Holiday Spirit

Adrian Esqueda, the program coordinator at Daybreak, a youth housing program in San Mateo County, hands Michelle Mayes, the program manager at Daybreak, a mask on Nov. 17. Photo courtesy of Michael Maylan.

Posted December 3, 2020

StarVista adapts services during pandemic
Transitional housing nonprofit adds safety measures to its youth program

by Angela Swartz

Mornings at DayBreak, a transitional housing program in Redwood City, start with walking downstairs to say "good morning," a quick temperature check and cooking breakfast before logging onto an online class from the couch in the living room.

The 30-year-old program, run by San Carlos-based nonprofit StarVista , houses homeless 16- to 21-year-olds and is still offering its services despite the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit with some changes.

Health screenings are just one change, along with wearing masks, social distancing from others around the house and staying in at night. Therapy sessions have moved to Zoom. The precautions are especially necessary since COVID can often present without symptoms in this demographic, said Program Manager Michelle Mayes.

So far, no DayBreak residents have tested positive for the virus.

The program, which usually serves 10 young adults from San Mateo County, has capped housing at seven residents since April because of the pandemic. A staff of seven full-time employees run the operation, said Mayes. StarVista's services include counseling, skill development, and crisis prevention to children, youth, adults and families.

"We have a really brave team that are still willing to work during a pandemic," she said.

StarVista is one of the beneficiaries of The Almanac's Holiday Fund. Because The Almanac and its partner the Silicon Valley Community Foundation cover all the administrative costs, every dollar raised goes directly to this year's 10 nonprofit organizations. Donations to the Holiday Fund can be made here .

Some tensions over cleanliness and noise have arisen between residents who feel cooped up at home all the time, Mayes said. During the spring, it was also challenging for residents to land jobs, given the economical upheaval caused by the pandemic. Overall, residents are respecting safety guidelines, such as hand-washing, wearing a mask outside of their bedroom and bathroom, and using hand sanitizer, she said.

Clients stay in the house for about six months on average. Staff members provide them with training in finding and keeping a job; personal health and self-care; money management; meal planning and preparation; performing daily chores; locating and renting housing; and pursuing educational opportunities. Residents are required to attend school and work.

This year, of the residents who stayed for more than 30 days, 73% transitioned to a positive placement, 80% were either enrolled in school or had their GEDs, and 100% were referred to appropriate substance abuse treatment providers if needed, according to StarVista .

StarVista's services were first known in San Mateo County in 1966 under the name of "Peninsula Suicide Prevention, Inc." a small human services agency, according to StarVista's website. It grew into Youth and Family Enrichment Services and adopted the name "StarVista" in 2011. Its staff now includes 240 doctors, clinicians, social workers, and professionals and 45 clinical interns who work with 41,000 individuals and families annually.

Earlier this year, former Daybreak client Ozzy filmed a testimonial video explaining how StarVista helped him become more mature and responsible, and opened up doors to him. He now wants to become a counselor or a therapist.

"They've shown me I can count on someone and what a friend looks like," he said. "My life now is full of friends. I have my own place. I bought a new car, I have a steady job."

When someone is homeless, sometimes their grades fall and they lose their jobs, Mayes said. It's great to see them transform their education and career, she said. Mayes said one resident saved $10,000 while part of DayBreak.

"It's great to see them (DayBreak residents) blossom into themselves," she said. "And see them feel as if they can achieve their goals."

The pandemic has given staff an even greater sense of purpose, said StarVista CEO Sara Mitchell during a recent discussion the nonprofit hosted over Zoom.

"I think they've always been very passionate about the work that they do, but they see the ways that they are positively making changes in the community despite all of the challenges," Mitchell said. "On the flip side, for our clients, in the midst of so much uncertainty, there's a sense of 'when will this end.' For the individuals we serve, they feel a sense of reassurance knowing that there's this organization of people who care about them and are invested in their communities.".

For more on StarVista and DayBreak, go here.

Make a donation
2021 Recipient Agency

Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula
Provides after-school academic support, enrichment, and mentoring for 1,800 low-income K-12 youth at nine locations across Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City.

Ecumenical Hunger Program
Provides emergency food, clothing, household essentials, and sometimes financial assistance to families in need, regardless of religious preference, including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for more than 2,000 households.

Health Connected
Serves over 5,000 students and their families each year through comprehensive sexual health education programs. Students learn to have ongoing communication with parents and to make informed decisions that will apply to their lives, now and in the future.

LifeMoves
Provides shelter/housing and supportive services across 18 sites in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula. Serves thousands of homeless families and individuals annually on their path back to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.

Literacy Partners
Supports literacy programs and projects through fundraising and community awareness. Helps community members enhance their reading, writing and related skills and education to improve their economic, professional and personal wellbeing.

Ravenswood Family Health Center
Provides primary medical and preventive health care for all ages at its clinic in East Palo Alto. Of the more than 17,000 registered patients, most are low-income and uninsured and live in the ethnically diverse East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks areas.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
Serves hundreds of hot meals six days a week to people in need who walk through the doors. Funded by voluntary contributions and community grants, St. Anthony's is the largest dining room for the needy between San Francisco and San Jose. It also offers take-home bags of food, as well as emergency food and clothing assistance.

