Holiday Spirit

Dr. Haleh Sheikholeslami, medical director of Peninsula Healthcare Connection, checks on Darlene Berryessa, a resident of the Opportunity Center at the transitional housing's health care clinic on Dec. 8, 2017. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted December 15, 2017

Saving the homeless
Peninsula Healthcare Connection brings medical services to homeless and anyone in need

By Sue Dremann

Darlene Berryessa was just 40 years old when her vision began to blur. She had no idea she had high blood pressure, but she was having a stroke.

Berryessa, now 54, also had diabetes, but she didn't know that either at the time. She hadn't seen a doctor because she could not afford one.

"I didn't have insurance," said Berryessa, an affable woman with long blond hair cascading below her shoulders.

But under the care of doctors at Peninsula Healthcare Connection, a free medical service in Palo Alto that serves people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, she is now thriving.

"My health is so much better. I don't know where I would be without them," she said.

Peninsula Healthcare Connection is the only state-licensed medical clinic in the immediate area serving homeless and at-risk people. The lion's share of such services are in San Jose, said Heather Boddie-Russo, clinical director of New Directions, Peninsula Healthcare Connection's case management program for individuals with complex medical issues and needs of psychological and social concern.

Sadaf Nagshbandi, medical assistant at Peninsula Healthcare Connection, gives Carla Perez a flu shot at the medical clinic at the Opportunity Center on Dec. 8, 2017.
"We're so grateful for having the clinic around. It really is the only spot up here," she said.

The clinic provides primary, preventative and mental health care regardless of a client's ability to pay.

In 2016, the clinic served clients through 1,218 primary care appointments and 532 psychiatry appointments. Ninety percent of patients are ages 19 to 64; 6 percent are 65 and older and 4 percent are 18 and under, Boddie-Russo said. The clinic has four volunteer primary-care physicians from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and a part-time paid psychiatrist. About two months ago, it added a volunteer cardiologist, she said.

Peninsula Healthcare Connection received a $5,000 Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund grant last year for its medical supplies and laboratory-testing costs. The clinic has an annual budget of roughly $1.4 million for its comprehensive services, which include assessments, medical examinations and treatment, psychiatric services and case management.

Medical supplies, laboratory testing and vaccinations took up $34,000 of the annual budget. The Holiday Fund grant helped pay for diabetes test strips, tuberculosis-screening materials, immunizations and laboratory fees, which help to identify and treat these and other life-threatening diseases.

"The lab fees and immunizations are very expensive," Boddie-Russo said, noting that vaccines can cost up to $100 apiece. Lab fees last year were estimated to cost $21,500, according to the organization.

"The ability of Peninsula Healthcare Connection to purchase medical supplies and immunizations is dependent on this kind of funding," Boddie-Russo said. The clinic administered 270 immunizations last year, she added.

The lab tests are crucial to detecting serious underlying conditions such as those Berryessa has experienced.

Boddie-Russo said the clinic also supplies immunizations, including for pneumonia, flu, shingles, Hepatitis A and B and tuberculosis. TB testing is available to anyone, even if the person isn't a regular patient.

"Tuberculosis tests are really key, as in October when the county winter shelter opens, you must have it to get in. TB is a concern. We come across a lot of folks who have it, even if it is not active," she said. Berryessa said giving homeless people access to flu shots at the clinic has probably saved many lives. Her own mother died from the H1N1 influenza.

Homeless persons often have complex medical and psychological conditions, including chronic disease, addictions to multiple substances and mental health conditions. The clinic also helps clients identify and manage chronic diseases such as heart conditions, diabetes, hypertension and foot problems, which are common among homeless people, she said.

Having a psychiatrist on site helps to identify patients in need of mental health care. The psychiatrist also does emergency psychiatric evaluations, known as 5150s, and directs a patient to a nearby hospital if needed, she said.

Berryessa, who now works cleaning the clinic, said the clinic's mental health evaluation and treatment is a lifeline for many people.

"The psychiatrist here, he's the only hookup we've got to mental health services. He's helped to get a lot of us leveled out," she said.

Peninsula Healthcare Connection has made it possible to receive care at top medical facilities when necessary, Berryessa said.

