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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

COTS

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Child Day Care, Children & Youth, Homeless & Housing, Homeless Centers, Homeless Shelters, Human Services, Scouting

Mission: COTS assists people to transition from homelessness to a permanent home.

Target demographics: end homelessness

Direct beneficiaries per year: 2,400

Geographic areas served: Sonoma County

Programs: Housing: Safe shelter and permanent housing. Services: Housing location services, Rapid Re-Housing, and programs to alleviate hunger. Community: Opportunities for thousands of program participants, donors, and volunteers to work towards a common goal of ending homelessness in our community.

Community Stories

42 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Mary Isaak Center should take care to screen the people they feed. Now that the word is out about M.I.C, this town(Mary Isaak Center) is being inundated with people that are degenerates and freeloaders that take away services from people who deserve the help in the position they find themselves in. Some of these folks are not even locals! look around folks...Thanks MIC.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I learned about COTS many years ago. They helped me tremendously in getting my life back.
I was a lost, sad, human being. I went through many losses in a short period of time.
Issues I had no control over.

They worked with me showing real interest in showing the way. I've been stable for ten years. I live in low income housing. Although, there are many problems where I live now.
I was homeless, my home is my sanctity. I'm very involved in protecting what I have earned.

What I admire about COTS is that they will work with you, and what I mean is FLEXIBILITY. That's so important in today's world. That's reality.

Thank God for COTS.

Thank you for helping me through the most difficult times in my life!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 1

I know a lot of people think that C.O.T.S. is a Great nonprofit. I, admit, that they project themselves quite well as one. The truth, however is a lot different than the rosy picture about themselves that they present. One thing that is true is that C.O.T.S. will do anything ethical or not to preserve their funding, their reputation within the community as well as the North Bay Area at anyone's expense. Take for example a gentlemen who was a two time graduate of the program (One of a very few at that time.). He believed in C.O.T.S. and helped them. What did they do to him? They sicked the police on him eventually suing him for $50,000 and tried to break him. Is this what great nonprofits do or are supposed to be about?

Please realize that C.O.T.S. intentions were good at first, however they become quite misguided as they only help the people that they want to help. Anyone who gets in their way they will destroy in a heartbeat. To me, this is not what Great nonprofits do.

Don't take my word for any of this. There are records available at the Courthouse in Santa Rosa regarding C.O.T.S.'s activities. Thank you.

4 The Flickman

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was asked to participate in COTS 2012 (April) as one of the many successful individuals and families that launched back into the mainstream of life. Well, it wasn't all that easy as I thought to get back in the mainstream of life again....I was a street person/homeless for six years in Santa Rosa until my egotistical pride let go and I decided to make a real change and came to MIC (Mary Isaak Center) in June '06. I wasn't there for drug and/or alchohol reasons but that I just needed to learn to get out of my own way. I had some killer jobs and responsibiities before this time and I even was confident I was making the success happen in my life. I even lived at the same residence as a renter for 16 1/2 years. I must have been doing something right. Then my world came apart. I came home from work one day to find a 30 day eviction notice. Everybody in the complex got one. The owner had sold the property and the new owner wanted us out by Thanksgiving so they could build a shopping center in that location. At least I had a job... so I thought. I got laid off 4 days later. I couldn't find work and housing etc. and I wasn't elegible for unemployment insurance payments yet. So I had to put my stuff in storage and then I hit the streets. Later on I lost the unit and my stuff anyway due to the fact I couldn't pay the rental fee no more. So much for my past life that I knew. Funny, they didn't teach us in school how to be shelterless LOL. I burned out some great friends because of my neediness and my lack of progress and so I increasingly became depressed and lost hope. Cots restored me and I'm a better person in so many ways. I've got lots of great friends again, live in my own apartment again, I got a gym membership again also and was able to reinvent myself :) I've been a hero to a lot of my friends now and they are more than willing to help me when needed. One friend even sold me a great little car he had extra and real cheap for $600, worth way more, just because he just wanted to help me. Sweet. My three years at MIC has been a blessing for me. I lost about a decade of my life dealing with the homeless stuff. Really, those weren't lost years, just different. Check out the COTS 2012 calendar, I'm "Mr. April". Notice that smile of mine and those of others in there, they are real and so are the people behind them. God Bless and thanks to all those who "suffered through" my stubbornness at MIC and gave me a hand up, not a handout. A big special thanks to all the many gracious donors, volunteers and the citizens of Petaluma which I now reside. The views expressed here does not necessarlly represent MIC, it's staff or it's clients. LOL

