Starting as an infant in a playpen, I was introduced to our Valley though my San Francisco family’s all day picnics at Camp Taylor. For many years, the long drive (or so it seemed) was forgotten when we got into the wide open spaces of the Valley and the tall redwoods of the park. Years later, I was teaching in Marin and occasionally housesitting for a colleague in Forest Knolls. That sealed the deal to moving here, which I did in 1988.
A few years pass and I am married to Steve and we had our first child. Being a stay at home mom, I sought out new activities and through an article (probably in Stone Soup) I read that help was needed in the food bank. Thus, I discovered the San Geronimo Valley Community Center! With baby on my back, I helped to unpack food bank boxes and shelve them appropriately. There I met Dave Cort and I immediately loved the community mindedness the SGVCC embodied. This also started my first role as a community volunteer, not something I had experienced during my years living in San Francisco. From being an active parent volunteer for the school district, to helping get the playground built in Woodacre, I have learned what a treat and honor it is to be involved.
My most recent volunteer focus has been at the SGVCC’s senior lunch each Thursday for the past six years. The lunch, food bank and congregate meal that occurs every week epitomizes the depth of what our Community Center stands for: service, kindness, caring, and reaching out. I personally see the connections made and the help people get there. As we say, the Community Center is the “Heart of the Valley” and I see it beating every Thursday.
I was happy to join the Community Center’s board in 2013 and begin to help the Center in new ways. I’m currently Vice President of the Board and I see, in many examples, the impact the Center has on so many lives. The SGVCC is a life saver, a vibrant art center, a gathering place, a food source, a path for help, a child care center, a place for health and recreation and so much more. It is said that the center is not a choice for our Valley, but a necessity. I don’t think that all Valley residents really know this. It is my hope that many will, perhaps by reading this, get involved in the Center; come volunteer, view the monthly art shows, attend an event or give a donation to help keep our gem of a Center alive and well.
I move to the San Geronimo Valley in 1976. My wife and I raised three sons here. Each attending and graduating from our truly spectacular School District. I have been involved throughout the years in soccer, little league and have run the CYO program for 35 years. I retired from the San Francisco Fire Department after 30 years of service.
I can’t express how much the Valley and its community means to me and my family. It is a truly wonderful place to live and raise children. The thing that makes the Valley so special is the wonderful, caring and loving adults and children that live here. I am watching a third generation of children grow and mature to the adults we all hope our children will be. The thing that has always impressed me the most is nurtured by our caring and loving school staff, Zoila and the truly great staff at the Community Center.
Having expressed my feelings, I have been on the Board of the Community Center for the past 5 years. I say to myself and all of you, “Who does more for the community than the Community Center?”
The Center is there for everyone no matter who. There are so many programs the Center supports and offers is something to be emulated by all community centers. I can site the various programs but hopefully most people know them and appreciate what is being done on a day-to-day basis by the volunteers and staff of the Center. I would simply ask the members of the community to support and do whatever the can to be part of our wonderful community.
My journey to joining the Board of Directors of the Community Center was shaped by my upbringing. It started with my folks, who both came from a small part of Pittsburgh, PA. Both of my grandfathers served in the military during World War II and then worked hard (one in a barber shop, one in a steel mill) to raise their families. My Dad joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from high school. A knee injury before deployment to Vietnam led to an honorable discharge. When my mother finished high school a year later, they eloped and moved to Boston where I was born. My brother arrived three years later and my parents divorced shortly thereafter.
What my Mom took on for the next many years is what shaped me as a person. She went back to school—first for an undergraduate degree and then on to law school—while raising us along the way. She sure worked a lot and slept little.
But, she didn’t do it alone. A supporting cast of relatives, friends, teachers, and coaches—all of whom were pursuing their own goals—helped us along the way. Mom has always encouraged us to pass it along and help others because we all need it sometimes.
This is what makes the world go ‘round: Individual striving while sharing a common bond with others. This is what elevates us all.
Fast forward (many) years and I’ve been lucky to follow those lessons and make a wonderful life with my wife and two children. We moved to West Marin in 2009 and feel blessed by the friendships we’ve made in the valleys of San Geronimo and Nicasio.
