The Cotati City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve the use of La Plaza Park for the Dear Sonoma North Bay Fire Relief Fundraiser this April. The event (which is the brainchild of a local Sonoma State English lecturer and avid community volunteer) will be centered towards getting donations for fire relief and the reading of journal entries and other literary mementos that capture the events following the October firestorm.
Emily Seder, a long-time Cotati-Rohnert Park resident, was happy to learn that her fundraiser and literary journal release party plans for the Cotati park received unanimous support from council members, who thought the unique idea was a thoughtful one in terms of giving back to a community that’s still trying to heal.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, it is a great idea! I think that it’s good and something creative to raise money for Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund, which has been quite successful,” said Cotati Mayor Mark Landman.
Landman also noted that these types of community based events are something that the city encourages and enjoys having.
“This is exactly the type of thing that we as a city love to support,” he said.
Seder is an active community member and is on the PTA board for University Elementary, coaches youth soccer and encourages her writing students at SSU to get involved in community volunteer work.
It was then with her students that she came up with the idea for the fundraiser and literary event. They were brainstorming for their service learning project right when the fire hit that October morning and then decided to center it towards collecting narrative writing; journalism, poems, artwork and any other creative work that depicted and recorded the tragic events of that week as a creative and cathartic outlet.
“This year our service learning project found us in a most tragic way; my students, many of whom are living on campus and away from home for the first time, lived in fear as the flames of the Tubbs Fire and Atlas Fires moved towards Sonoma State, while one of my students, from this area is living in the nightmare of losing her family home in Fountain Grove,” Seder wrote in a letter to the city council. “It became apparent that we needed to adapt our service learning project and redirect our efforts toward our neighboring communities in Sonoma County.”
So Seder, along with SSU’s Writing Center, partnered with teachers at University Elementary La Fiesta to start work on a community literary journal dubbed, “Dear Sonoma,” which would be a collection of poems, narratives and photography of the days prior to and following the fires.
According to Seder’s letter, the end goal would be to release and publish the journal and distribute the profits as a donation to Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund.
In the last four months the project has approximately received a couple hundred submissions for the journal from people of all backgrounds and ages according to Seder.
The event slated for April 28, copies of the journal will be available for purchase. “Dear Sonoma” release party will be open to all ages and families are encouraged to attend as the event will offer “...Poetry reading of selections from the journal, music, kid-friendly activities, such as face painting, jumping houses, auction items and food,” the application for the event states.
In addition to these activities, Seder says they would like to collaborate with other organizations and vendors who may be interested in donating proceeds from things like t-shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers and food and drink to fire victims.
The city council also OKed the waiving of the $150 event fee due to the event’s community centered and healing theme and it philanthropic nature.
A colleague of Seder spoke during public comment in support of the event. “This is supposed to be a healing event and a way for the students to come together to establish themselves and their voices, so I really think it will be beneficial to the community,” she said.
Along with Mayor Landman, Vice Mayor John Dell’Osso believes the event will be beneficial for the community and those affected by the October fires.
“I think for the healing aspect alone this is huge, it’s been only a few months (since the fires) and I think for some of us it is still raw for those who lost their homes in the fire, so I think this is a great event and I certainly plan on going,” Dell’Osso said.