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THE BUZZ: Rotary distributes checks, Festival of Trees gets big donation, and Mitchell Altieri starts new scary movie

ROTARY DISTRIBUTES CHECKS TO VICTIMS OF FIRES: “This was one of the best days of my life,” writes Leland Fishman, owner of Petaluma’s Fishman Supply Co., describing the day last week when he handed out three $1,000 grant checks to victims of the recent fires. The money, raised and contributed by members of Sunrise Rotary Club, is just a fraction of the $30,000 the group will be distributing over the next few weeks. Writes Fishman, a former president of Sunrise Rotary, of the first allocations, “One was a fourth grade teacher, one a young man in his 20’s who works for a manufacturing company, and one to a partially disabled retiree who escaped her mobile home just as her neighbors’ home burst into flames. All three ultimately lost everything except what they wore as they fled.”

In all three cases, he points out, the recipients didn’t know he was coming.

“The relief in their eyes, when I presented them with the money, was palpable,” he says. “I cried with two of them, got hugs from them. In the case of the teacher, I was asked to present in front of her class, and to explain what Rotary was, and how we came to raise the money to help their teacher.”

More checks were distributed last Thursday and Friday. Two to maintenance workers at a local health clinic, one to a hair stylist who lost her home and whose clients lost theirs. Another teacher received a grant, along with a young paramedic who lost her home and a single dad who works in retail. A total of thirteen checks for $1000 have now been distributed, and according to Fishman, decisions will be made this week about allocation of the remaining $17,000.

FESTIVAL OF TREES RECEIVES VALUABLE DONATIONS WITH HELP FROM SPORTS WRITER BOB PADECKY: The annual Festival of Trees fundraiser, presented by the Fabulous Women of Sonoma County on Dec. 1-2, may break records this year, with the addition of memorabilia donated by actual record-breakers. The event raises money for a selected number of local nonprofits, and this year will also be collecting funds for fire victims. In addition to a treasure-trove of auction items already assembled, former Press Democrat sports writer Bob Padecky will be donating several items from his own sports memorabilia collection. And that’s not all. “I am collecting sports memorabilia for the fundraiser, and have already received donations from all of the Bay Area pro teams, including the good people at Sonoma Raceway,” says Padecky. “Private collectors have donated items as well. This is an amazing opportunity to do good and make some positive impact on the recovery effort.”

Festival of Trees, with the 2017 theme “Comfort and Joy,” takes place Friday, Dec. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 2, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. The location is Hotel Petaluma, 205 Kentucky St. For information visit Thefabulouswomen.com.

‘STRIKING OUT’ EVENT RAISES OVER $150,000 DESPITE LAST-MINUTE VENUE CHANGE: Besting last year’s record by over $25,000, this year’s Striking Out Childhood Cancer fundraiser attracted more than 225 people to the benefit event on Oct. 22. First filling up the Boulevard Lanes bowling alley for the tournament — which included a Hero Lane, hosting local survivors of cancer and their families — the crowd then relocated across town for a gala party and auction at the Elks Lodge. The venue was a last-minute change from the originally scheduled Veterans Building, unavailable to the organizers due to its being used as an evacuee center for those displaced by the fires. Striking Out Childhood Cancer is a benefit for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a non-profit formed to raise awareness and fund research into childhood cancers. The event is sponsored by the family of C.J. Banaszek, in honor of the Petaluma boy’s birthday. C.J, who passed away from complications of leukemia in 2014, would have been 17 this year. Donations to the cause are still being taken at www.alexslemonade.org/campaign/striking-out-childhood-cancer.

MITCHELL ALTIERI’S NEW THRILLER CURRENTLY FILMING IN THE “BLUEGRASS STATE”: “Two Sonoma County boys, making a movie in Western Kentucky.”

That’s the start of the note received recently by THE BUZZ from Petaluma filmmaker Mitchell Altieri (“The Hamiltons,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff”), writing in from the set of his latest horror-thriller “Star Light,” which he is co-directing with Lee Cummings of Santa Rosa.

“The story revolves around a teenager whose life is turned upside down when he helps a world famous pop star on the run from her violent pursuers,” explains Altieri. The thriller is being produced by Jeffrey Allard, who brought us the 2003 ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ remake and its sequel, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning.’ It stars actress Scout Taylor Compton, who played Laurie Stroud in Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ remake, and the sequel ‘Halloween II.’

The crew just started week two of the shoot, which will continue until the end of the month.

“It’s been great,” says Altieri. “We have an amazing cast.”

CINNABAR WINS MTJA AWARD FOR POSTER DESIGN FOR CLOWN-CENTRIC ‘PAGLIACCI’: On Monday, Nov. 6, during a casual ceremony at Santa Rosa’s Confluence Taproom and Lounge, the Sonoma County-based Marquee Theater Journalists Association presented awards for outstanding achievement in a number of categories. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater was named for best Poster/Program design for Victoria Von Thal’s atmospheric and eye-catching artwork for last season’s opera “Pagliacci.”

ESCAPED ALLIGATOR FOUND IN PETALUMA BACKYARD: In a story that might have made headlines had it not taken place just before the devastating Sonoma County firestorms, a Petaluma couple discovered a live alligator in their backyard koi pond on Thursday, Oct. 5. After calling police to report “a four foot reptile with lots of teeth,” Karen David-Brown was sure that authorities would think she was hallucinating. When they showed up, however, they discovered the alligator attempting to escape, and it was soon apprehended by Petaluma Animal Services officer Mark Scott, who trapped the toothy carnivore with a net, quickly duct-taping its mouth shut to protect himself from alligator bites. The creature was later found to be the property of Bonnie Cromwell, operator of the popular Classroom Safari educational program. Dubbed Darth Gator, the alligator skipped out during transportation to a new facility.

(Got a suggestion of an item for THE BUZZ? Write to David Templeton at david.templeton@argus-courier.com)