COVID-19: Spreading Positivity

Written By: Brytann Busick
Published: June 3, 2020

Micah & Michelle Sawyer

Micah and Michelle Sawyer, who own Sawyer Construction, build custom homes that are primarily vacation homes. Therefore, during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Shelter in Place Order they felt they were not essential and shut down business as of March 18th. While at home they have been keeping themselves busy making cloth masks and giving them away. In addition, they have been distilling alcohol to 190 proof and making lavender-infused “Sawyer Sanitizer.” While all this is going on they have a 3D printer running nonstop making mask strap holders. In between, they change it up and make 3D masks. Many nurses in the local community have been getting both types of masks and straps. They have had many community members ask for masks and sanitizer so they’ve been sewing into the late hours to get masks to them. They estimate they’ve donated 300 masks, 100 mask straps, and about 75 bottles of sanitizer. The family’s goal is to help everyone be safe and healthy. They are thankful for the donations of mask supplies and old alcohol that they’ve combined with their supplies to make sanitizer and masks.

Costeaux French Bakery

One of Costeaux French Bread’s core values is community. Therefore, when Will Seppi, president, and CEO of Costeaux French Bakery, began to notice the challenges the COVID-19 Pandemic and Shelter in Place Order brought to our community, he launched an initiative to donate loaves of bread to charities serving the needy.

“We are committed to supporting the community that has supported us for 100 years,” Seppi said. “When this COVID-19 Pandemic got going we saw the economic hardships that were occurring and knew they would continue. We recognized that there would be a huge need for staples for life, like bread.”

Seppi has been working with Rachel Manning, hunger relief worker, and food resources manager of the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and Heather Irwin, who founded the nonprofit Sonoma Family Meal after the 2017 fires. The partnership is called the Costeaux Crafts Knead Program. So far, Seppi has worked with Catholic Charities, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and the Center for Aging to donate bread throughout the community.

Seppi’s goal is to bake up to 20,000 loaves of bread a month for those in need. Customers can go online and make a $5 donation for each loaf, which the bakery will then match with another donated loaf. To support the Knead Program, go to

“Being able to supply bread for food boxes that are being distributed to those in need means a lot,” Seppi said. “There is a huge need out there and the numbers keep going up. I feel blessed that we are able to do it.”

He said that Costeaux is committed to this initiative for the long haul.

“We are going to make it happen going forward to help people get through this crisis,” Seppi said. “My employees and I are happy that we can make a meaningful impact and help those in need.”

Jordan Foundation/Sonoma Family Meal Restaurant Network Response $5,000 Donation

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is proud to announce that our organization donated $5,000 and the Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers & Ranchers donated $550 to support the Sonoma Family Meal Restaurant Network Response, which is paying their network of Sonoma County restaurants to cook hundreds of lovingly prepared meals each day to support those in need during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This model is a win-win for local businesses and food insecure seniors, immigrants, farm workers, and families. Participating restaurants are paid $8 per meal which allows them to keep a skeleton staff and the lights on.

Sonoma Family Meal was born in the flames of the Tubbs fire by restaurant writer Heather Irwin in 2017. Connecting local restaurants, farms, and chefs, the infant organization served more than 100,000 meals to anyone in need. That work continued, with SFM piloting a long-term recovery food project serving up to 72 families four meals per week, adding in several families displaced by flooding in 2019. During the Kincade Fire, the organization served another 8,000 meals to evacuees and first responders. COVID-19 has created a new challenge.

Donations directly to Sonoma Family Meal or John Jordan Foundation Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund Match Drive, like the one SCFB made, will support up to 25 qualified restaurants to meet basic costs and support a small staff— making it easier for them to reopen in the future.

John Jordan, the owner of Jordan Winery, and the John Jordan Foundation have made a $150,000 investment in Sonoma Family Meal’s Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund. Now, SFM and JJF are teaming up to begin a match drive to raise an additional $150,000.

“If we reach our goal of $300,000 to fully fund this program, we will be able to pay at least 20 restaurants and caterers to produce up to 100,000 meals for thousands of seniors and families facing food scarcity over the next four months,” said Heather Irwin, founder of Sonoma Family Meal. SFM hopes to put at least 100 restaurant workers back on the payroll, keep restaurants operational, support hard costs, and create income to reopen in the future.

The $150,000 investment will allow SFM to keep the doors open at least 12 struggling restaurants and caterers throughout the county, purchase 42,000 to-go containers (compostable or reusable) and provide 75,000 meals. But SFM needs $300,000 to add at least 20 restaurants and food purveyors, expand our relief network and continue to provide services until mid-June.

