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Newsletter of the Rancho Los Alamitos Volunteer Service Council

Co-editors Doug Cox and Roxanne Patmor

August 2023 - In this issue ...

  • VSC Perspectives
  • Coming Soon! Buses, Students, and Tours
  • Handsewn Gifts from Beverly Miller
  • Just Around the Corner – the Ranchos Walk

In the Spotlight ...

  • Volunteer Patrick Coil
  • Director of Development Erin Wilson
  • RLAF Board Chair Henry Taboada

VSC Perspectives

Doug Cox, VSC President

Crafted by the RLA’s DEIA Committee (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) for Rancho Los Alamitos, a critically important document called a Land Acknowledgement was unanimously approved by the RLAF board of directors at its August 9 meeting. The RLA Land Acknowledgement states:

Welcome to Rancho Los Alamitos. The Rancho sits atop the village of Povuun’nga, the sacred site of creation for the Tongva-Gabrielino peoples. Povuun’nga means “the gathering place.”


We are on the ancestral and unceded land of the Tongva people, who cared for this land for thousands of years and continue to do so today.


Rancho Los Alamitos is committed to sharing authentic narratives with our guests and building solid relationships with our indigenous community partners. As we gather in this place and time, we welcome you to join us in stewardship, learning, and reflection.

The DEIA Committee, chaired by Cyrus Parker-Jeannette, was asked to take the lead on developing the Rancho’s Land Acknowledgement. 


“Land Acknowledgements,” Cyrus says, “are delivered with genuine respect for and support of indigenous inhabitants as these important words can open doors to collaboration, respect, accountability and meaningful relationships between Native and non-Native peoples.” 


She adds that Land Acknowledgements are becoming a standard practice offered in numerous public events, performances, gatherings, cultural activities, and educational presentations.


Cyrus stresses that the document is a living statement, and may be revised. Additionally, the Rancho’s DEIA Committee is working on a more succinct version to be spoken by docents, staff, and volunteers on tours, presentations, and other interactions.


Cyrus presented a detailed overview of the Rancho Los Alamitos Land Acknowledgement to the Rancho community at the August 19 VSC meeting.

Coming Soon: Students, Buses, and Tours!

Contributor Donna Rogahn, RLA School Docent

As summer turns to fall, our thoughts naturally turn to our award-winning education programs and the school tours that are their foundation. The tours support the school district’s standards for California history and social science curricula for the third and fourth grades. The students step back in time to learn about the people who lived and worked on the Rancho and about the area’s earliest inhabitants, the indigenous Tongva people. This school year’s weekly visits begin in October and continue through the first week in June.


Third-graders arrive at the Ranch on Thursdays and participate in the Tongva Tovaave program. Tongva cultural educators describe early Tongva life and show examples of food, clothing, and shelter needed for survival. The program engages the students and teachers and preserves cultural stories for the next generation of Tongva youth. During their tour, they make a soapstone necklace, known as an amulet.


The fourth graders’ tour, Footprints on the Land, takes place on Wednesdays. The tour explores the site’s ranch house, gardens, and barnyard in connection with larger themes in California history, including diversity, change, and resilience. Their craft project uses leather strips to form a lariat bracelet. On Fridays, the Rancho offers live Zoom tours to fourth-grade classes, during which docents interact with students in engaging virtual tours of the house, garden, or barn areas.


Teachers tell us our field trips broaden the students’ horizons, help expand their learning, and make their textbooks come to life. Students benefit from learning about diverse perspectives and leave field trips with a sense of inclusion and belonging.  


If volunteers are interested in working with the school programs, contact Donna Rogahn at

During the 2022-2023 school year, 2,231 students and 73 teachers toured the Rancho. (1,163 students visited in person, and 1,068 participated in live Zoom presentations.)


The Rancho is committed to ensuring that schools and students from the under-resourced communities in Long Beach can experience this special place.

Thanks to grants and donations, all expenses, including buses, upon approval, are fully covered.

Handsewn Gifts from Beverly Miller Live On

When Rancho Los Alamitos opened to the public, Beverly Miller was one of its first docents. She continued to be an integral part of the program for many decades. She loved giving tours and helped plan many events. She, along with Marian Burton, recorded oral history interviews with many individuals who were associated with RLA and others who worked at properties managed from this Rancho. On May 3 of this year, Beverly passed away. 

Recently, Beverly’s daughter, Laurie Laos, came to RLA bearing an unexpected gift: costumes, many handsewn by Beverly herself. Curator Robin Herrera recognized the quality of the costumes and the generosity of the gift. She wanted the costumes to be used rather than stored in the Rancho’s archive. The Long Beach Playhouse seemed like the right place for them to go, a place they’d be used. Christina Bayer, the Playhouse’s resident designer and costume shop manager, took one look and excitedly accepted the donation. 

We are grateful to Beverly for her many years of service and for her daughter’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

This dress was handsewn by Beverly Miller for "Camera Day." Her daughter, Marilee, is modeling them in these two photos.

Photos courtesy of Laura Laos.

