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North Coast Opportunities Names New Executive Director, NCO Veteran Patty Bruder

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ukiah, CA – After almost 30 years with North Coast Opportunities, Patty Bruder began her new role as Executive Director on November 18, 2013. Bruder has served as NCO’s Community Action Agency Director for the past 15 years, and according to NCO Board President Lisa Ray, Bruder’s loyalty, competence, and vision combined to make her the best choice to fill the Executive Director position.

NCO is blending the Community Action Agency Director and Executive Director positions to improve efficiency and free up funds for new projects, since significant overlap existed between the two positions. “As a Community Action Agency for Lake and Mendocino Counties, NCO serves as a community focal point for fighting poverty by promoting self-sufficiency. It makes good programmatic and fiscal sense for NCO to combine the positions and restructure NCO to integrate our programs so we’re more of a one-stop-shop for the low-income people we serve,” Bruder said.

Bruder’s appointment is also supported by her colleagues, who know first hand the type of leader she is. “We are thrilled to have Patty as our new ED. She knows how to get things done and already has wonderful relationships established with local partners and community leaders throughout Lake and Mendocino Counties,” said CFO Carolyn Welch, who has served as Interim ED for the past few months.

Bruder has been active in the local food movement, supporting programs like the Gardens Project, Farm2Fork, BEANS, and more. “It all started about 12 years ago as we were reviewing our community needs survey. Community members reported concerns about health, obesity and diabetes; health care costs; access to healthy foods; economic concerns and lack of jobs; food security; lack of cooking skills; and disaster preparedness. These are all big issues, and we wondered what we could do that would have an impact. People were struggling to make ends meet, often the cheapest foods are the unhealthiest, and we wanted to reduce the costs of health care,” she explained.

“As our committee talked, we began to develop strategies. ‘Could we reduce health care costs through prevention?’ we wondered. Some poor health is lifestyle-related, and by encouraging people to stay as healthy as possible, we hoped to prevent some illness,” she said. Bruder and the rest of the committee decided to promote programs that create access to affordable, healthy food.

“Our farmers produce amazing quality vegetables locally; but they are small farmers, and without the benefit of any farm subsidies they need to charge the true cost of production,” she said. Many families simply can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables, and some families no longer know how to cook from scratch.

Bruder knew community gardens could provide access to healthy food. At the same time, gardens provide opportunities for exercise and bring people together in ways that strengthen community (both healthy endeavors). By supporting small farmers and helping to “grow” more farmers, Bruder believed they could also have an impact on job creation.

Today, along with their partners, North Coast Opportunities Community Action brings community resources together to encourage health and hope, according to Bruder. “We’ve created a structure that develops both individual and community-level food self-reliance while addressing the needs of high-risk, low-income people through education about nutrition, cooking skills, income-patching with value-added foods, and micro-enterprise opportunities,” she said.

NCO’s work with the food movement is significant, but only the tip of the NCO iceberg. NCO’s programs include all the Community Action Agency projects, Head Start Child Development Program, Leadership Mendocino, Rural Communities Child Care, Redwood Caregivers Resource Center, Foster Grandparents, and the Volunteer Network. To learn more about NCO and its many programs, visit