad to see the collapse of buildings – indeed large portions of certain neighborhoods – as well as ancient temples and iconic structures,” he writes in his blog.

Auerbach took note of the many residents sheltering in tents, with hail and an intense rainstorm prompting street flooding and foreshadowing the risk of diseases, like cholera, because of the earthquake-damaged infrastructure services. His wife expects his work to include setting up clinics and other medical facilities to help the injured, in addition to working alongside other emergency doctors.

To read Auerbach’s blog, visit scopeblog.stanford.edu.

To donate to Nepal disaster relief, visit globalhealth.stanford.edu.


Young Men’s Service League

Posted on April 10, 2015 by  
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Young Men's Service LeagueThe Young Men’s Service League, a nonprofit organization that promotes community service, is set to launch its local Rancho chapter with an inaugural class of 47 eighth- and ninth-graders and their mothers.

Mothers and their sons from Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and other surrounding cities will embark on a four-year program of philanthropy, life-skills education and leadership development.

Formed in 2001 in Plano, Texas, the Young Men’s Service League has 42 chapters in eight states – a total of 3,200 mothers and 3,500 sons. Collectively, the league served 135,000 community service hours last year.

The service year runs from May 1 to April 30, 2016. Enrollment for new members will take place in spring 2016 for current eighth-graders.

For more information, visit ymslrancho.chapterweb.net.


Deer Hollow Schedules Farm Tours

Posted on March 27, 2015 by  
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Deerhollow GoatThe nonprofit Friends of Deer Hollow Farm has scheduled spring farm tours 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18 and May 9 at the farm, located in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.

“They have always been very popular and well attended by Los Altos and Los Altos Hills families,” said Friends spokeswoman Elizabeth Montgomery.

The tours offer an opportunity for participants, especially families with children, to visit the animals in their pens, stroll through the garden, catch the orchard in bloom and learn about homestead farming as it was practiced 150 years ago.

Guests will be able to visit Luna the cow, her offspring Roxie and new calf Zoe. They can also see new farm babies, including kids and lambs, pet the rabbits and chickens, and visit ducks in their new habitat.

“We’ll have some fun, interactive activities for the kids in our bountiful garden, too,” Montgomery said. Trained docents will be available to share information and answer questions.

The farm’s Nature Center, which features exhibits of the local flora, fauna and wildlife, will be open for hands-on learning.

The Friends’ merchandise booth will offer T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, photo cards, reusable farm-themed shopping bags and handcrafted items for sale on a cash or check basis.

Tours are $7, free for children 1 and under. Proceeds support the farm and its educational programs. For more information, visit deerhollowfarmfriends.org.


Mediation Program Changes Its Name

Posted on March 21, 2015 by  
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MediationThe Los Altos Mediation Program recently changed its name to Los Altos Dispute Resolution Services (LADRS).

LADRS offers free mediation services to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents and businesses. The program’s name change coincides with its 20th anniversary in March.

Since 1995, the program has provided clients with options of face-to-face meetings, telephone counseling or resource referrals aimed at resolving disputes in a nonadversarial, supportive atmosphere.

“Using the words ‘dispute resolution’ in our title will make it easier for those searching for help with a dispute, as it is more descriptive than the lesser-known word ‘mediation,’” said Annette Graff, LADRS advisory board chairwoman and volunteer mediator. “The new name increases the understanding of the services we offer.”

LADRS features a panel of trained volunteer mediators, all local residents. Referrals for dispute resolution services come from sources such as the Internet, the police or sheriff’s departments, word of mouth, local government and other nonprofit agencies.

LADRS has assisted clients in the following situations.

• A tenant and landlord resolved a conflict over the termination of a lease agreement in a private and confidential meeting facilitated by LADRS volunteer mediators.

• Two neighbors attended a mediation session to identify which new boundary replacement fence would be the best choice for both of their properties. After choosing, both neighbors left the meeting with a written detailed plan on the fence, including the type of wood, style of fence, shared cost and date of installation.

• A tenant renting a room in a landlord’s house disagreed with changing house policies. The landlord threatened to terminate the tenancy. With the help of a mediator, the parties – both seniors – were able to address underlying issues and establish a clear and precise house policy list. On follow-up, the parties were able to get along and provide each other much-needed assistance.

• Several neighbors attended a dispute-resolution meeting to voice their concerns about loud parties in the park across the street. LADRS facilitated the meeting to give voice to each resident’s concern, and guided the parties through a problem-solving plan that addressed each issue.

For more information, call 949-5267 or visit losaltosdisputes.org.


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