"Because the doctors are affiliated with the hospitals, they are able to send a referral to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Stanford Hospital and to specialists for things like endocrinology and neurology. The student volunteers from Stanford Medical School also do rotations," Berryessa said.

She, her husband and her daughter now have housing through the Opportunity Center. The medical care she's received just downstairs has helped save her life.

"Everything has been perfect. They're amazing. This place has helped so many people," she said.

Boddie-Russo said the clinic's services may become increasingly important. As the housing crisis gets worse, county officials expect more people will be living in their cars or on the street, and they won't be able to afford health care. The crisis could also deepen if the U.S. Congress dismantles the Affordable Healthcare Act, she said.

"If ACA does go away, we are more important than ever because we will never turn anyone away," she said.

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023.

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000


As of December 7th, 165 donors have contributed $145,397 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

24 Anonymous7,075
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Maureen O'Connor150
Martha Shirk1,200
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker1,000
Diane and Brandy Sikic*
Alicia Newman100
Dorsey & Katherine Bass300
Edie Kirkwood1,000
Micri & Bob Cardelli*
George & Betsy Young*
Diana Diamond1,000
Brigid Barton 2,000
Korol Family250
Lawrence R. Yang & Jennifer W. Kuan10,000
Anthony & Susan Wood25,000
Lynn and Andrew Newman*
Katherine Bryant100
Barbara Riper*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Carolyn Caddes*
Kroymann Family250
Marian Adams100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Elaine Hah1,500
Retired*
Julie & Dan Lythcott-Haims250
Tess & Eric Byler150
Denise and Jeff Simons*
Keith and Linda Clarke*
Harriet Benson10,000
Arthur Keller250
Cynthia Costell100
George & Betsy Bechtel200
Ellen M. Lillington200
Tom & Nancy Fiene200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Merele McClure250
Joanne Koltnow400
Christina Kenrick1,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Xiaofan Lin100
Bonnie and Bryan Street*
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jody Maxmin*
Diane and Joe Rolfe*
Diane Finkelstein250
Linda & Steve Boxer*
David & Betsy Fryberger400
Jan Aarts*
Judith Appleby300
Donald Barr150
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Edward Kanazawa300
Karen A. Latchford*
Kingsley Jack250
Richard Zuanich150
Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow100
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Elizabeth Salzer & Richard Baumbartner*
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Dorothy Saxe100
Kieschnick family1,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Art and Peggy Stauffer500
Ed & Linda DeMeo500
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Scottie Zimmerman100
Fran Codispoti250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
The Dong Family200
Bill Reller*
Harry E & Susan B Hartzell100
Ann Burrell & Charles Smith*
Janis Ulevich*
Theradep Technologies500
Jack and Susan Thomas*
Julie and Jon Jerome*
Andrea B. Smith100
Leif and Sharon Erickson500
The Havern Family5,000
Gwen Luce and Family*
Bruce Campbell*
Freddy & Jan Gabus250
Richard & Pat Douglas50
Susan & Doug Woodman150
Donald Price*
Judy Ousterhout*
Judy Kramer*
Kingston Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer500
Roger & Joan Warnke300
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John Keller100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Margaret Forsyth and Glenn Rennels*
Charlotte Johansen200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Donna Silverberg100
Paul & Jane Millman250
In Memory Of

Walter Dean*
Er-Ying and Y.C. Yen250
Jack Sutorius750
Michele Wilson*
Bob Donald350
Leonard Ware*
Robert Spinrad100
August King*
Bob Simoni500
David W. Mitchell*
Paul Seaver*
Gerald Berner300
Ian Halliday250
Ray Bacchetti300
Marie and Don Snow200
Andre Jones *
Jim and Dottie Mellberg*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
David Sager100
Ted Linden200
Lily & Philip Gottheiner150
Chet Brown*
Phil Zschokke200
Nellie Perna Bartello100
Bob Donald*
Steven T. Ross100
In Honor Of

Marilyn Sutorius750
Darla Tupper3,922
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach and Thomas & Louise Phinney1,000
Polly Caddes*
Joe Simitian*
Gabby Perez & Logan Marsh250
Dr Ron Radzilowski*
Businesses & Organizations

Angelo Family Foundation 5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Hearts & Minds Activity Center75
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000