Light The Path

We will be showing our new Mentor Me recruitment video at the Light The Path Mentor Recruitment Event on Tuesday 12/5 at 5:30pm.

There will be lots of information, fun, and refreshments.

Please join us… and bring a  friend to help Light The Path to a Child’s Success!


Please come (and bring anyone you can think of) who might be interested in becoming a mentor, hearing about Mentor Me, seeing our beautiful Recreation and Mentoring Center in it’s natural and daily operating wonder… Deb

tour our facility • be inspired • enjoy light refreshments

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

5:30 – 7:00

Mentor Me Cavanagh Rec Center

426 8th Street in Petaluma

Please RSVP


In Training

At some point, maybe 10-12 days after The Red Cross made it to Petaluma and took over the evacuation shelters, I stopped running mine in my dreams.

The dreams were not particularly stressful; I was just doing the work I’d learned on the job how to do and did for 5 nights and 6 days; counting empty cots, counting occupied cots, confirming meals, medicines, security, supplies and volunteers. The 158 evacuees and the 100 volunteers became my family members.

The National Guardsmen and women who protected us around the clock were my heroes and companions in the earliest hours of the morning especially when I missed my children and worried about what would happen if the fire came up over Sonoma Mountain and the populated East Side shelters were evacuated to the West Side.

The fire never came to Petaluma, my children learned to make Top Ramen. So, I was lucky for so many reasons in this period of natural disaster but I was especially lucky to have a defined role; to have been called to duty.

I used to think I should exercise and eat right so that I could have the best chance at living a long and healthy life. I was also driven to lose weight and look the best I could for my age and stage in life. The truth is, I had fallen off the wagon with my exercise and nutrition plan, not motivated at all by internal or external reasons. But last Sunday I went for a run for the first time in 6 months.

After the fires, I realized that the REASON we must be our healthiest and fittest and best selves is because when we are called to duty, called upon to be more than we ever thought we could be, to do more than we ever thought we could do, we want to be able to say wholeheartedly YES to that call.

We don’t know, we can’t actually know when our defining moments will be or what will be asked of us but we can live each day in training for those moments. We can train to be strong; emotionally, mentally, and physically. I don’t think there is a soul around who would argue about that.

I said “yes” to running an evacuation shelter because it never occurred to me that I could say “no”.   I admit this because the most painful and important lesson from answering my call to service is really quite humbling.

At first, in the hours and days that I was back home, I thought, “Wow, I learned how strong I am, how much endurance I have, how quickly I am able to identify resources and rise to a challenge.”

But the truth is, I already knew that about myself. I am the adult child of an alcoholic, I am the child of a broken home, I am a first generation college student, and I am, I was, a distance runner. Plus, I’m a girl and a mom. So that’s bullshit. That is not what I learned about myself. I already knew all that.

As the days and weeks passed and people stopped telling their “fire” stories I started to worry about how poorly I was sleeping and how I’d never been a person to remember dreams but night after night I would wake up sitting upright in bed holding an imaginary clipboard, counting cots and briefing the next security shift.

I started eating A LOT.

I felt myself feeling jumpy and uneasy for no obvious reason.   I became unusually irritable and found myself unfairly barking at people around me.

I cried many times a day.

Well, I am a bit of crier normally, but what I mean is. I wept. I sobbed. In fact, as I write this almost exactly 4 weeks from the first day I opened Mentor Me as a shelter, tears are filling my eyes and carrying the trauma I experienced down my tired face and onto my soiled hoodie.

I have identified a blind spot.

I said “yes” because I didn’t know I was allowed to say “no”.   I found out Monday morning, in the first 12 hours of the fires that the Mentor Me Cavanagh Recreation Center was to be an evacuation shelter because it was listed on Nixle.

No one asked us, asked me, no one questioned it either. It just started happening and I, we, just started doing it, running it, learning it, managing it. I put myself, my staff, our organization, and the 158 evacuees that arrived on our doorstep at risk because I didn’t understand that sometimes strength and leadership means saying “HOLD UP. WE NEED TO DISCUSS TRAINING AND CAPACITY AND SAFETY AND SANITY before we open our doors to vulnerable people.”

I am so grateful to my staff, my team, the volunteers, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, The Petaluma Police Department, the restaurants and all the others who came forward to keep us safe so we could shelter these people through those very dark and smoky days. Because of this collective and collaborative effort, we were able to be a necessary and integral part of this disaster.

For me? I am being especially gentle with myself. I am allowing a space to say out loud how absolutely terrified and out of my depth I was. I am acknowledging that because I had to stuff those feelings down so deep and for such a prolonged period of time without much sleep in order to carry the amount of responsibility I assumed, that I am experiencing the effects of trauma.

Tonight I’m not going to run the shelter, I’m going to run a bath.

It is one thing to be a person in a leadership role, and it’s another thing entirely to be a leader. Every day I learn the difference.

I continue to be… in training.

Remember Clara

Our friend Clara died on October 19. She and her mentor helped create the Cavanagh Center Lending Library, which is now dedicated to her. Be kind. Be brave. Dream. And never forget Clara.