Fall Newsletter 2016

A Note from Kory

The fall rains have arrived (thankfully), but here on Sweetwater Spectrum's campus the level of activity remains hot!  Our Life With Purpose Celebration in early October took a strong combined effort, but the rewards were worth it – read on for more details.

Meanwhile, the entire Sweetwater Spectrum staff and board, our residents and our partner direct care team from Lifehouse are all busy with new projects, finding ways to enhance our day-to-day operations and to further the Sweetwater mission.

Looking to the months ahead, finding more opportunities for volunteerism and paid employment for our residents is an area of focus.  In one example, Sweetwater Spectrum has recently partnered with FISH (Friends In Sonoma Helping), where our residents volunteer to help provide free food to families in need.  If you have a potential volunteer or employment need in mind, we want to hear about it and work with you to create a successful match for our residents.

Kory Stradinger
Executive Director

2016 Life with Purpose Celebration

A Night to Remember 

On October 1st, Sweetwater Spectrum held its inaugural Life With Purpose Celebration, which was a big success on all fronts.   As part of the evening Sonoma local community member Whitney Evans was honored for his many years of service to area non-profits.  He personifies Sweetwater’s tag line, Life With Purpose, as he has helped many achieve that goal and has lived that life himself.  Also receiving an award was Dr. Carolyn Klebanoff, who was presented with the Sweetwater Spectrum Excellence in Leadership Award, for her many contributions envisioning, building and stewarding the organization.

Over 150 friends, family, residents and other community supporters attended the main evening event, around the corner from Sweetwater at Ramekins, with over 50 of this group stopping by earlier in the afternoon to tour our campus.   Many of those attending were new to Sweetwater and reside in the Sonoma Valley.

Sweetwater’s exposure to the local community also benefitted from an article in the local Sonoma paper about the Gala and our efforts to replicate the Sweetwater model nationwide.   Follow this link to read the article

Sweetwater thanks the many individuals and organizations that contributed to the success of this event!

Tamsin Goes to DC!

Tamsin Kearns represented Sweetwater Spectrum at the national HCBS Conference 29 August -1 September in Washington D.C.  Approximately 1,300 persons from around the country attended.  The conference is an important annual forum for federal and state agencies and companies involved in providing housing and community based services for the elderly and persons with developmental disabilities. 

Over 130 workshops were conducted.  Tamsin spoke on a panel titled "Supporting Housing Options: Isolating or Innovative?  Self-advocates Discuss Life in Intentional Communities." Presenting with her were representatives from Texas, North Carolina and Florida, each representing different community models.  The well-attended session was the only one where self-advocates were given a forum to express their views.  Tamsin spoke about her life at Sweetwater compared to the more confining shared housing arrangement where she lived previously.   

While in D.C., Tamsin, her parents Bo and Patric, and Mark Jackson, Sweetwater founder, met with Crystal Martinez, Legislative Aide to Senator Diane Feinstein to discuss proposed changes to federal guidelines for state recipients of Medicaid home and community based funding.  

Tamsin has become an advocate for autism awareness. She has previously spoken on the radio, and on panels at Dominican College in Marin and the Wings School in Redwood City.  She also spoke at the Sweetwater Gala event in October. 

For the past few years Tamsin has volunteered as a teacher's assistant in the K-1 classes at Sassarini Elementary.  Currently she is enrolled at Santa Rosa J.C. in their College to Career Program.  On completion she hopes to work in a classroom helping special needs kids. 


Sonoma Farm Gears Up With Cool Season Crops

While the season of bountiful tomatoes, peppers, basil and other vegetables is winding down, on the farm we are already gearing up with cool season crops.  Recently planted rows of kale, turnips, arugula and even some strawberries have already sprouted and are reaching skyward, ready for harvest in November.  So fall and winter does not mean a slowdown of produce and micro greens for customers of our CSA boxes, at our Friday farm stand or our many local restaurant chefs.

Using organic methods for pest control and replenishing the soil is part of our farms’ operating principles.  Residents recently helped “release” thousands of helpful ladybugs into the crop rows to control harmful pests and for the first time we are creating our own compost, utilizing “green” and “brown” leftover plant materials from the farm to produce nutrient rich, organic compost that is returned to our fields.

Enriching Our Residents 

Enrichment activities at Sweetwater continue to evolve and grow, with several new activities launched for both residents and the community.  Late summer’s hotter weather prompted “Splashtime”, a weekly session in our pool emphasizing aerobic movement.  Resident golfers enjoyed sessions on the links to perfect their swings, tutored by Whitney Evans. 

To bring the local community on campus, we’ve begun a free weekly Qigong class on campus every Friday morning at 9:15 am.  And we’ve even experimented with having a drumming circle, which enables our interested residents and community members to make music together.  The next drumming circle will be held on Monday Oct 31st, starting at 4:30 followed by a Halloween themed potluck dinner.

Summer farm enrichment continued to include resident operation of our Saturday morning farm stand outside the Spain St. gate, assisting with crop harvests and Wednesday evening “farm nights”, typically combining a bit of fieldwork or a creative use of our crops with a fresh, healthy farm to table meal.  On October 19th Sweetwater partnered with Sonoma Ecology Center’s “EnviroLeaders” program – 8 local high school students joined our residents on the farm for a session of planting winter crops, mulching and preparing a vegetable soup dinner they enjoyed together.

Partner Highlight: Lifehouse

Since 1954, Lifehouse has been striving to develop high quality programs to meet the changing needs of our community.  They offer a comprehensive skills training model and work closely with each individual to develop a custom plan focused on their goals and interests.

Lifehouse programs include Specialized Autism Services, dedicated to meeting the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.  This is a culmination of the vision and objective expressed within the Lifehouse Strategic Plan over the past 10 years to prepare to meet this growing need.  Specialized Autism Services provides supported living services to individuals with autism living in their own homes. 

As part of meeting this objective, Lifehouse partnered with autism specialist Jeanne Crawford, a former educator trained in the TEACCH method.  Over the following years she began sharing her knowledge through trainings to management and staff on commonalities in learning style of individuals with autism.  The agency gained skills in the use of visual systems to create schedules and work systems that are of benefit to individuals with autism, who tend to be visual learners.

In the summer of 2013, Lifehouse had the chance to further hone these skills by providing services to some individuals residing at Sweetwater Spectrum.  With Sweetwater’s beautiful property, strong enrichment program and sense of community the opportunity to partner was very enticing as a way to continue to provide innovative supported living services.

The agency has since invested in continuing TEACCH as a foundation in its services.  Two Lifehouse staff members, Director of Autism Services Michelle Condit and House Lead Howard Powell, recently attended training in North Carolina to experience first-hand what Jeanne delivered to Lifehouse several years prior.

Sweetwater has also provided staff educational incentives to allow continued exposure to TEACCH, as well as to other approaches.  Sweetwater Spectrum looks forward to a continued partnership with Lifehouse in providing the individuals who reside here the opportunity to create for themselves lives full of meaning that honors each of their hopes and dreams.

Our mailing address is:
369 Fifth St. West
Sonoma, CA 95476

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Sweetwater Spectrum · 369 Fifth Street West · Sonoma, CA 95476 · USA

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