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to Committee On The Shelterless (COTS) by a neighbor when we first moved to Petaluma. My relationship with COTS began simply by me dropping off donations. I then inquired about the food service program, because I could see they had a kitchen on site that was serving meals to the local residents. I offered to volunteer at the kitchen one day a week. I loved the experinece so much, I kept going. It's been over two years now. And I still love it just as if it was my first week volunteering. The Petaluma Kitchen staff make everyone feel welcomed. When I was laid off, I found the volunteering rewarding and it helped me get out of the house and be part of my community. I felt needed and respected.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Joseph Vermette I am in the M.I.C. right now,I have been here long enough to get my life back on track. This wonderful place has saved my life, the staff here has given me more, Support,more resources, and more knowledge than any other place that I have been to in the 48 years that I have been alive. The meetings that are presented to us by the staff here are very helpful and spoken to us clearly with questions being answered at the end of and during every one of the meetings that I have been to here. On top of saving my life and enabling me to be a part of society once again I have found my way back to the lord our god wich has been very comforting to me. When I say "This place has saved my life" I would like everyone that reads this to understand that I was "At the end of my rope" I was homeless, I have Spinal Stenosis, my whole lumbar-L-1 thru S-1 has been fused and there is two Titanium rods being held together by 8 titanium screws in my back wich I re-injured 3 months after the original surgery because of my dependancy on Narcotics now and only recently have I been able to find Medical resourses to help me keep walking. All I can say and be honest is this, the Mary Isaak Center is the ultimate place to get whatever a person could possibly need to get their "act together" We even have controled aid for the people that are still out there on the streets, we let them use our showers,phones,computers,free clothes that have been donated, I coul;d go on and on all day about the good that this place does but I want to do my chore so God bless every one of you and have a very good and prosperous life. Good-bye

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have volunteered for years and met so many great individuals and families at COTS who were grateful for all the love, support and encouragement received from the COTS staff and thousands of volunteers. Yes, you have to really want to improve yourself at COTS and work hard...sacrifice to be there and be loving and accepting of others less fortunate than yourself...nothing is perfect...but by far and away this is an incredible and beautiful group of people functioning as a family moving forward in their lives.

Board Member

Rating: 5

From the time I moved to Petaluma in 1991, I became aware of COTS through newspaper articles and fundraising drives in town. I was impressed with the fact that a homeless services agency could build such strong support in every layer of the community, from the police and fire departments, to the City Council and staff, to the broad spectrum of citizens in our community. COTS is a very well-run organization that serves the people it touches with respect and support. The success stories that COTS has to share demonstrate that their programs and methods really make a difference in helping people rebuild and heal their lives. I consider COTS to be one of the core reasons that Petaluma is such a special place to live.

