Holiday Spirit

Kara Spanish program volunteer Lu Echeverria places photos, candles and sweets to the ofrenda altar which is built to honor family members and friends who have passed away, during a Dia de los Muertos event hosted by the Spanish language grief program on Oct. 26, 2018. Photo by Amy Armes/Kara.

Posted December 28, 2018

Healing from a loss in native tongues
Kara provides culturally attuned service to Spanish speakers

by Jamey Padojino

Being a grief support person can be a heavy undertaking. Just ask Lupe Lujan. As a volunteer for the Palo Alto-based nonprofit Kara, a one-on-one session with a client dealing with the death of a loved one can unpack feelings of anxiety, fear and guilt.

Since joining the organization about three-and-a-half years ago as a bilingual volunteer for the Spanish program, she has become attuned to "el proceso de duelo," or the grieving process.

It's an experience she knows all too well, having lost her husband nearly four years ago to liver cancer. Six months after he died, she learned about the Spanish program through an announcement that crossed her path while she worked as a programmer for community radio station KKUP.

At the time, she felt ready to support others through their grief but soon learned she wasn't immediately ready to assist clients. Any time someone mentioned her late husband, she broke into tears. Lujan didn't start taking on clients until about a year and a half ago.

Nowadays, she regularly sees two clients — one of whom she meets with once a week and the other on a monthly basis. Breathing has become one of the invaluable practices that she has passed along to her clients to help clear their heads.

"We can build a lot of anxiety just thinking about our loved one or 'I should've done this' or 'I should've did it that way' or 'It was my fault,'" she said. After a few moments of deep breaths, they can get back on track and move along with their day.

This year, a $7,500 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund backed the training of the 18 people who serve as Kara's Spanish grief-support volunteers. From graduate students to mental health professionals to retirees, the volunteers come in with diverse backgrounds, according to Executive Director Jim Santucci. One of the volunteers was previously a client herself.

All Kara volunteers undergo an initial 21-hour training spread out over multiple days followed by monthly training sessions. They typically have sessions with their clients, which span from South San Francisco to San Jose, in either one-on-one or group settings based on an intake session. This summer, the Spanish program launched an ongoing grief support program at the East Palo Alto Senior Center that meets on Monday afternoons.

The free program was created four years ago to serve the Spanish-speaking community, which makes up about 25 percent of the population in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, Santucci said. With these numbers in mind, the program was designed not just as a speaking service, but as a culturally attuned service.

"It's beyond a language. It's really providing the service in a person's heart language and why we chose Spanish versus another (language) because we feel that's ... one of the groups in the community that really was lacking," he said.

The Spanish language lacks a word for grief, which only touches on the surface level the differences of how the culture copes with death and loss.

The program's clientele comes from community outreach, referrals from other organizations or individuals and self-referrals. Some clients are single parents or working people with two to three jobs who don't have the time or resources to talk about grief.

In comparison to the volunteers who went through the first training class in the summer of 2015 out of curiosity, the current volunteers understand the power of grief support, Santucci said. The act of providing a service in their own language has become meaningful to the volunteers, some of whom never received the service themselves such as Lujan.

The Holiday Fund grant also have assisted the organization in holding its second annual Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration on Oct. 26 that drew 50 people to its Kingsley Avenue offices in Palo Alto. The event was developed by Kara's Spanish Services Manager Rosario Puga-Dempsey, who has long celebrated the holiday that holds a personal meaning for her. She thought it would be fitting for the organization.

"This is one of the holidays we often celebrate more than anything," Puga-Dempsey said of her family.

For nearly two weeks, the organization set up an altar where community members could add to the decorations, she said. The three-tier altar eventually overflowed with photos of the deceased, pictures of sugar skulls brought to life with neon colors, poems, flowers, tall white candles in glass containers, a variety of fruits, corn and carefully woven bread — all sitting on papel picado, or tissue paper flags cut into elaborate designs, in a rainbow of colors.

The event also served as an open house for the organization with food, music and face painting for children.

Puga-Dempsey recalled speaking with a Kara volunteer who helps with the organization's English services and was attending a Day of the Dead service for the first time.

"She expressed how wonderful it was to express grief in a different way," Puga-Dempsey said.

Day of the Dead rituals can be a launching point for clients in grief support sessions to discuss the layers of their loss. In family meetings, volunteers and clients discuss the idea of disenfranchised or unprocessed grief in which people can't attend the funeral for their loved ones who died in their native country, Puga-Dempsey said. It can also segue into other losses of other family members or friends dating years back or traditions to help with the loss, such as a novenario, or nine-day prayer. The sessions also can uncover stigmas attached to dealing with loss, such as the idea of being machismo or staying strong.

