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By RICHARD FREEDMAN | rfreedman@timesheraldonline.com | Vallejo Times Herald

PUBLISHED: December 29, 2020 at 3:48 p.m. | UPDATED: December 29, 2020 at 5:01 p.m.

Pati Navalta wore black leggings and a tweed blazer. To Carmen Reyes, it may as well have been a Wonder Woman costume. Navalta, founder of the Robby Poblete Foundation, handed Reyes $5,000 in gift and gas cards to the Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence. “Oh my goodness, this is amazing,” said Reyes, the nonprofit’s executive director. “It will help a lot of clients.” Reyes, Navalta, and Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan gathered briefly for photographs and the gift card hand-off late Tuesday morning in front of the government building at 420 Virginia St. It was Hannigan’s office that serendipitously launched the project with a $1,000 donation to the Poblete Foundation earlier this year, said Navalta, who matched the $1,000. Helping the Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence was a way to “align with our mission” while contributing to the community after COVID-19 postponed the Poblete Foundation’s career fair, Solano Gun Buyback and Art of Peace programs, Navalta said. The gift card timing couldn’t be much better said Reyes, heading the Solano Advocacy Victims of Violence since its 2016 inception. “It’s been very busy” since the pandemic started, Reyes said. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there are “a lot more people in closed quarters, a lot more who have issues,” Reyes said. “We’ve had a lot more hotel stays with families; not just a woman, a lot of kids through Christmas, which is sad. But we’re glad we were able to help.” 

The Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence works with mostly domestic violence victims “so when they’re fleeing, just fled, getting ready to flee, we get them out of the situation and keep them safe,” Reyes said. “And they need everything — the basics like toiletries, diapers, essentials. This (the gift cards) will give them what they need to buy whatever they need. It will help tremendously.”

Though the Advocates for Victims of Violence doesn’t have its own shelter, Reyes said emergency shelter is provided when possible, “which is usually hotel space.” The organization also accompanies clients to court dates, helps with restraining orders and has a grant that pays for attorneys “so when they go to court, they have representation. A lot of times, they didn’t before. Only the batterers did,” Reyes said. Hannigan said her initial $1,000 couldn’t have been better used. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “We have more victims of violence this year than ever before as a result of COVID and the stay-at-home order when victims end up in the same household as their abuser.” Reyes said Solano Advocacy for Victims of Violence serves roughly 700 clients annually. “It’s important we help them as much as we can to stay above water,” Hannigan said. Navalta complemented the gift and gas card donation with 100 Robby Poblete Foundation draw-string bags and T-shirts in one of the few projects it could do in 2020. Earlier this year, the Foundation donated $10,000 in personal protective equipment to San Quentin. In 2021 “we hope to go back to the programs we started,” Poblete said. “We received calls from an organization in Germany that wants to model our program there and Richmond wants to launch their Art of Peace. And Detroit wants to partner with us on their gun buyback and Art of Peace.” Poblete said she hopes the Solano Gun Buyback returns to the Solano County Fairgrounds. “With the pandemic, there’s been a rise in gun violence. More people started buying guns, more kids staying home from school are vulnerable to accidental shootings and domestic violence victims are stuck with their abuser. And people are depressed because they lost their job. “Navalta said. “We need gun buyback more than ever in 2021.” Navalta started the foundation after her son, Robby, was shot and killed Sept. 21, 2014, in daylight at a Vallejo intersection. He was 23.

For more information, visit robbypobletefoundation.org.