3

Client Served

Rating: 1

I came to MIC after calling them for 2 months! Most shelters you can just show up at intake hours but no Sonoma County likes to be elitists. I had to take a drug test even though I don't have any substance abuse issues. I would say that I am not a street person but like so many Americans these days, we can't find jobs to help us survive the high cost of living, especially in California. I was very committed to going to school. I was a full time student but I couldn't use the computer at MIC because the time was limited and there was no printer attached to help me with my homework. It took 3 1/2 hours out of my day to travel to the Santa Rosa Junior College. Because there was so much noise going on at the MIC shelter, I couldn't even study there. Yet and still, MIC, expected me to be volunteering my precious time that I really needed to relax from a very demanding and challenging school schedule. But no, you can't even relax and take a nap unless you get a note from a doctor! Many of us complained that we could never get any rest at MIC. There were a lot of "talks" by staff that were supposed to motivate and inform us, but these people were not trained in speaking and their high minded thoughts didn't connect with everyday homeless lifestyles. Many of us were disgusted by these sophomoric talks. They were not helping us. Then unlike most shelters, the homeless are not allowed to bring their suitcases to MIC. The staff here thinks they are so clever that they have come up with a clear small tote box. They are 2 feet by 14". What can you put in that? They also make it easy for people to get in them and steal what they want. If you had your own suitcase you could lock it up and protect your property. But no this would be like having the same rules that most other shelters have. MIC has to be DIFFERENT but they are not necessarily helpful! Other shelters even have a room or small storage building/shed for your suitcases and belongings. Not MIC. they have a clothing room and none of the residents are encouraged to get clothes. These are for the people sleeping outside. They come at 9 to 11 am and take showers, wash clothes and get clothes. The residents have to get out of their way. All the money that is spent on the MIC/cots salaries could be better channeled directly to us homeless. We could change our lives with that money. But don't try to be a sober sane student trying to make a better life because they will not help you. They have no program for people like this!

Comments ( 3 )

profile

COTS 11/19/2010

We at COTS regret that this person felt their needs were not met. Thousands of people COTS has helped would strongly disagree with this negative assessment of our free programs.

profile

COTS 11/19/2010

We at COTS regret that this person felt their needs were not met. Thousands of people COTS has helped would strongly disagree with this negative assessment of our free programs.

profile

COTS 11/20/2010

My name is Joseph Vermette I am in the M.I.C. right now,I have been here long enough to get my life back on track. This wonderful place has saved my life, the staff here has given me more, Support,more resources, and more knowledge than any other place that I have been to in the 48 years that I have been alive. The meetings that are presented to us by the staff here are very helpful and spoken to us clearly with questions being answered at the end of and during every one of the meetings that I have been to here. On top of saving my life and enabling me to be a part of society once again I have found my way back to the lord our god wich has been very comforting to me. When I say "This place has saved my life" I would like everyone that reads this to understand that I was "At the end of my rope" I was homeless, I have Spinal Stenosis, my whole lumbar-L-1 thru S-1 has been fused and there is two Titanium rods being held together by 8 titanium screws in my back wich I re-injured 3 months after the original surgery because of my dependancy on Narcotics now and only recently have I been able to find Medical resourses to help me keep walking. All I can say and be honest is this, the Mary Isaak Center is the ultimate place to get whatever a person could possibly need to get their "act together" We even have controled aid for the people that are still out there on the streets, we let them use our showers,phones,computers,free clothes that have been donated, I coul;d go on and on all day about the good that this place does but I want to do my chore so God bless every one of you and have a very good and prosperous life. Good-bye

Donor

Rating: 5

We have just returned from COTS annual fundraising breakfast where over 600 people from the community came to hear about the important work COTS does to put homeless and vulnerable adults and children back on their feet, in a safe environment, restoring their self-esteem and self-confidence. The results are so positive and so powerful that there isn't a big enough meeting hall in the city to accommodate all the people that want to be part of helping COTS address this critical human need. They come to pledge funds not just for one year or two years, but five years so that COTS can develop longer term plans to help their many clients.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a non-profit that does NOT use the "patch-it up" approach, this organization works to solve the very issues that lead an individual or family to seek help to ensure that one can stand back on their own two feet, with self-confidence and hope. As their intro video says, everyone falls on their knees sometimes. I volunteered with COTS as a family team member, were I was matched with a family and other volunteers to support their growth and help them to reach their goals. I immediately repeated the experience because of the positive impact possible I saw in my first year as a volunteer!

