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Just about everywhere she looks throughout Humboldt County, Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel sees need. There’s a lack of well-paying jobs and rampant food insecurity. There’s a lack of skilled trades labor and affordable housing. And for the Wiyot people, who lived in approximately 20 village sites scattered around Humboldt Bay before first contact, Vassel sees a lack of autonomy over their ancestral territory.
But now, on the near horizon, Vassel also sees a solution to some of the region’s most entrenched problems: Dishgamu Humboldt. Named after the Wiyot word for love, Dishgamu Humboldt is a first-of-its kind community land trust, a partnership between the tribe and Cooperation Humboldt that those involved feel will have a transformational impact on the area.
“I think what excites me most is just working on the concept of place-based healing, and looking at building together as a community and coming together as a community and working on the long-term vision for the place that we all live,” Vassel said, stressing that the project is truly about taking immediate action toward a long-term vision. “We’re looking at multi-generational. We’re looking past 10, 20, 30 years. We’re looking at 100 years, 200 years, 250 years.”
Read the Full Article at the Community Voices Coalition webpage »
The program supports a broad spectrum of wellness efforts, from culture and family support to food and housing security, mental health, and more.
“These grants are especially meaningful during a pandemic, where community members more vividly experience challenges and barriers to health,” says Amy Jester, Program Director for Health & Nonprofit Resources for the Humboldt Area Foundation, which oversees the operations of the Humboldt Health Foundation.
The Humboldt Health Foundation seeks to fund projects that help reduce or eliminate structural barriers to wellness. This year, the majority of funding will be designated to programs that support the health and wellbeing of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other People of Color. “We recognize that BIPOC individuals are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and that racism is a critical public health issue impacting our region,” says Jester.
"The grant program is there to support organizations and groups that are creating opportunities for people to live healthier lives. There are so many awesome ways communities are supporting wellbeing. We're interested in partnering with organizations to make that happen" says Amy Jester, Program Director of the Humboldt Health Foundation.
In March, the Humboldt Area Foundation announced its new 10-year strategic vision, which explores how a community foundation can help grow a thriving, just, healthy, and equitable region. The Foundation has also laid out four goals to support that vision, with resources and programs being developed to address these areas over a 10-year period. The goals are racial equity; healthy ecosystems; thriving youth and families; and a just economy and economic development.
Community health grants from the Humboldt Health Foundation represent a 24-year legacy of supporting our community through investment and grantmaking and underscore the Foundation’s commitment to our region’s health and wellbeing.
To learn more about the criteria and download an application, please visit the HHF website at humhealth.org.
Humboldt Health Foundation was founded in 1997 and is an affiliate of the Humboldt Area Foundation. Since its founding, Humboldt Health Foundation has distributed nearly $4.7 million in grants. Over the past year, the Foundation has given grants for program and general operating support for organizations like HC Black Music and Arts Association, English Express, COVID-19 direct relief for Spanish-speaking and undocumented individuals from the McKinleyville Family Resource Center, as well as the Native Women’s Collective.
As the line for vaccine doses shrank, a group of participants started doing Zumba. The fair provided several activities, like dancing and face painting, to bring as many families as possible in to get vaccinated. Photo By Kris Nagel
More than most, Loleta resident Yohana Castillo, 36, has experienced unexpected and tremendous loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past eight months, she has lost four people. First her cousin, Esteban Gonzalez, of Esteban’s Mexican restaurant in Arcata, died of complications from the disease. Then another cousin, followed by a distant family member in Mexico City and, finally, her neighbor.
Seeing the effects the virus had on her family and wanting to protect their 4-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, Castillo and her husband decided to get vaccinated.
“Now that I’m vaccinated, I feel safer going out, seeing my family,” she told the Journal in Spanish.
Since receiving her vaccination, Castillo has been on a quest to help as many people in her community get vaccinated by making sure they understand what the protection can do. She was able to help the rest of her family get their vaccines.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to feel safe the way I feel safe.”
Castillo likes to be involved in her daughter’s school activities and met True North Organizing Network organizing director Julia Lerma through a virtual event. They began talking about their lives and Castillo’s recent losses when Lerma told her about True North’s planned efforts to help the county’s Latinx population get vaccinated. Castillo jumped on board and quickly became a volunteer organizer for the Eureka-based nonprofit.