The Community Center serves these two areas to help people in many ways. The breadth of programs for people of all ages and backgrounds is quite impressive for such a modestly funded organization. Each day, the staff and volunteers at the Center do amazing things to help elevate the entire community.
I joined the Board in 2013 and was named Treasurer last year. I’m proud to contribute to the greater good through my own role at the Community Center.
David Bernard grew up in Lafayette CA and lived in Mill Valley and San Francisco before moving to San Geronimo in 2008. David has a BS in Information Systems from Golden Gate University. More recently he earned a Certificate in Sustainability from Dominican College and is a graduate of the Marin Environmental Forum.
David spent his professional career building large scale business computer systems as a consultant and employee for major corporations. He ended his corporate career as an officer at Charles Schwab where he was in charge of Brokerage Accounting and Trading systems.
As part of his Environmental Forum cohort he helped launch the FairBuck local currency in Fairfax. David spent a number of years on the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group as the San Geronimo rep and currently serves on the board of the San Geronimo Valley Land Trust.
David is married to Julie Bernard, a native of San Francisco, and rarely misses one of her band’s gigs.
He is excited to be joining the talented and dedicated staff and board of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center.
Mike Cusick is originally from Darien, CT and moved to the West Coast when he went to St. Mary’s College in Moraga. Working as a contractor and painter through college and the years that followed, Mike funded his international travels. He landed in Maui, HI 2 years later in the early 90’s where he and his Connecticut family built a home on the north shore in Haiku. While living in Maui, he was what you would call a “Jack of all Trades” working in property management, lightening engineer for film, and eventually as a assistant engineer to the producer, Bob Rock.
In 1996, he met his beautiful wife, Alex, and they together enjoyed the small community feel of the North Shore of Maui. After a brief trip off island, Mike and Alex landed in San Francisco in the Lower Haight. Missing the familiarity of a small community, they moved to Marin and eventually to Lagunitas in 2003. Mike has been working as a Realtor in Marin County for the past 20 years and found home in the community of the San Geronimo Valley. He currently lives in Woodacre with his wife Alex and his three beautiful girls.
My family and I moved to the Valley in 2004 and have enjoyed a great sense of connection to the land and residents. We have always marveled at the heartfelt mission of the Community Center and the work accomplished by its staff and wondered how we could best contribute.
My 1st opportunity came 3 years ago when I began working at the Lagunitas Middle School with the Emotional Literacy program. I was able to contribute by both facilitating the curriculum as well as helping it to evolve. Witnessing the direct impact of one of the SGVCC’s programs was very satisfying. It was also a way to underscore my family’s belief that one way that our lives can improve is by helping the lives of others.
I am very excited about the future of the SGVCC. The Center has matured through many phases and is now beginning its latest. I am proud to be leading the Center’s Deepening Roots Campaign (DRC) which will focus all of our energies on ensuring that the vitality of the Center is sustainable well into the future. Over the next couple of months you will be learning much more about the DRC and how you can best support it. By becoming involved in the DRC you will directly impact the lives of your fellow resident and I’m sure, improve your own life in the process.
Barbara arrived in Marin in 1995 while working for a small consulting company located in Ross. After many afternoons spent mountain biking and hiking across the Marin landscape, she and her partner, Debra Amerson, made a permanent move to Forest Knolls. Barbara was quickly pulled into understanding what it means to be a part of this community. Honoring our natural surroundings, valuing community, and volunteering have been the foundation of finding our “forever home.”
Barbara’s work background involves leadership positions at United Parcel Service, Coleman Consulting Group, small high tech companies, and as a founder of a software company. Currently Barbara works for Cisco Systems driving transformational efforts in the Cloud Solutions team.
Community has always been important to me. What seems like a lifetime ago, my wife and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I joined the local volunteer fire department. I received my state fire fighting and EMT credentials and did my best to support my fellow fire fighters and the people we served. Sure, I learned how to put the wet stuff on the red stuff but more importantly, I learned about the needs of a diverse community and the value of building relationships.