"One of the things we know to be true in this work is that although grief is universal, it's unique," Santucci said. "You can't fix grief, it's not something you can cure, it's something that you can give support to."

As the volunteer-driven program enters its fifth year, Santucci aims to continue increasing the program's reach, which this year served more than 500 people through sessions with clients, community education and outreach events. Given the program has built numerous connections, he hopes to see a decrease in outreach efforts and an increase in clients. He also wants to add additional staff members.

As a grief support volunteer, Lujan understands the role in supporting her clients who at times confide personal details they haven't divulged to their family.

"It's a little hard sometimes ... sometimes the tears do come out," Lujan said about the program, which isn't offered elsewhere in the area. "What's important is how you treat someone else or how you're there for someone else."

Learn more about Kara's Spanish grief support services through a video by the nonprofit that can be viewed here.

Make a donation
2021 Recipient Agency

All Students Matter$25,000

Ada's Café$25,000

Youth Community Service$25,000

DreamCatchers$25,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring$20,000

Pursuit of Excellence$20,000

Ravenswood Education
Foundation
$20,000

WeHOPE$20,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$12500

Buena Vista
Homework Club
$10,000

CASSY$10,000

Community Legal Services
in East Palo Alto
$10,000

Nuestra Casa$10,000

San Francisco 49ers Academy $10,000

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

YMCA - East Palo Alto Branch$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Hidden Villa$10,000

Reading Partners$10,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$10,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7500

East Palo Alto
Academy Foundation
$7500

Kara$7500

Learning Home Volunteers$7500

Live in Peace$7500

Midpeninsula Community
Media Center
$7500

Peninsula
HealthCare Connection
$7500

WomenSV$7500

Acknowledge Alliance$5,000

Art in Action$5,000

Art of Yoga$5,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Alta Housing $5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Canopy$5,000

Environmental Volunteers$5,000

Family Connections$5,000

Girls To Women$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation$5,000

Musikiwest$5,000

Morrissey-Compton
Educational Center
$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center
Foundation
$5,000

Palo Alto Chamber
Orchestra
$5,000

Palo Alto Players$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange$5,000

East Palo Alto Library $5,000

Street Life Ministries$5,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

Vista Center for
Blind & Visually Impaired
$5,000

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Friends of Junior Musuem & Zoo$5,000

Herban Health$5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Karat School Project $5,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection$5,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

Pacific Art League$5,000

East Palo Alto Library$5,000

Peninsula Bridge Program$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi
Youth Club
$5,000

Christmas Bureau$3500

Friends for Youth$3,000

Blossom Birth$2500

Pets in Need$2500

Child Care Grants

AbilityPath$10,000

All Five$10,000

Children's Center of
the Stanford Community
$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

The Learning Center$10,000

Scholarship

HS scholarships$16,000


As of January 26, 2021
436 donors have contributed $614,046 to
the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