The SFM is supporting farm partners by purchasing produce for those in need. Local produce aggregator FEED Sonoma is creating 100 weekly CSA boxes for seniors and food-insecure families. The trickle-down effect is also straining farmers and other food producers. The SFM is currently working with Council on Aging, Corazon, Community Action Partnership, Catholic Charities, La Luz, Graton Day Labor Center, Undocufund, Vintage House, the City of Sonoma and others.

Bisordi Family

Rob and Stephanie Bisordi started the Lunches for Lifesavers with the help of Mark West Area Chamber of Commerce. The program’s goal is to support local restaurants and stores and help feed the medical workforce at Sutter Emergency Room. Beginning late March, they developed a calendar to coordinate lunch, snack, and dinner shifts from Monday, Wednesday, and Friday deliveries. They said that many food service businesses were excited to be a part of the program. Thanks to many donations from local businesses and families, the Bisordis filled in the calendar through the end of May! 

Kai’s Organics Hand Sanitizer

Do you or your business need hand sanitizer? Looking to support local businesses. Get your hand sanitizer today from Kai’s Organic Hand Sanitizer. 

Kai’s Organics, a business that has been manufacturing vape juice for use in electronic cigarettes, has been producing certified organic hand sanitizer at its facility in Santa Rosa, which is located in Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s building. 

Tod Stebbins who is the Operations Director came up with the idea to make hand sanitizer to help fill the large need for the essential product. He said that he really cares about helping to keep people safe during this crisis.

He said that he went from idea to producing 300 bottles per hour in 1 week. In just the first 3 hours of online sales they sold 800 bottles and in the first 14 days they shipped to 43 States, 405 different cities and to as far away as Countries Japan, England, and Australia. Generously, they donated several bottles of hand sanitizer to a hotel chain proprietor in New Orleans which is supporting first responders who are isolating themselves by staying in hotels to keep their families safe. 

Many local businesses have already purchased this USDA Certified Organic Hand Sanitizer, which is an extra-strength hospital grade formulation approved for medical use, kills germs on contact, and comes packaged in a spray bottle with a dust cap for rinse-free hand cleaning. Visit to purchase yours today. 

Clover Sonoma 

Clover Sonoma’s Marcus Benedetti donated $100,000 to the Petaluma Valley Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 restricted fund to purchase respirators needed to keep people alive during the expected surge in COVID-19 cases. He challenged others, including local services clubs like Rotary, to donate to the fund which is also underwriting the purchase of personal protective gear such as face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves necessary to keep nurses and other first responders safe. Clover Sonoma, a third-generation family-owned and operated dairy, today announced its commitment to donate more than $100,000 to its local Petaluma Valley Hospital to provide ventilators and critical medical supplies. During this time of need, the company is encouraging other companies and donors to support their local hospitals — giving patients the care they deserve and helping to protect the healthcare workers who serve their communities.

“This is a healthcare crisis that is impacting communities across the world,” said Clover Sonoma CEO Marcus Benedetti. “We need to do what we can to step up and support those in the most dire need and that starts in our own backyard. Our local hospitals need ventilators, protective equipment, scrubs, and medical supplies to sustain the increasing patient population. We want to help save lives, but we can’t do this alone. We need the contributions of our community and other local businesses to act NOW and GIVE, in order to protect our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.”

Three generations ago, Clover Sonoma’s founder Gene Benedetti helped create the Petaluma Valley Hospital (PVH) Foundation as part of the Clover Cares giveback program. Since 2003 when PVH Foundation was established, the nonprofit has raised more than eight million dollars to fund cutting edge medical equipment and supplies. As a nonprofit hospital operated by St. Joseph Health, Sonoma County, PVH has partnered with many like-minded organizations in Sonoma County over the years — funding critical medical needs in the community. During this pandemic, the hospital and other vital healthcare infrastructure welcome the generosity of neighbors and businesses.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Clover Sonoma and are extremely grateful for their generous funding of equipment that is needed to fight this pandemic,” said Chief Executive at St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, Tyler Hedden. “Gene Benedetti was instrumental in establishing the PVH Foundation. He realized that the hospital’s success is dependent upon the involvement and generosity of our community. During these uncertain times, the generosity of our donors is more important than ever.”