Humboldt’s Latinx population is still lagging behind in vaccination rates despite seeing disproportionate rates of infection. As of July 15, about 45 percent of Humboldt County’s Latinx population had received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to about 50 percent of the county’s non-Hispanic/Latinx population. Meanwhile, residents identifying as Hispanic and Latinx continue to make up 23 percent of the county’s positive COVID cases despite making up only 12 percent of the county’s population. Statewide, roughly 43 percent of the Latinx population has received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to 53 percent of the population overall, while Latinx residents account for 56 percent of COVID-19 cases despite making up 39 percent of the population, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Local efforts to reach the Latinx community with COVID-19 safety and vaccination information have been challenging, as has been the case statewide and nationally. Many Hispanic and Latinx Humboldt County residents have reported finding it challenging to find accurate information in Spanish, though public health has staffed its COVID-19 information line with Spanish speakers and has translated COVID information and social media posts hoping to reach non-English speakers.
There are a variety of reasons vaccine hesitancy may be more pervasive in the Hispanic and Latinx population than other demographics.
“Compared to white adults, larger shares of unvaccinated Hispanic adults say they are concerned about missing work due to vaccine side effects, that they might have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine (despite it being free), not being able to get the vaccine from a trusted place, or having difficulty traveling to a vaccination site,” states a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Among Hispanic adults, the shares expressing many of these concerns are even greater among those with lower incomes, the uninsured, and those who are potentially undocumented.”
Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman has repeatedly said offering local employees time off to get vaccinated and even sick leave if they experience side effects would reduce barriers locally, though it’s unclear how many businesses are doing it.
True North, meanwhile, has worked to get translated health and safety information to Humboldt’s Latinx community, while also working with the vaccine hesitant and creating more comfortable environments for Latinx community members to get vaccinated in. And so the idea of the family friendly vaccine fair was born and the nonprofit started planning a festive event that would feel distinctly different than the mass vaccination clinics being organized by public health.
Before the fair, Castillo and True North spent time canvassing in Latinx communities at churches, mercados and neighborhoods, posting Spanish-language flyers about the vaccine fair with phone numbers — including her own — for those hesitant about the COVID vaccine to call for more information. Castillo told those who called about her story why she decided to get the vaccine and her experience getting her shot.
“They’re afraid of getting a reaction,” Castillo said. “We have a group of three people working to talk to people and I haven’t heard a different concern but that they’re all afraid to get a bad reaction to the vaccine. So, we always tell them to talk to their doctor — sometimes they begin to tell me what (medical conditions) they have, and I can’t answer that, but we give them the information we can.”
The day of the vaccine clinic last month was unusually warm and drizzly. In front of the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at College of the Redwoods gymnasium, Castillo and True North’s team of volunteer organizers set up a sound system for music and tables, one for snacks filled with pan dulce, water and juice, another with kids’ activities, like coloring books and markers, and a third for people to get raffle tickets and free tacos.
The rain didn’t dampen Castillo’s helpful demeanor. She was wearing a mask but smiled with her eyes as she greeted those walking up to the gym, asking them first in Spanish if they were there for their vaccination, then directing them to where they needed to go. If they didn’t speak Spanish, she used the bit of English she knows to direct them. But she was there primarily as a first point of contact for those who only speak Spanish, letting them know there were people there to speak to them in their language. At one point, she held a bundle of balloons that she passed out to kids.
She said she felt happy and emotional at the fair, pointing out that while the fair drew in some folks to get vaccinated, others showed up to get their shots totally unaware of the accompanying activities and free tacos.
Adding to the festive, inviting atmosphere was Jorge Matias, who works for St. Joseph Health and whom True North invited to put on a Zumba lesson. With an energetic charm, Matias got people dancing.
According to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, a total of 109 people were vaccinated during the June 13 fair, 27 of them walk-ins. In comparison, the week of July 12 saw Public Health’s mobile team vaccinate a total of 97 people at the Humboldt Crabs game and clinics in Rio Dell, Fortuna and Samoa, according to a July 13 COVID update to the board of supervisors.
Public health officials have also said that even registering for a vaccine appointment can pose another barrier for those wanting to get their vaccinations.
During an April meeting with LatinoNet, Hoffman said Public Health’s goal is to ensure vaccine equity for the Latinx community and to guarantee that any Latinx resident seeking a COVID-19 vaccine feels comfortable and confident before, during and after their appointment, which is what True North was able to accomplish with its vaccine fair.