40 Anonymous270,245
Janis Ulevich125
Tess & Eric Byler75
Robyn H. Crumly*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Sue Kemp250
Judy Kramer150
Barbara Klein*
Tobye Kaye*
Michael Kieschnick500
Bruce Campbell250
Cathy Kroymann250
Werner Graf*
Dorothy Deringer250
Amy Crowe500
Gary & Karen Fry250
Bill Reller*
Jody Maxmin*
Martha Shirk1,000
Jim & Karen Lewis*
Judith Appleby250
Vic Befera100
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Brigid Barton5,000
Brigid & Rob Robinson200
Kaaren & John Antoun2,000
Harry Hartzell250
Susan & Doug Woodman*
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Gerald & Donna Silverberg100
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Hal & Iris Korol*
Sally Hewlett3,000
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Loreto Ponce de Leon100
Thomas Ehrlich500
Ron Wolf250
Andrea Smith100
Bonnie Packer100
Michael & Gwen Havern5,000
Jan and Scott Kilner500
Daniel Cox200
Patrick Burt500
Jocelyn Dong100
Carolyn Brennan*
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Debby Roth200
Diana Diamond300
Dorothy Saxe100
Jeanne & Leonard Ware500
Richard A. Baumgartner & Elizabeth M. Salzer*
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Steven Feinberg5,000
Jean Wu1,000
Marc Igler & Jennifer Cray200
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Diane Moore*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Pat & Penny Barrett100
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
John Galen*
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Edward Kanazawa200
Scott Carlson & Katharine Miller10,000
Stephen & Nancy Levy500
Mike & Jean Couch250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Katherine & Dorsey Bass500
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Harriet & Gerry Berner350
Judy Palmer 25
Teresa Roberts500
Carol Uyeno50
Mark Cairns & Amanda Martin100
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Christine Min Wotipka & Anthony Lising Antonio100
Kathleen Foley-Hughes
  & Tony Hughes1,000
Thayer Gershon50
Xiaofan Lin50
John Pavkovich400
Cynthia Costell100
Richard Zuanich150
Neha Choksi40
Braff Family500
Jennie Savage1,000
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell1,000
Dawes Family250
Mary Lemmon20,000
Shirley Ely1,000
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Doroguske1,000
Mike & Cathie Foster1,000
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan10,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Chris & Anna Saccheri*
Judith & Hans Steiner100
Carolyn Caddes200
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Anne Williams200
Jim & Valerie Stinger100
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Stuart & Carol Hansen*
Nancy & Jim Baer*
Marilyn, Dale, Rick & Mei Simbeck*
Betty W. Gerard50
Tom & Nancy Fiene150
Diane Finkelstein200
Beth & Peter Rosenthal500
Susan Benton*
Carol & Hal Louchheim*
Christina Kenrick2,500
Fruchterman Family250
Harriet Roeder1,000
Carol Hubenthal300
Dr. Fatima Malik, MBA*
Roger Warnke300
Dena Hill500
Keith Clarke*
Jeanette Kennedy1,000
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft*
Peter Danner200
Chantal Akerib500
Alice Fischgrund100
Carli Scott100
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jeff Dean345
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
Hoda Epstein250
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Cherie & Robert Donald250
Linda & Jerry Elkind250
Gwen Luce & Family*
Liz Lillard-Bernal50
Kay & Don Remsen*
Barbara Allen100
Eugene & Mabel Dong200
Micki & Bob Cardelli*
Wendy Sinton*
Diane Doolittle*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Philip Hanawalt & Graciela Spivak2,000
Virginia Laibl200
Glenn & Lorna Affleck*
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Cindy Dillon*
Helene Pier*
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams &
  Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Nina & Norman Kulgein250
Chris Logan50
Roy Levin & Jan Thomson250
Donald Barr100
Ellen Lillington400
Peter S. Stern*
Jean & Chuck Thompson100
Liz Kok*
Roger V. Smith300
Scott Pearson500
Ellmann Family100
Dr. Labaree and Ms. Churchill100
Rick & Eileen Brooks500
Gwendolyn Barry100
Elizabeth Bechtel100
Alan Bennett200
Tom McCalmont1,000
Diane Posnak200
Mary Ann Sing100
Annette Isaacson200
Carol O'Neill50
Gail Woolley200
Charlene Kon250
Peter Rudd50
Amy Crowe200
Diane Sikic400
Graceann Johnson100
Roy Levin & Jan Thomson250
Patti Yanklowitz & Mark Krasnow100
Deborah Mytels100
Katherine Bryant*
Sallie Tasto144
Steve & Gayle Brugler1,000
Nancy Tuck1,000
John & Mary Schaefer100
James & Kathryn Lodato500
Daniel & Janis Tuerk*
Rosalie Shepherd100
David & Betsy Fryberger100
Tom Hanks200
Margo Sensenbrenner*
J. Gonzales100
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Constance Crawford*
Vic & Norma Hesterman250
Joanne Koltnow300
Susan Osofsky200
Neilson Buchanan1,250
Judy Koch1,000
Mary G Dimit250
Eileen Brennan200
Diane Ciesinski250
Thomas Shannon100
Jim Sharp100
Susan Elgee500
Susan Ashworth100
Robert Bell100
Chisoon Lee200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Nancy Stern & David Ross100
Bjorn Liencres1,000
Preston Gardner50
James Lobdell250
Don Amsbaugh200
Eric Kastner1,000
Verner Hansen100
Jane Millman100
Roxy & Michelle Rapp & Family2,000
Deborah Newhouse50
Phyllis Munsey300
Terry Hunter*
Nina Blackwell500
John E Vorce250
Steve Beitler125
Kim Harvey2,000
Harry & Susan Hartzell200
Susan Yee*
Rita Vrhel350
Veronica Tincher*
Kenneth Bencala & Sally O'Neil100
Jeremy Platt & Sondra Murphy*
Kingsley Jack250
Leannah Hunt250
Ed & Linda DeMeo150
Ellen McGinty King500
Roderick C. McCalley50
John Tang*
Duane Bay & Barbara Noparstak100
Elizabeth Shepard*
Bruce & April Robinson*
Thomas & Elinor Osborne100
Merele McClure300
Don Price*
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Elaine & Eric Hahn1,000
Robert & Nancy Smith200
Shirley & Marc Feldman250
David & Diane Feldman500
Douglas & Leslie Murphy-Chutorian2,500
Nancy Wong & Robert Lipshutz200
Barry L. Goldblatt200
Chittra Chaivorapol500
Carolyn Williams*
Elinor Osborne150
Virginia Pollard150
Carl Hagenmaier700
Linda Groffie-Balint100
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Semaya & Ron Krasnow500
Eugene Lewit31
Becky & Ted Baer200
Alan Cope Johnston500
Weil Family1,000
Joan Norton*
Kay Sabin*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Shari & Don Ornstein250
Gordon Hughes2,500
Richard & Penelope Ellson100
Michael & Pamela Fong200
Kaye Crawford100
Jean Doble100
Peter Giles300
Laurie Hunter1,000
Vitaliy Tsaran20
Andrew Protter100
Bhave Family100
Patrick Burt250
Georgie Gleim500
Charles Katz250
Joan Willingham100
Elgin Lee500
Stephen Fisk100
Linda Selden500
Monica Williams250
Sandy Jain100
Reed Content250
Albert J Rooney250
David Thom400
Bill Reller*
Michael & Sarah Bolin1,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train500
Patricia A. Hoehl100
Ralph Wheeler250
John & Meg Monroe1,000
Roberta & Evan Shiue250
Patrick & Nancy McGaraghan500
Jennie Savage1,000
In Memory Of