1 Tina M.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

Many years ago, i worked at COTS in the child-care program. It provided a standard that i tend to hold all other non-profits to. They had a comprehensive approach to children and their families that is hard to match. Northern Cal. is fortunate to have this resource so handy.

Meg E.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is nothing short of amazing. The staff is very competent across the board. Very caring and also demanding of clients as needed to get them back on their feet. They have innovative "treatments" like Tai Chi, and many programs (Rent right, for one) to help people get on their feet, working, and in suitable affordable housing. John Records is a driving loving force for good. He's brought many Petaluma citizen volunteers on board and donors on board to support COTS financially. I attribute the wonderful Mary Isaac Center's development to John's efforts in the community. Of course, many people contributed. Some formerly homeless people are now on staff making a huge difference in people lives. It's one of the many things that Petaluma can be very proud of.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

COTS is an exceptional organization is that it provides much more than food and shelter to homeless singles and families. COTS addresses each program participant with loving kindness and services to support practical, emotional and social well-being. Each person is seen as a unique human being capable of moving beyond trauma to the highest expression of who they are. Each person who comes into the program is met with a caring staff person who creates an environment that promotes growth and sobriety. Multiple programs foster personal insight and achievement.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for COTS in several capacities over the last 6 years. I stick around because it is always apparent to me that COTS is a well-run and effective organization. My time is put to good use and I always feel appreciated. There are many ways to help and it allows me to take action to help people rather than just write a check, though I am happy doing that too.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a wonderful organization that assists the needed with a whole approach rather than piece meal. John Records is an outstanding role model and has such emphathy for all participants.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered at the COTS preschool program beginning in Feb. 2006. I admired the dedication of the teacher's and staff. They provided a caring, nurturing, secure and a valuable teaching experience for children from toddlers to grade school. The children flourished in this environment. It was wonderful to see the joy of learning, sharing and character building the children responded to. Both parents and children were fortunate to have been a part of these programs.

Donor

Rating: 5

Petaluma is lucky to have COTS. COTS does amazing work in a multifaceted way to help teh homeless inour community. I'm proud to be a donor.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have always been proud to serve COTS with donations -- food, clothing, furniture, raffle prizes for events -- it is a fabulous group of men and women who really stand behind what they are dong to help our community. They get individuals and families back on their feet and offer respect and admiration in the process. They are such an instrumental part of Petaluma's community spirit!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a remarkable organization that I have had the privilege of volunteering for a couple times. I would highly recommend anyone to choose COTS volunteering as a way to give back to the community, and to see an amazing integrated set of services in action. COTS is working to help homeless individuals and families recreate a life filled with hope and possibility. They provide physical shelter, resources, trainings, services and other innovative services (including mindfullness, trauma therapy, life skills) but what's incredibly unique is the human heartfulness that exudes from the organization. It is how they meet each person with full dignity that makes as much difference as all the services they provide.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is the most effective non-profit agency that I have had the opportunity to witness. Through all of its work in supporting individuals who need a "hand up", COTS communicates a respect and unflagging optimism for the capacity of humans. I am grateful that COTS offers not just a bed and meal (though both crucial assets) to those in need, it also uses research-based tools to educate and renew/build positive skills and habits in the areas of parenting, money management, and finding and maintaining a good place to live. The leadership at COTS is visionary and has worked together with staff to create a comprehensive program that has been exported in many different settings. I can't say enough positive about the work of COTS.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

COTS really does save lives one person at a time. They understand the issues that create homelessness and cure the problem from the inside out. They run as a top rate business but cure people like a top rate charity. They are the most educated and caring community you can have. Petaluma is fortunate to have COTS part of the local infastructure. They are the most caring and supportive group you can find!