“People really enjoyed the event,” Castillo said. “They felt comfortable and like they were with family, and at ease because there were people there who spoke Spanish.”
True North held another vaccine clinic in Arcata similar to the one at the College of the Redwoods, with raffles, free food and Zumba, but won’t stop there. True North will hold more vaccine fairs in Fortuna and Eureka, continuing with the nonprofit’s mission of making sure everyone has an opportunity to get vaccinated in a setting that makes them comfortable, no matter the distance. Castillo, for one, is excited.
“I think [the future vaccine fairs] will go very well and we’ll be successful because we really want all people to get vaccinated and feel safer at work and at school, with their family and the simple fact of going outside,” Castillo said.
Iridian Casarez (she/her) is a staff writer at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 317, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @IridianCasarez.
The Community Voices Coalition is a project funded by Humboldt Area Foundation and Wild Rivers Community Foundation to support local journalism. This story was produced by the North Coast Journal newsroom with full editorial independence and control.
Broadband internet access remains out of reach for many. But during the last 16 months, the Humboldt Area Foundation and the Wild Rivers Community Foundation, have been supporting tech access throughout the region with more than $623,000 in technology grants from the foundations’ COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.
Getting more folks connected to the internet is critical. Why? Access to the internet means access to work, access to school, health resources, and so many other things. It’s so deeply integrated into our society that those without access are at an immediate sociological disadvantage. In fact, in 2016, the United Nations added the freedom to express oneself on the internet to its Universal Declaration of Human Rights to include human right,
Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center shared its findings from the 2021 Mobile Technology and Home Broadband report. While the report finds that the majority of Americans are connected to high-speed internet, still 38 percent of rural households remain without reliable broadband internet. Thousands of those folks are living in Curry, Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity counties without advanced internet connections as the on-going COVID-19 pandemic transforms school and work life for many. HAF and WRCF are committed to closing the technology gap among families in need of tech access.
Within a week of California and Oregon’s 2020 statewide shelter-in-place orders, HAF and WRCF created the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, which grew to $3,397,339 thanks to generous contributions from our donors and funders.
The response money also included a special COVID technology fund, designed to support the community as work and school shifted online. Since its inception, HAF and WRCF have partnered with local school districts, Tribal governments, nonprofits, and individuals, with more than 63 technology grants distributed as of this writing.
Two things became clear as the foundations distributed the funds. First, in rural areas, people can be hard to connect to for many reasons, whether that’s due to technology access, remoteness, or personal choice. Second, communities of color suffer the most and local health officials have collected ample evidence that Native American and Latinx communities were particularly hard hit with a disproportionate number of positive COVID-19 cases. It seems communities most impacted by COVID-19 are often the same people who lack access to suitable internet technology.
Here are some recent highlight grants that HAF and WRCF have made to boost tech access and ensure our community members could make the transition to online working and learning:
● A recent $12,500 grant to the Wiyot Tribe will help residents connect to SpaceX’s satellite-based Starlink internet service. This satellite-based internet service will connect Wiyot community members who are otherwise unreachable by other Internet providers.
● The foundation supported the Hoopa Valley’s Tribal TANF with $5,000 for iPads and internet connectivity so expectant parents could continue to take Motherhood is Sacred/Fatherhood is Sacred parenting classes when quarantine restrictions meant meeting in person wasn’t an option.
● Over the last 15 months, more than 250 Chromebooks, iPads and other computers have been given to individuals and nonprofits.
As part of the foundation's 10 year strategic vision, HAF and WRCF are committed to addressing the issues around broadband internet access, and technology grants are just one way to achieve that goal. The Foundations’ strategic plan envisions “a thriving, just, healthy and equitable region,” which is supported by four goal areas:
● Racial Equity
● Healthy Ecosystems
● Thriving Youth and Families
● A Just Economy and Economic Development
When youth and families thrive, we all thrive. That’s why supporting ‘thriving youth and families’ is one of HAF+WRCF’s goal areas. In the early days of the pandemic, HAF and WRCF granted more than $23,000 to the Humboldt County Office of Education, the Trinity Alps Unified School District, and the Fortuna Union School District to provide dozens of hotspots and tech supplies to families throughout the foundation’s service region.
For too long, our neighbors in the underserved remote communities in Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt, and Curry counties have been excluded from the current technology revolution because they can’t rely on a cellular phone, let alone a broadband internet connection. These disparities are even more drastic when it comes to access for Native communities. HAF and WRCF also consider addressing issues around racial equity as a top goal, and recent grants are ensuring underserved communities can close technology gaps.