Ray Bacchetti200
Norman L. Frazee*
Sandy Sloan100
Lee Domenik*
Millie Fuchs*
David W. Mitchell*
Rudy Schubert50
Marie & Don Snow200
The Zschokke Family100
Alissa Riper Picker250
Bertha Kalson*
Er-Ying and Yen-Chen Yen250
Mrs. Elsie Yang200
Ernest J. Moore*
Tracy & Alan*
Pam Grady500
Lily & Philip Gottheiner*
Bob Kirkwood2,500
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
Boyd Paulson Jr3,000
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leslie Smith*
August L. King*
Duncan L. Matteson1,000
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Emmett Lorey*
Chet Brown*
Beverly Aarts250
Zoe & Ken Allen100
Nate Rosenberg250
E Yanosh Alt20
Robert Spinrad*
Jennie Winsor Payne*
Leonard Ely500
Ian Halliday*
Kathleen Morris*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
Manuel & Maria Januario50
Kaye Kelley & Richard Van Dusen250
Florence Kan Ho*
Jim & Dottie Mellberg*
Jerry Smallwood1,000
Mark Georgia*
Don Kenyon50
Carol Berkowitz*
Mason & Ryan*
Robert O. Jack150
Bob Markevitch*
Dr. David Zlotnick*
Wen Liu500
Dr. Elliot W. Eisner200
Ruth Consul200
Jack Sutorius500
Our dad, Robert O. Jack500
Paul Seaver*
Tinney Family250
Priscilla Bates*
Harry Lewenstein1,000
Kathie Underdal250
Ted Linden200
In Honor Of

Fairmeadow Principal Iris Wong*
Joe Simitian220
Deborah Sutorius Hilleary100
Marie Wolbach25
Connor & Grace Missett*
Dr. David Lipson and Ray*
Charlie Hughes & the Ada's Team*
Rich Hlava's 87th Birthday*
Myles, Amara, Leo & Vivi*
Lewis J Silvers, Jr*
Julie & Iris Harper *
Denise Schectman, from ORM Staff190
Anne Steinberg*
Sara Cody1,000
Marilyn Sutorius500
Jill & Brian Bicknell100
As a Gift For

Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez500
Businesses & Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Delores Eberhart, DDS*
Hayes Group Architects5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
deLemos Properties200
Ann Sonnenberg Interior Design200
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation 10,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Packard Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run39,800
Sponsors of Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run:
    Stanford Health Care10,000
    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    Palantir5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative5,000
    Bank of the West1,500
    A Runner's Mind1,000


Changes or corrections to listings may be made by contacting Kali Shiloh at [email protected]kly.com.

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