St. Francis Center
Helps low-income, working families become self-supporting members of the community by providing long-term solutions through educational programs for children and parents, as well as after-school programing at Siena Youth Centers. St. Francis Center also provides housing, food and clothing services to address short-term needs.

StarVista
Serves more than 32,000 people throughout San Mateo County, including children, young people and families, with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education, and residential programs. StarVista also provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services including a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline, an alcohol and drug helpline, and a parent support hotline.

Upward Scholars
Upward Scholars empowers low-income adults by providing them with financial support, tutoring, and other assistance so they can continue their education, get higher-paying jobs, and serve as role models and advocates for their children.


As of Jan. 12, 2020
170 donors have contributed $261,427
to the Almanac Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

26 Anonymous131,473
Paul Welander50
Jim Lewis*
James E. Esposto*
Dorothy Saxe*
Roger & Pat Witte200
Sybille Katz*
Erika L Crowley*
Mark and Karen Weitzel*
Barbara Jacobson150
Bruce Whitson200
Vicky Rundorff*
Michael & Lenore Roberts150
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Dorothy Kennedy*
Andrea G. Julian500
Kathy & Bob Mueller100
George & Mary Norbeck50
Jerry & Shirley Carlson250
Lorraine Macchello100
Lucy Reid-Krensky200
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Jaggers Family5,000
Gisela Brugger1,000
Douglas Adams*
Ronald Clazie50
Richard Duda200
Dan Hilberman100
Marcia Makino & Rod Perkins*
Betsy & Horace Nash500
Douglas Keare Jr. & Jill Morgan1,500
Ross & Elizabeth McDougall300
Paul Perret500
Bob Williams & Carol Mayer Marshall500
Joan Lane1,000
George Mader100
Shirley & John Reiter300
Eliot & Cris Terborgh*
Bob & Barbara Ells500
Joe & Julie Zier150
Kathy & Smith McKeithen*
Bill & Nancy Ellsworth*
Diane & Dave Toole100
Leon & Abby Campbell100
Robert Mullen250
Marc & Mary Ann Saunders*
Ann Hillman1,000
Barbara Kinsey300
Claiborne Jones200
D. Robin Toews25
John Woods500
Valerie Van Sickle100
Joyce Pharriss500
Mary Pless500
Susan Russell100
Robin Ferris25
Deborah Hage10
Bill Wohler419
Mary Cooper125
Susan Kritzik250
Richard Thesing1,000
Jim Sharp100
Karen Alden350
Marieanne Cullen50
Sally Freyberg200
Catherine Siegel300
Carolyn Davis100
Joan Rubin100
Kayleen Miller100
Betty Meissner200
Sid Chen & Sandra Lee Chen*
Heather Watson100
Kathy & Bob Feldman200
Katherine Bryant*
Clay & Nita Judd*
E.R. & B.L. Dodd150
Robert & Connie Loarie*
John A. Galen100
Bob & Mary Dodge200
Catherine A Cerny*
Bob & Marna Page*
Diane & Martin Brandt500
Timothy C. Wright3,000
Laura Hofstadter & Leonard Shar500
Mayling Dixon100
Sandy Shapero500
John Donald100
Sue-Viole Mcmahon-Bishop75
Peter Rudd50
Dorothy Fuller-Polash500
William & Patricia Critzer1,000
Leslie Airola & Hy Murveit500
Avilla Family 60
Don Lowry & Lynore Tillim100
Margaret Melaney300
Sabelman Family250
Tate Family10,000
Terri D. Bullock Family5,000
Kevin Novak & Hannah Gilula1,000
Betsy & Frank Stockdale500
Connie & Bob Lurie*
Liz McDougall300
Margaret & Jamis MacNiven100
Allison Butler & Richard Peers2,000
The Brennan Family500
Barbara & Bill Binder*
Cynthia Dusel-Bacon & Charles Bacon200
Donald Kirtley150
George Fisher500
Jeffrey & Diane Garver1,000
Hannah Sowerwine100
Barbara Fullerton200
Janet Cook500
Mendelsohn Family10,000
Jelani Kejon200
Lynne Fovinci100
Bruce & Ann Willard1,000
Melanie Austin*
The Frank Sammanns50
Nancy Federspiel600
David Reneau100
Linda Craig250
David Dickinson1,000
Kathryn Stivers1,000
Gail & Susan Prickett500
Don & Catherine Coluzzi*
Noble & Lorraine Hancock500
Carol A. Kemper200
Kenneth Ashford180
Elizabeth Bosman100
In Memory Of

Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard100
Annie Strem*
Scott Carey1,000
Robert Oliver*
Bill Land*
Jean Zonner100
Frank & Celine Halet500
In Honor Of

Nancy Stevens*
Mar & PoPo Russ*
Businesses & Organizations

Menlo Park Firefighters' Association500
Rotary Club of Menlo Park Foundation10,000
Griffin & Sons Construction150
Narrative Histories200
Hewlett Foundation8,750
Packard Foundation15,000


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