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is one of the most well run organizations I have ever been involved in. It is truly successful in every aspect of their mission and is a model for other similar organizations.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first met John Records when I was interested in bringing Yoga Nidra meditation classes to COTS at the Mary Isaac Center. John's life story and generous soul guided my decision to teach a 6 week program there. What a surprise and delight to meet and get to know a dedicated group of eager and curious people in the program at Mary Isaac Center. I found that it was a reciprocal teaching; I learned from week to week more about my students, their struggles and courage, as they learned the benefits of yoga practice. I continued to teach yoga movement classes long after the 6 weeks, and cried when I had to make the decision to leave that program. Thank you John Records for your work and generosity, and to all the participants in my classes who touched my heart and soul.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

My friend and her family ended up at COTS a number of years ago. They were helped with shelter at first, education and eventually with food assistance when they were out of the shelter. Many people in Petaluma have used a COTS program or volunteered at COTS. They are a staple in our community. I give what I can to COTS now and feel confident that the money and supplies that I give are well used.

9

Donor

Rating: 5

We are fortunate to have so many fine organizations and individuals doing such great work in our community. COTS is especially deserving of our attention because it works, and addresses needs at the most fundamental levels. In this New Year, I would encourage everyone to take a moment and check out some of their fine programs and consider suppoorting COTS.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS has become an integral part of the local community by providing programs that enable homeless people to confront the issues that caused their homelessness and work to enable them to rejoin mainstream society. A special focus is given to children to ensure that they do not suffer from the homeless experience and end up homeless themselves. A particularly impressive aspect of the way that COTS works is that it uses large numbers of community volunteers in many different ways, thereby increasing the bond between the community and the organization, and demonstrating to the clients that the community is supportive. It's 'tough love' policies (zero drug and alcohol tolerance, for example) have demonstrated some amazing results in relatively short time horizons. I'm proud to be able to be a part of this organization.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

My experience is as a donor and fundraiser. My enthusiasm the work increases continually along with my admiration for the organization and its mission. COTS (Committee on the Shelterless) aids and trains derailed individuals/families in the economic basics and life skills necessary to stabilize into self sufficient lives. The staff and volunteers of this organization truly have "linebacker eyes and Peace Corps hearts." They perform the mission with impeccable efficiency and accountatility to donors and stakeholders.

9

Former Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a former volunteer for The Kitchen, a food service operated by COTS in Petaluma. COTS provides much more than shelter services. They have multiple programs that help folks transition from homelessness to employment and housing. They also provide hot meals, both for the homeless and those who need food. They deliveer food to families in need. At the time I was there, a nurse came to the day shelter regularly to administer medications or ensure medication compliance for the mentally ill. They worked closely with the police dept. to help folks clear up warrants and obtain valid IDs to assist them in their quest for self sufficiency. They had, and may still have, a program for prevention of homelessness by working with folks to help them manage their finances. They have day care facilities for homeless families. When I was there, they had a program to prevent panhandling by sending someone out to invite them to participate in their programs. I would encourage everyone to support this fine organization.

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

My wife brought me to COTS. She said it is the most helpful, meaningful organization in town. She introduced me to the executive director, John Records. In a short time I began to get the feel of COTS. My training and degrees have been in the area of ecumenical theology, working to help Christian communities work together and get together for the good of society. The more I got to know COTS, the more I realized that they are doing in our community what all the Christian churches are constantly being challenged to do and be through the Gospel, but have not been able to do because of their dividedness. No church group in our community has been able to reflect Matthew 25 in our community the way COTS has. I'm so happy that COTS is around, very alive and well. And I'm honored to serve on its Board.

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have not only seen and been impressed with the actual operations of COTS, but I've personally known people who have been residents of their shelters and have heard first hand from them about how awesome this organization is. What's special about COTS is that they do far more than give out fish, they teach people to fish. They help to educate, support and encourage people so when they leave this shelter, they have a better chance for success at leaving homelessness forever.