After living in San Rafael for sixteen years and now in San Geronimo for almost four, I’m excited to join the board of the Community Center and build new relationships. I’m impressed with how much this small organization can accomplish and the wide range of programs on offer to support and enhance our lives. There is literally something for everyone. And most of all, I’m impressed by the passion and commitment of the Community Center staff who know no limits when it comes to their contribution of time and energy to bring opportunity to us in all its forms.
I hope to be able to make a positive contribution to the sustainability of the Center and, in turn, a difference in the lives of the people who use this important resource. As a newbie, I’m still listening, asking a lot of questions and getting my feet wet. With my wife Kristina and our daughter Vesper, you’ll see us at the Community Center, at the school, or in the hills above the valley. If we cross paths, please introduce yourself and let’s share our unique stories and experiences.
My wife, Stephanie Fein, and I lived 30 years in San Anselmo, where our two daughters went to Wade Thomas and White Hill schools. It was only after they were in college that we began to fantasize about living in beautiful San Geronimo Valley, which we had traversed so many times en route to ”somewhere else.” My friend Suzanne Sadowsky was always touting the Valley. Stephanie and I happened upon a remarkable piece of land at the base of Mt. Barnabe in 2003, and the rest is history. We moved into our new house in 2009, soon after I retired from my career at Kaiser Medical Center, San Rafael. Suzanne and others welcomed us here. I’ve enjoyed retirement, though sometimes it seems I am busier than when I worked as a physician. I am a passionate amateur cellist (now in two orchestras, a quartet and trio), a wood worker, and, with my wife and dog, an active West Marin explorer. At Suzanne and Dave Cort’s invitation I joined the Board in 2012.
Although I could readily appreciate the natural beauty of the Valley before moving here, I absolutely could not know the community until actually living here. My wife and I feel a stronger sense of community here than we did after living in Ross Valley for 30 years! People are deeply connected to the Valley. They look out for each other. The Valley exemplifies the advantages of living in a small community. At the heart of the Valley, finger always on the pulse, is the Community Center. The Center coordinates human services, extra-curricular youth programs, and cultural events. The place is always buzzing with activity; every day is different. I am amazed how responsive the Center is to the needs of the Valley.
I never imagined I would find such a dynamic environment. It is a privilege to assist on the Board. I have been involved in various discussions related to health matters, and I look forward to more such work. The entire Board is excited about the Deepening Roots Campaign. Its goal is to enhance our programs, nourish our staff, make needed improvements to our venerable building, and at the same time promote the financial security of the Community Center so that it can sustain well into the 21st Century. This modest Center is the envy of Marin County, because of its commitment to service and its generosity of spirit. It is the Valley’s gift that keeps on giving.
Alexander McQuilkin and his family moved to Woodacre in 1992 when Alexander was just 1 year old. Alexander attended Lagunitas School from Kindergarten through 8th Grade, then attending Drake High School and College of Marin. He has been an active volunteer for the SGVCC for the last 7 years. Written by Alexander: Assisting at numerous events, Holiday Faire and Talent Show I am still Assistant MC with Jasper Thelin also helping out at the Food Bank, Senior Lunch as well as participating in the SGVCC’s Summer Camp first as a camper and then as a Counselor. I am still running family music hour with my dad we 3 times year I also regularly attends SGV Healthy Community Collaborative and St. Cecilia’s CYO Basketball with Mike Davidson we will be retire this year we have been working together I was a part of the Teen Advisory Committee and Gym/Teen Loft Programs were in development. I was recently made a member of the San Geronimo Valley Lion’s Club. Alexander is committed to participating and serving this community. If there is an opportunity to help out he is always there.
