Tahoe SAFE Alliance

Current executive director, Paul Bancroft, who will be transitioning into the same position for the larger organization, has a long story with Tahoe SAFE Alliance.

Bancroft began as a prevention educator in 2008 for the nonprofit, then called Tahoe Women’s Services, which seeks to reduce and prevent domestic and child abuse as well as meet the psychological and other needs of survivors.

“I was hired fresh out of grad school and needed a job,” Bancroft said. “I grew up here, and the prospect of doing violence prevention education in some of the schools that I went to was appealing.”

HAPPY AND SAFE: Michele Reynolds and her grandson, Ashtiano Reinaldo, attended Tahoe SAFE Alliance’s Chocolate and Wine Festival. The event is a vital annual fall fundraiser for the organization. Courtesy photo

Bancroft vividly remembers the day of his interview with Trisha Baird, the prevention manager, asking him if he could commit to a year. It was a tough decision, but “that was 11 years ago and here we are,” he said. His initial prevention educator work took him to North Tahoe Middle and High schools where there were still a number of teachers who had him in their classes growing up.

Bancroft says as a white male, his societal privilege has always been something to consider in his line of work, which is about respectfully and effectively serving marginalized communities. He has grown to feel compelled, however, to use his privilege to do as much for survivors as he can.

“As I’ve grown, still to this day, through the organization and have a deeper analysis of gender-based violence and oppression and race, power, and privilege, this movement grabs a hold of you,” he said. “Men have to be doing this line of work.”

Michele Reynolds, a local pet-sitter and dog-walker, has a long history as a domestic violence survivor. She first arrived in the Tahoe area in 1989 because she was escaping her abusive ex-husband, and at that time she changed her name and her kids’ names to protect them. Her ex-husband continued to stalk and seek out Reynolds through her friends and family, sending death threats and making unwanted contact for years. Her two children even spotted him lurking at gas stations and behind neighbors’ shrubbery near Reynold’s mother’s house.

Shortly after the family moved to Tahoe, on advice from a therapist and the desire to understand for himself what his father was like, Reynold’s 17-year-old son sought out a meeting with him. Her ex-husband fatally shot their son multiple times in the face and ended up in prison.

ART THERAPY: One of the most empowering moments for Michele Reynolds through her healing process was taking on a co-facilitator role with a friend in healing sessions for survivors of sexual and physical abuse through art. She created this personal collage, entitled “Ways I Shine,” with acrylics and magazine clippings during one of the Tahoe SAFE Alliance-sponsored sessions. Courtesy photo

Reynolds turned to Tahoe SAFE Alliance and says she has grown in her healing process through support groups and services they provide. Reynolds was particularly empowered through facilitating groups herself, specifically working on art projects with survivors.

“I think that was a real high point. For several years, we did group and it was presenting artwork as a healing tool,” Reynolds said. “It was really healing for me to give that to people who were going through the same thing I went through.”

North Tahoe Family Resource Center and the Family Resource Center of Truckee

Anibal Cordoba Sosa, current executive director of North Tahoe FRC, describes himself as a “newcomer” to the area, originating in Argentina with a long history of nonprofit work and a desire to provide respectful, bilingual community services to the largely-Latinx underserved population around North Lake Tahoe. NTFRC provides programs like parenting and health classes, legal services, and even Zumba classes. A big part of their work is also about initial contact with community members, assessing their needs, and providing information and referrals about how to address them — both from within their organization and from other partner nonprofits and agencies.

Cordoba Sosa said his career path came “out of the belief that the work I do has to be meaningful to me, something that really helps change structures and eventually makes social justice a reality. It sounds utopian but it’s the driver [for me].”

Local mother-of-two Maria Angel Servin, whose interview with Moonshine was conducted in Spanish and translated into English, goes to many classes and receives legal help from NTFRC frequently.

“With the resource center here in Kings Beach, I have gotten help with paperwork that I didn’t understand, been put in contact with other community resources, and provided assistance in other problems,” Servin said. “I feel grateful for this organization and am so happy with the ways they are helping me, treating me.”

Servin said she is hopeful that the new organization will bring more of her friends and family to needed programs. She regularly encourages her neighbors and family and friends to come to Zumba class or parenting classes with her, but “they say, ‘oh I can’t! I can’t!’ But it would be good for them,” she said.

“We’re always running around, always occupied with our own things. I feel like [if I ask for help] I’m going to bother people or simply that I can’t do things,” she said. “To know that this center can help me makes my life a little easier. It opens doors.”

Teresa Crimmens, current executive director of Truckee’s FRC, got her degree in biology and environmental policy before spending 10 years working in the environmental nonprofit world, first through groups in the Bronx, New York and later moving to this area to work for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the Tahoe Resource Conservation District. Her first daughter was born in 2014, which inspired Crimmens to find her current position. She says her ideas about the environment inform her mission of building a more sustainable world for families and communities.

“If we can play a role, if I personally can contribute in any way, the Family Resource Center can be that mechanism to provide people with the support, whether that’s access to a legal advocate or access to housing assistance or healthcare to just alleviate the stress a little bit on a family,” Crimmens said. “I see such potential for how this can strengthen our community and hopefully our whole world.”

Project MANA

Marilyn Moon lived in Truckee for 26 years and has volunteered at Project MANA’s well-known healthy food distribution days for 16 years. When she first moved to the region and her family was starting out during a hard winter, she couldn’t afford a big Thanksgiving dinner. Project MANA was there to provide the whole meal as a part of its still-active Let’s Talk Turkey program. Now Moon and her friend Cathy Thibault show up to food distributions as part of the weekly volunteer force.

The direct service nonprofit, executive director Deidre Ledford explained, is all about alleviating the stress that comes with food insecurity and hampers struggling families from dealing with any other issues on their plate.

“I’m a firm believer that food is medicine,” Ledford said, “and that our health and our well-being really starts with what we put in our bodies three times a day each and every day.”

Ledford started as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Project MANA and worked her way up through their small staff and leadership ladder. She is inspired by her belief that stronger families translate into better communities. She is also motivated through a dark moment in her personal history: When she was 4 years old, her father was robbed and shot by “a gentleman in our community who did not have the means, or he had to resort to that, to have money to do whatever he needed the money for in his life,” Ledford said.

“I thought, I’m not going to hold this anger towards this man who did this to my family,” Ledford said. “He was in a rough spot, so I just want to make sure that others like him have the resources that they need so this won’t happen again.”


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