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Petaluma is very fortunate to have COTS - Committee on the Shelterless in our community. My family and I have been volunteers for many years and helped raise money and awareness. From the adults to the children that are encouraged, comforted, and given hope, I am proud to be a part of this organization as a volunteer and donor. Individuals are given an opportunity to succeed and build a future for themselves. Thank you to John Records and his staff and board for the contributions to our community. I am currently involved in developing a template COTS transitional education home in Petaluma for 8 single adults. This is the year long signature community project for AAUW which I am a board member of.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have many clients that have loved ones that have received support from COTS! Thank you for helping individuals and families find housing, employment and supportive services. All are very grateful for the work that you all do in the community!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've spent some time around COTS and interacted with clients and staff. It's amazing how this organization not only provides "relief" to those in desperate need, but actually enables its homeless clients to build independent lives with dignity and comfort. There are so many elements to this labor of love--from resume building and job skills training to family counseling to education to spiritual support--not to mention the free meals and beds. And ultimately, the clients have to contribute too, which they do with warmth and enthusiasm, making COTS a culture of kindness.

5

Board Member

Rating: 5

Having worked most of my life as a business executive, was surprised to find COTS. Run like a business, but changes people's life one day at a time. Many of the clients tearfully thank COTS for being there for them. The passion of the volunteers, staff is like nothing I ever saw in the business world. There is no better leader for this organization than John Records. I am proud to have been a volunteer for over two years with COTS and look forward as a recent board member to more involvement.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is perhaps the most caring, most demanding and most effective non profit in the region - if not the nation. Mr Records, the wise leader, has built a cadre of thinkers, workers and innovators who have been able to adjust and adapt to an ever changing economy, funding cycles and red tape. COTS stands out in a community of other effective non-profits that serve the community - due in part to a clear mission and purpose that were present from the very beginning. The "hand up, not a hand out" credo is a message that works with families and individuals who are without permanent housing."COTS helped me get back on my feet again.." is a comment I hear from former clients. The credo also works well with funders who are often suspicious of similar efforts in other places.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My association with COTS began in 1990 when I began delivering food to needy families in the Petaluma area. I have since volunteered in other capacities and have grown to regard COTS as an amazing organization that has saved hundreds of lives and improved the lives of thousands more. They do this with a small but dedicated staff that rallies hundreds of volunteers to serve the needs of homeless and needy people throughout Petaluma and southern Sonoma County.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a spectacular, inspiring place where miracles happen. People's lives are transformed. I have been a volunteer at COTS for the past several years and helped my colleagues establish a somatic trauma clinic there. The executive director, staff, and residents have received us most warmly and with deep gratitude. It's a blessing to be connected to COTS.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love volunteering at the Mary Isaac Center. Everyone is very nice and they make me feel so appreciated while at the same time I am doing the same for them - by showing care and giving attention. This is a top notch organization. The rules are strict for one reason only - to help people get through this difficult time in their lives and get them back on their feet. With all the people I have come to know here, it is clearly visible that support and camaraderie exists amongst everyone. John Records tireless hours in building this valuable shelter into one of the finest in the country is something I will never forget in my lifetime.

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

COTS does an excellent job in helping homeless individuals and families to get back on their feet and being back as a productive part of the society. A lot of thought and planning go into the programs to help the clients get to a better place. I am a donor, volunteer, and Board Member...Have been involved in one way or another since 1994..

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

In 2004, I sought out the E.D. of COTS to learn more about this unique comprehensive homeless service organization and completed an administrative internship at COTS in 2005. Since that time, I've continued to learn about COTS' integrative programming and approach and have provided some consultation on Motivational Strategies to front-line staff as needed. Through the State University of New York at Albany School of Social Welfare, I am working with COTS on a project looking at the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Among Homeless People. Recently, I interviewed many COTS staff persons and wrote an article about COTS programming. COTS is an award-winning homeless service organization, and I am interested in articulating their approach in support of replication and evaluation.

4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

An organization that embraces integrity to a level far and above. Everyone who comes in contact with COTS knows that their commitment to quality service is best served by well working systems both inside and out of the organization. Every aspect of COTS is a class act. They are THE model I point to when talking to others involved in direct service work!