Organizations like Central De Pueblo and the Seventh Generation Fund work closely with our BIPOC community members, but like many nonprofits, these groups saw many challenges as they grappled with COVID. HAF and WRCF helped these groups meet basic technology needs with a $9,000 grant for tech and office supplies to support this online transition. Other groups that serve historically marginalized populations have received funding for telehealth technology, remote work stations, and much more (Read more about the transitions and challenges these nonprofits faced during the pandemic in our State of the Sector Report).
Of course, the technology gap won’t close with the end of the pandemic. HAF and WRCF remain committed to addressing these technology and connectivity needs through innovative partnerships with our local community members, especially when closing the technology gap can help create “a thriving, just, healthy and equitable region.”
BAYSIDE, CA —Chief Judge Abby Abinanti of the Yurok Tribe, a longtime advocate for the creation of tribal value-based tribal justice systems, is the newest board member for Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF).
"We are beyond thrilled to have Judge Abby join the Humboldt Area Foundation's board," says Mary Keehn, chairperson of the HAF board. "Her experience with state and tribal justice systems and her unique approach to community building are going to be tremendous assets as we move forward with the board's strategic vision. This will be a great benefit for our communities and a big step toward uniting the broad region Humboldt Area Foundation serves."
Abby Abinanti, Chief Justice of the Yurok Tribal Court and a Judge for Joint Family Wellness Courts, is the newest member of the Humboldt Area Foundation. Photo Courtesy Matt Mais / Yurok Tribe.
Abinanti built the Yurok Tribal Court and its many programs from the ground up. Rooted in traditional cultural values, the cutting-edge court seeks to provide justice and life-changing services to people often failed by the conventional criminal justice system. A retired San Francisco Superior Court Commissioner and lifelong supporter of Native American rights, Abinanti is currently the Chief Justice of the Yurok Tribal Court and a Judge for Joint Family Wellness Courts in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. In these roles, she has positively influenced the lives of many local community members.
“First, I want to thank everyone on the Humboldt Area Foundation’s board for their kind welcome. I am looking forward to working with the board to imagine new ways to support all members of our community. I am excited to begin taking actions that benefit our shared communities for the long term,” says Abinanti.
Del Norte County resident and HAF board member David Finigan said Abinanti’s background is ideal for the board’s strategic objectives.
"Her experience in the Del Norte County region and Tribal Lands are sure to bolster the Foundation's mission of leadership and inclusion,” said Finigan, who is also a board member for Wild Rivers Community Foundation, an affiliate of HAF. “I look forward to working with her to address vital community issues."
Abby Abinanti, Yurok Chief Judge, is an enrolled Yurok Tribal member. She holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of New Mexico School of Law and was the first California tribal woman to be admitted to the State Bar of California. She was a State Judicial Officer (Commissioner) for the San Francisco Superior Court for over 17 years, assigned to the Unified Family Court (Family/Dependency/Delinquency).
Abinanti retired from the Superior Court in September 2011 and, on July 31, 2014, was reappointed as a part-time Commissioner for San Francisco assigned to Dependency, and Duty Judge for that Court, where she served until 2015. She has been a Yurok Tribal Court Judge since 1997 and was appointed Chief Tribal Court Judge in 2007, a position she held in conjunction with her Superior Court assignment until 2015.
Vera Vietor established the Humboldt Area Foundation in 1972. Since then, more than $80 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded in Humboldt, Del Norte, Curry, and Trinity Counties. Humboldt Area Foundation promotes and encourages generosity, leadership, and inclusion to strengthen our communities.
For more information on services provided by the Foundation, please visit the Humboldt Area Foundation website at hafoundation.org or call (707) 442-2993.
The Humboldt Area Foundation and the Wild Rivers Community Foundation have announced new meeting protocols that will ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and board members while enabling the Foundation to continue serving the public.
At this time, the Foundation continues to require visitors to make an appointment and discourages drop-in visits. You can reach the Bayside office by dialing 707-442-2993 and the Crescent City office at (707) 465-1238.
“We’re concerned for the health and safety of our communities, and we have many young children in our organization who can’t be vaccinated. Thus we’re still taking a high level of precaution,” says Bryna Lipper, CEO of HAF+WRCF.