Throughout April and May, Clover Sonoma accepted donations on behalf of the PVH Foundation to provide financial assistance. In addition to making a financial contribution, Clover Sonoma encourages other like-minded companies to look to their communities and support their local hospitals and healthcare institutions. Action needs to be taken quickly to keep communities safe, healthy, and to save lives. In partnership with Sonoma Media Investments, Clover Sonoma is continuing to spread awareness in support of our local healthcare system. Please visit for more information and to donate. 

Park Avenue Catering

Bruce Riezenman, the owner of Park Avenue Catering, has always been community-minded. Therefore, when the COVID-19 Pandemic and subsequent Shelter in Place Order was instituted, he knew that everything in the food service business and particularly in the catering industry was going to be dramatically impacted.

“How long this Pandemic is going to last is anybody’s guess,” Reizenman said. “I realized that by partnering with organizations to help subsidize the cost of meals we could help serve nonprofit organizations who are helping those in need and help them extend their reach.”

Therefore, Park Avenue created $10 meals that could be purchased and sent to the needy. For example, Clover Sonoma purchased 180 meals to send them to Sonoma Valley Hospital. Others have purchased meals for first responders, farm workers, women’s recovery centers, and hospitals. 

In the first few months of the Pandemic, Reizenman said they were preparing 400-600 meals per week, which helped to keep employees working.

Their latest project is working with the Ceres Community Project, which puts together tailored meals for those who require special diets. Now, Park Avenue Catering will be providing them with 3,000 meals per week. On top of that, they are also partnering with Catholic Charities and will be producing about 1,000 additional meals per week. 

“While we have re-tooled to serve the community and keep our employees going, we are also reaching out to our winery, venue and planning partners to discuss and come up with new innovative ideas to continue to do what we mostly do, which is the celebrate the milestones of life and to help create memorable experiences with our local wineries and businesses,” Reizenman said. 

He and his sales team meet every Tuesday using Zoom meetings to discuss ideas and conversations we have had with clients and partners. One idea they generated includes a “Party in a Box” for a virtual get-together for an event like Graduation, Father’s Day, Birthday, etc., where Park Avenue Catering would design a menu with the client, as they usually do, and then package it up into family-sized portions of 2 or more. 

Bellwether Farms

Liam Callahan from Bellwether Farms said that the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Shelter in Place Order has created a great deal of disruption in their customer and distribution networks. However, during these challenging times they have stepped up to serve the community. Callahan said that they have been donating any extra product to the Redwood Empire Food Bank. So far Bellwether Farm, which processes both cow milk and sheep milk and makes yogurt, which is available locally at Olivers, Pacific, and Whole Foods, donated about 15,000 lbs. of yogurt and cheese. 

Since its start in 1990, Bellwether Farms has become the largest processor of sheep milk in the US and currently buys from a network of 8 dairies – mostly in northern California. The sheep milk industry is much smaller than the cow or even goat industries. Today, they are struggling with an oversupply of sheep milk. To help support this young but growing industry Bellwether Farms just launched an Indigogo campaign to raise money to offset some of the milk and packaging costs of additional yogurt that will be donated to the Redwood Empire Food Bank and other Bay Area food banks. Bellwether Farms will not make a profit from this campaign and will use the funds generated to offset the milk and packaging, while they cover the labor and overhead. They are calling the initiative Project Spilled Milk. Visit to learn more.

Encore Events Rentals

Encore Events Rentals jumped on the opportunity to serve the community during the Shelter in Place Order. They partnered with the Redwood Food Bank during this crisis because owner Bridget Doherty said they wanted to be part of something positive and to give back– especially because of the many challenges COVID-19 has brought to the community. 

Doherty said that Encore has been closed since the Shelter in Place Order and that their normally busy warehouse is quiet. Therefore, they were able to use their new warehouse in Windsor to help others. 

On April 14th, Encore Event’s Rentals opened its warehouse doors to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which started moving products for storage. Since, they have been bringing and picking up packed non-perishable food boxes. Doherty said that they anticipate storing food for them at Encore until the Shelter in Place Order is lifted, possibly longer.

Doherty said that she is grateful that Encore Events Rentals were grateful to do something good for the community and for the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

“We know how much great work the Redwood Empire Food Bank does for our community, even more so during times like this, and this was a way we could support them and everyone who needs their help right now,” Doherty said. 

Stemple Creek Ranch 

Stemple Creek Ranch launched the Get & Give Ground Beef Sale in May. For every 20 pounds of ground beef that was ordered, they donated 5 pounds to Redwood Empire Food Bank. On May 20, they donated 300 pounds to the REFB and plan to donate more in the future!


Related Articles

Premium Members

To represent, protect and advance the social, economic and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.