A day of walking at Stinson, a night of camping at Kirby Cove. Fresh saba at Sushi Ran, an icy cosmo at the Buckeye. Ballet classes for kids and Little League at Boyle Park. A ferry ride to Angel Island and another to S.F. Cheap sunglasses, expensive shoes and Tony’s to repair them. Green buildings, reclaimed hardwoods and native plant seeds. People who care about their community. These are a few of our favorite Marin things — and we’re sharing them with you in the next 24 pages as Marin Magazine’s 2008 Editors’ Choice selections. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
The Community Builders — Steve Costa & Kate Levinson
Here’s how things work with Steve Costa: If you e-mail him asking him to nominate people for a story like this one, he sends back a dozen names. If you e-mail those dozen people asking them the same thing, they send back Costa’s name.
In the six years since Costa, a former community organizer in Oakland, suggested to his wife, psychologist Kate Levinson, that they buy the Point Reyes Bookstore, they have turned it into a cauldron of ideas about community involvement, social interaction and intellectual innovation. As it turns out, that’s just what Costa had in mind. “I had always had a dream of owning a community-serving business,” says Costa, “and the store’s an extension of my work serving communities.”
The result: An ever-growing list of projects, from author signings to Spanish-language readings to a nationally noted conference on writer William Stegner to a guiding hand in the founding of the West Marin Review literary and arts journal.
Costa likes to say that “books are powerful objects.” Indeed. And we would add: So are bookstore owners.
Tiawana Bullock — The Parent Mentor
If you’re a young, poor woman who’s just had a baby or a homeless mom hopping from friend’s couch to friend’s couch, Tiawana Bullock is going to be your best friend, your big sister or your nagging aunt — depending on whichever personality makes you do what’s right for yourself and your family.
“People have a heartfelt desire to do something good,” says Bullock, who works for the Family Service Agency of Marin. “The hard part is to pull that out of them.”
Bullock caretakes up to 10 families as part of the Southern Marin Services program, which helps low-income mothers navigate the labyrinth of medicine, childcare and, hopefully, education to escape the cycle of poverty. Now 40, she knows of what she speaks. “I really struggled as a young lady,” she says, thinking of her days raising three kids alone. But today, living in a Marin City townhome and married to a minister, she says her focus is improving the lives of those around her.
Her biggest priority: “More affordable housing.”
Joel Fay — The Cop Doc
Joel Fay is armed and educated. A cop for 33 years, the last 22 with the San Rafael Police Department, Fay is one of about 20 “cop docs” in the country.
He earned his doctorate in psychology in 1999, working nights and going to school days part time for nine years. “The motivation came out of what I encountered on the street,” says Fay. “I kept asking myself, ‘How can I do this better?’”
As the head of the police department’s Mental Health Liaison Program, Fay helps fellow officers cope with mentally ill people who run afoul of the law. Many of them are homeless. “We’re trying to get people help, trying to solve the problem,” he says. “Homelessness is a law enforcement problem, but law enforcement doesn’t have the tools to fix it.”
Fay is also the founder of the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat, which he calls “my love.” The weeklong West Marin program, one of only two in the country, treats cops, firefighters and other emergency personnel for the stress that comes with their jobs.
Jared Huffman — The Green Politician
Jared Huffman arrived in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2006, as a freshman legislator with a long to-do list and not much time to do it in. Huffman is all but guaranteed three two-year terms (the maximum) representing the heavily Democratic Sixth Assembly District (Marin and southern Sonoma) and he’ll need it all to fulfill the reason he pushed the pause button on his career as a prominent environmental and public interest attorney: to make California a greener place to live.
“This is not about resume-building for me,” says Huffman. “I’m in Sacramento to do something, not to just be something.” Huffman has his name on a lengthy roster of active environmental and consumer legislation, including bills that reward alternative energy generation and lower insurance costs for motorists who drive less.
“Marin,” says Huffman, “needs to come to terms with how to keep things that make this place special, while embracing change to some broader issues that we can’t ignore — transportation, gentrification and workforce housing.”
Mia Monroe — The Tree Keeper
Mia Monroe likes to call herself a “working ranger,” a self-description that is as diminutive as her size. Monroe is the site supervisor for Muir Woods, where she’s worked for 27 years, and even though she still leads tourists on tours and routinely stoops to retrieve litter as she strolls amid the forest, her mission is as lofty as the towering trees she cares for.
“I want to get people out in the natural world and to inspire them to take care of it,” she says. “For many people, Muir Woods is their first true natural experience — ‘this is what fresh air is supposed to smell like!’ For others, it’s good to just walk among the trees. And, for others, it’s the awe. Everyone who leaves here feels better.”
Although Muir Woods draws about 1 million visitors a year from all over the world, Monroe sees the 550-acre redwood canyon as a resource that’s quintessentially Marin. “I really feel Muir Woods is a county park,” she says. “We may be a national treasure, but this is really Marin’s park.”
Jonas Honick — The Hoops Coach
Jonas Honick is a big man, as a basketball coach should be. He taught the game of tall men in short pants to growing boys for 30 years, the last 27 at Branson School in Ross. Honick retired from coaching this year (he continues to teach history), leaving a legacy of success capped by three state championships in the last three years.
As a young man on the Harvard University team, Honick was a talented yet combustible player (his wife once called him “scrappy”). Later, as a coach, he channeled that passion into his boys and his own personal growth.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you coach,” says Honick, “a lot about human nature and a lot about other people. I got a lot better at coaching over time, but I really got a lot better at managing people.”
That’s a life lesson that will far outlast a good pair of hands and a decent outside jump shot.
Donna Bjorn — The Civic Activist
When Donna Bjorn was raising her daughters in San Anselmo, she was a typical working mom—busy, busy, busy. “I really had no time to do anything for the community,” she says. “I knew nothing about what was going on in the county.”
Today, nest empty and retired from her job as a marketing VP for Blue Shield, Bjorn knows everything about the nit and grit of local government. On the board of directors for the Marin League of Women Voters, and for four years its president, Bjorn combines a salt-of-the-earth practicality with a passion for public policy. Her goal: persuade the electorate to give a hoot about issues as complex as they are important.
At the top of Bjorn’s list is changes at Marin General Hospital. “It’s the place where the needy people of this county get health care.” Also on her radar: the education gap between Marin’s affluent and poor, campaign reform and workforce housing (“most of the people who work in the county can’t afford to live here”).
Monica Jimenez — The College Prepper
Monica Jimenez arrived in Marin from El Salvador when she was 9, the third of three children being raised by a single mother who has two core beliefs: Education is important and hard work will take you a long way.
While her mom worked as housekeeper to support her family, Jimenez made it through Bahia Vista Elementary, Davidson Middle and Marin Catholic High and, finally, Moraga University. Today, at 23, Jimenez manages the Summer Application Institute, a Marin Education Fund program that prepares financially disadvantaged high school students for college with SAT preparation, writing workshops, college tours and connection to an adult mentor. About 50 students participate. Last year, all of them moved on to college or trade school.
“I was part of the program in 2001,” says Jimenez. “I saw the help they gave me and wanted to do that for someone. Some parents don’t really stress education as much as Mom did. I want them and their children to hear that college is an option.”