In accordance with Humboldt Area Foundation and Wild River’s Community Foundation’s duty to provide and maintain a workplace that is free of known hazards, the Foundation is adopting new protocols to safeguard the health of employees and their families; Board members, customers, and visitors; and the community at large. These protocols are the first step in a multistep process as the Foundation plans what a “new normal” will look like in a hybrid work environment.
Notable changes to the Foundation’s policies include requiring all guests and visitors to be fully vaccinated before coming to the HAF campus or entering the WRCF building. In addition, outdoor meeting spaces will be made available at both locations, with a maximum meeting occupancy of 20. In most cases, however, meetings will continue to occur remotely unless circumstances require an in-person meeting.
Only fully vaccinated personnel may come into HAF+WRCF premises. In addition, only fully vaccinated personnel may meet in person with other fully vaccinated parties.
HAF+WRCF Staff and Board members will not meet in person, in any manner, to conduct business on behalf of HAF+WRCF with non-vaccinated parties due to public health concerns.
As per HAF+WRCF’s current vaccination policy, all employees/board must be vaccinated unless a reasonable accommodation has been requested and approved. A reasonable accommodation does not exempt a party from these protocols.
Staff/Board is welcome to continue wearing a face covering as desired, but it is not required. Any individual may request masking during meetings and in a shared space. No reason is needed for the request. All other staff and board are to comply with a request to mask.
Still No Public Meetings and Meeting Spaces at this Time
Out of concern for public safety, HAF+WRCF continues to restrict the use of its meeting facilities. Updates will be made on this news blog and elsewhere when the Foundation resumes scheduling public meetings. We thank you for your patience and understanding.
BAYSIDE, CA (July 9, 2020) – Humboldt Area Foundation and its affiliate, the Wild Rivers Community Foundation, have invested $35,000 for a pilot project to support local journalism in generating truthful, courageous and equitable stories covering vulnerable and traditionally under-represented communities affected by the coronavirus in Humboldt, Trinity, Del Norte and Curry counties. The project will also work to lift community voices and increase access to relevant and useful information people can use. The project involves both nonprofit and for-profit media partners, with the North Coast Journal and Access Humboldt as the initiating lead partners.
CEO Bryna Lipper said: “We at the Humboldt Area and Wild Rivers Community Foundation recognize the vital role of our local media and independent journalism. They are uniquely positioned to understand our region, and its context, history and people. We are proud to support the North Coast Journal and Access Humboldt, and honor their shared commitment to lifting up voices that may not otherwise be heard.
Under the Community Voices Coalition banner, the North Coast Journal will soon publish its first weekly story. The Journal will harness the talent of existing staff and their network of journalists in developing and creating pieces for print. Their investigations, publications, and social media will be conducted with full editorial independence and under their rigorous editorial control.
The Journal will also create an open-source social media channel, where stories can be picked up for distribution, and repurposed by other regional or national media outlets, a successful model similar to CalMatters to provide high-quality non-partisan stories explaining the work of California government.
This pilot project also includes an ambitious collaboration with Access Humboldt. Working with Internews and other regional partners, Access Humboldt will promote community voices to strengthen local media reporting and citizen journalism. Continuing to build on its history of amplifying local perspectives and talent, Access Humboldt will provide media training and manage local cable television and radio channels as a part of the project.
Access Humboldt Executive Director Sean Taketa McLaughlin said: "This pilot project is a both a timely pandemic response and a natural extension of our ongoing efforts to build a sustainable information ecosystem in our region. When local media empower residents to effectively participate in civic life directly addressing local needs and interests, diverse voices tell important stories, information is equally accessible, and the quality of life in our communities improves."
Through Access Humboldt, the Community Voices Coalition will leverage the expertise of Internews, an international nonprofit organization that promotes citizen journalism locally and around the world. With roots in the region, Internews was eager to reinvest in the community and bring its global expertise back to the place where it first empowered local voices.
Access Humboldt and Internews will begin by creating a local advisory/editorial group to guide its project work and facilitate community listening and storytelling. Other communications and media partners, as well as citizen journalists, will be invited to participate. The project budget includes a fund to recruit and compensate story writers recruited for the project, as well as story translation services to better reach non-English speaking groups.
Luis Chabolla, Interim Director of Communications at the Foundation said: “We’re starting by building on the strengths of our partners and working together to stretch the reach and depth of the project. While launched as a three-month pilot, we hope the results will commit us and others to keep the project going.”
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