Vibrant poinsettias, festive wreaths, imaginative gifts, steaming tea with cookies, a charming old residence dressed in Victorian finery, historically splendid gardens, hostesses in turn-of-the-century garb — Luther Burbank’s Home & Gardens just may be the chosen place of all this earth, as far as a holiday open house is concerned.
For six hours Saturday, guests dressed for the December chill streamed in for the 34th annual holiday reception by the high-spirited volunteers who sustain the landmark at the corner of Santa Rosa’s Sonoma and Santa Rosa avenues.
The open house continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
Proceeds of sales in the Carriage House Museum & Gift Shop and of the gate admission — $2 for guests 12 and older — will contribute to the upkeep of the historical treasure, home to the globally renowned horticulturist from 1884 to 1906.
Volunteers noted Saturday that they and the city, which owns the property, are getting closer to being able to have the Home & Gardens’ handsome but dilapidated white picket fence replaced.
Again today, guests who treat themselves to this Santa Rosa holiday tradition will find free parking nearby at First and D streets, and Rosie the Trolley will offer complimentary rides to and from the Dickens Holiday Craft Fair at Finley Community Center on West College Avenue.
By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
There was no room at the inn this year for Petaluma’s Christmas Cheer.
But after knocking on a few doors, the six-decades-old charity found a home for its all-volunteer food and toy giveaway at Petaluma’s First Presbyterian Church.
The organization now is accepting monetary donations and new toys for kids through age 12 in an effort to serve 60 shut-in senior citizens and 500 families and 1,800 children in need this Christmas.
While the site this year — a double-wide trailer behind the B Street church — is a bit of a squeeze, volunteer Jim Fitzgerald said group participants are grateful they still can fulfill their annual mission.
“We’re rolling along,” he said. “We’ll be rockin’ and rollin’ soon.”
Christmas Cheer began in the 1950s as a project of the Petaluma Coordinating Council, which wanted to avoid duplicating holiday charity drives, said Deborah May-Buffum, who has volunteered with the group for more than 15 years.
For the past two decades, Christmas Cheer has focused on providing a food basket and toys for each child in the house for low-income residents of Petaluma and Penngrove.
For the past several years, the group worked out of warehouse space at several locations donated by Cornerstone Properties. But the company didn’t have space available this year, Fitzgerald said.
The tight quarters in the church trailer means there isn’t much room for food storage this year, so instead of large baskets of fresh food, families will be given limited fresh vegetables and frozen chickens and gift cards to purchase fresh food at the Grocery Outlet store in Petaluma.
Grocery Outlet owner-operator Michael Billeci said Christmas Cheer is one of his favorite local charities to be involved with.
“It’s really something special,” he said. “These people work so hard getting things ready for people.”
He negotiates a discounted bulk price for the fresh produce and other pantry staples Christmas Cheer helps provide.
“Most of the people I see getting the baskets typically shop in our store,” he said.
Volunteers spent several days recently preparing the trailer for their collection, donation and storage needs.
Toy and monetary donations now are being accepted at the site. The trailer, at 939 B St., will be staffed 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Sundays.
Financial donations will be accepted at the site or can be mailed to the Petaluma Coordinating Council, P.O. Box 4741, Petaluma 94955.
Applications for food and toys will be accepted beginning Monday. Because of space constraints, only the first 500 applicants will be accepted.
Adult applicants must bring a photo identification as well as proof of Petaluma or Penngrove residence, such as a water bill or rental receipt. Also, proof is required of children’s ages and names. Age-appropriate toys will be selected for each family.
Distribution of the baskets will occur in mid-December.
(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For Vicki Sims Whitney, every horse’s life is valuable, even the most neglected mare.
Sadie, one of the first horses that Sims Whitney rescued, was a brood mare, or as she says, a “breeding factory,” with a bad knee. Sadie’s owner abused her and the horse was going to be put to sleep until Sims Whitney stepped in.
“I thought, ‘Who does this to a horse?’ ” she said.
Sims Whitney bought Sadie and rehabilitated her on a ranch west of Santa Rosa. And so Sadie’s Haven Horse Rescue and Sanctuary was born.
“I’m not going to let the horses down,” Sims Whitney said. “This is a very healing environment. For these horses, this is going to be their lifetime home.”
Sadie’s Haven relies solely on volunteers to care for the 25 horses that have been saved from slaughterhouses, neglectful owners or abandonment. The organization also is considering taking in up to 10 wild horses.
Volunteers clean and fill water troughs, feed and brush the horses, fix fences and dig ditches. Administrative volunteers help out with marketing and fundraising efforts, Sims Whitney said.
“I never turn away volunteers,” she said. “My volunteers are gold. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Since founding the nonprofit in 2009, Sims Whitney has saved more than 40 horses, she said. She has spent a career working with horses, starting out as a trail guide in west Sonoma County.
Though Sadie was her most memorable rescue, the first horse Sims Whitney saved was Gyson, an Arabian. Gyson’s owner had neglected and abandoned him at a Bodega Bay stable.
“I said ‘This is not okay. I’m taking care of him.’ “
Sadie’s Haven survives on donations. For a small contribution, horse lovers can sponsor a horse and drop by to check up on the animal. Some horses are available for adoption.
Sims Whitney has also started a program called Recycle to the Rescue, in which her organization will provide businesses with recycling bins and empty them weekly. The proceeds from the recyclables go toward Sadie’s Haven.
Volunteering at Sadie’s Haven is a wonderful experience, she said. Students looking to complete service projects frequently volunteer alongside other animal lovers.
“Once a volunteer is here for 15 minutes, they are a completely different person,” she said. “You get to be outside in a beautiful environment.”
To learn more about volunteering at Sadie’s Haven, visit www.sadieshaven.org or call 206-1892.
(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or email@example.com.)