Ramon Ramirez has lived and worked in Nicasio on the La Franchi Ranch for almost 50 years. He came to this country when he was 18 years old. He was born March 3, 1942 in Jalostotitlan, Jalisco Mexico. His journey here was not so simple. He swam across the Rio Grande with only 10 cents in his pocket and arrived in Texas. He is the eldest and sole male in his family of sisters. He expressed an obligation he had early on in life supporting and helping his mother and sisters. Ramon’s life experience is an amazing novel of a journey of hope and possibilities. For the purposes of a brief introduction to him as a Board Member, I will provide a modest overview. He traveled several times back and forth to Mexico in his initial years here. He finally settled at the La Franchi Ranch in Nicasio in 1967 bringing his first wife and 8 children. Ramon expressed he had one intention during this time and that was to have a better life in land with so much opportunity. He wanted a good life for himself and not only his family but extended family and friends. He has become a conduit for many arriving here in need of work and housing. And what an asset he has been for those unclear how to navigate this country without speaking the language. Ramon worked diligently on the ranch until he was in an accident and had to cut back his dairy workload. In 1984 Ramon began custodial work at the Lagunitas School. He worked for 17 years and he says those years connected him with the San Geronimo Valley forever. He said it was the “happiest days of his life”. He said this community gave and continues to give him so much love and support. In 1990 Ramon met his second wife Laura Flores while visiting Jalostotitlan, Mexico. They were married in Vista Hermosa, Mexico in 1993 and that same day they left Mexico.
In 2005 Esmeralda his youngest daughter was born. He continues to work and live on the La Franchi Ranch raising Esmeralda who attends Nicasio School. He expressed a sense of pride and happiness when I asked him what it meant to him to be on the SGVCC Board. He voiced a certain sentiment about the importance of giving back to this country and community because it has and continues to give his family so much. His said his one struggle being on the Board are his English skills. The Board members are patient and he appreciates them for that. Ramon became a US citizen on Nov.2, 2016. He was so proud and accomplished, he came to the SGVCC to share his great news with us. His connection with this community is authentic.
Liora moved to the San Geronimo valley in 1993 after meeting her husband, Jay, while both were traveling in India. Liora grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and graduated from the university of Cape Town with a degree in industrial sociology before leaving to travel the world. Jay and Liora own Jayli Clothing, which designs, manufactures and imports a bohemian clothing line. They also own the Point Reyes Surf Shop in Point Reyes Station.
Liora has two daughters, Tai, 18, who will be attending Tulane University in the fall and Molly, 15, who is a sophomore at Sir Francis Drake high school.
Liora has been involved in the community center for several years, including running the annual SGVCC Golf Tournament and Oyster Feed that raises money for the Gym and Community Center.
I spontaneously moved to Marin County from New York in 1989 after driving across the country and visiting a friend in San Anselmo. I was immediately struck by the the differences: natural beauty everywhere, people who were actually friendly, cars that stopped for you in the crosswalk, and the weather was superb…I was hooked. I moved to the Valley in 1995, and eventually met my husband, Jeff. We traversed the hills endlessly, exploring the vast amount of open space available to us. We bought our land in Lagunitas and began framing while simultaneously raising a family. Our 2 boys attended Lagunitas School K-8. These were wonderful years of being involved in the school and participating on all sorts of happenings at the Community Center, from music festivals to holiday fairs to art shows and community forums. I could never have dreamed of a more supportive, loving, and tight knit community in which to raise my children. I worked at the school for 5 years as the garden coordinator, which enabled me to get to know many of the kids along with their families. I saw first hand how the Community Center is an integral resource for many Valley families. It serves the people in this community by providing programs for everyone from pre-schoolers to the elderly, and always with love and compassion. I am joining the Board in 2017 as a way to stay connected to the Valley residents and to give back to an institution that gives so much. I am honored to sit among so many dedicated individuals.
Jean Berensmeiser, Founder
Professor of Physical Education at the College of San Mateo (1956 – 1993) coached fencing and founded programs in modern dance, massage, physical fitness and womens weight training; Founding member of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center – Board member (1969 – present), Editor of Stone Soup; Founding member of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group – Steering Committee member (1981-1996), Chairperson of Community Plan Update 1996, Chairperson of Community Plan Amendment Committee 2003 – present; Marin County Parks & Community Commission (1977 -1996), Trails & Bikeways Committee Chairperson 1977 – 1996; Marin Conversation League Board of Directors (1979 – 2003), President 1990 – 1992; Marconi Conference Center State Historical Park, Board Member 1990 – 2002, President 1992 – 1995 and 1998 – 2002; Co-founding member of Wilderness Way – President 2001 – present; Lagunitas homeowner since 1963.
Please direct any inquiries for board members to firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 488-8888.