Just around the corner! It’s the Rancho-to-Rancho Walk 

On September 23, the 5th Annual Ranchos Walk celebration will begin at Rancho Los Cerritos and end at Rancho Los Alamitos. Whether walking the full 9.4-mile walk or opting for the shorter 6- or 3.5-mile trails, participants will encounter native plants in several locations, including Reservoir Hill, Hilltop Park in Signal Hill, and Willow Springs Park. 

As participants end their walks, RLA will greet them at the security gate to check wristbands and direct them to the Rancho. When they reach the barns lawn, they will find a tent with RLA staff and volunteers ready to welcome them to our Tovaave table. The Tongva Basketry Collective will also be ready to answer questions about their work. Participants can enjoy a plate of Cambodian BBQ from Battambong BBQ, and Beachwood Brewing will be serving beer for purchase. All activities start at 10 am and will end by 2 pm.

RLA volunteers serving drinks to thirsty walkers after the 2022 Rancho Walk. Photo by Doug Cox.

Rancho-to-Rancho walkers enjoying some welcome shade. Photo by Doug Cox.

We are very grateful for the Rancho-to-Rancho Walk sponsors: Beachwood Brewing, Port of Long Beach, and 4th District Councilman Daryl Supernaw.

In the Spotlight!

Docent Committee Chair Pat Coil

What made you decide to become a Rancho volunteer?

Actually, it was a result of taxes. My tax lawyer called me in late January 2016, telling me we needed to meet due to my retirement as a result of my former employer going private. The Tax Man was a-comin! So, the lawyer visited me and, after our meeting, asked if I'd ever toured Rancho Los Alamitos. Honestly, I knew nothing of the place, so late Thursday afternoon, we came a’ visiting the Rancho.

Upon arrival, I immediately loved the beauty and the serenity of the place. I, too, enjoyed my introduction to the Rancho's animals and its rich history by our tour guide, Barbara MaHaffie. I asked so many questions that she suggested I attend the Saturday recruitment session taking place in a few weeks.

I showed up, got a tour of the gardens by Don Hucker (I said to myself, “This guy really knows his stuff” - so impressed), then toured the House. Upon exiting, I met Roberta (Rogoff). She quickly convinced me with her enthusiasm and excitement to become a Docent. I signed up for the next training class beginning in April 2016. Yep, all because of "The Tax Man."


How long have you been volunteering here?

As noted above, since April 2016. Our April class was taught by Don Hucker and Stephen Sitarski. 


What do you like best about the time you spend at the Rancho?

This actually is a deeper question than it appears. There are many levels on which I like spending time at the Rancho. From the very first visit, when I exited my car, I was struck by how beautiful and quiet the Rancho is/was. Secondly, I love the animals as they add to the tranquility of the Rancho. Thirdly, the site's rich history and my continued learning of its ongoing history. Finally, the above reasons are wrapped in the palms of our wonderful volunteers' caring and enthusiasm for the Rancho.

From Docents to volunteer Gardeners to the Outreach team to our Guest Host volunteers and all other areas of volunteering, I marvel at being a part of this little paradise I simply call the Rancho.


What’s your favorite thing to hear from visitors?

"Oh my goodness, I never knew that". And most importantly, "I'm coming back bringing family and friends."


What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering here?

There are so many opportunities to explore as a volunteer at the Rancho that your involvement will only be limited by how much time you want to spend here.


What do you like to do when you’re not at the Rancho?

Love traveling, visiting and staying connected to my extended family, reading, and I'm a winter sports person. So yes, I love and still snow ski. Anybody up to hit the slopes in 2023-24?


What’s something that makes your day better?

Well, to begin with... Waking up is a very, very good start. I feel once awake; the day just keeps getting better. 


What’s the one word your friends and family would use to describe you?



Who would play you in a movie of your life?

I've actually given this some thought once I saw it listed as a question; I know it's optional to answer, but I've come to realize 'Linus" would be best playing me.

I grew up in an area known as the pumpkin-growing capital of the world, Halfmoon Bay. Hence, like 'Linus', I too believe in the Great Pumpkin. Like 'Linus,' I, too, have my 'security blanket.' Finally, I love 'Linus' explanation of the meaning of Christmas and how simple, yet philosophically deep its description was/is no matter one's religion; "Good Will to All".

Additionally, my "twin' has all the wonderful and good/smart qualities 'Linus' sister 'Lucy' has. So smart. So yep, nothing like having a cartoon character such as 'Linus' to ‘flesh out’ a hu-man!


What else do you want us to know?

I want all the volunteers to know how impressed I am at their commitment to "The Rancho' and how much I appreciate being a part of them. How giving and caring all the volunteers are and how much they make this place so special to our guests, and to me.

The volunteers make up the new Rancho family and, day in, and day out, continue to give life and meaning to the Tong'va and Bixby families which once lived here. And because of all the volunteers at the Rancho just around the next corner of the house's rooms, barn, or garden, the Tong'va and Bixby Family's history is very much alive.  

In the Spotlight!

Director of Development Erin Wilson

On July 17, Erin Wilson joined RLA’s leadership team as its director of development. Now, with a month under her belt, she shares information about her life, interests, and goals for helping Rancho Los Alamitos fund its educational mission.


Can you share a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Long Beach. I lived in Seville after college but missed my home and came back.


Can you tell us a bit about what shaped your interest in history?

History was always my best subject! I’ve always been interested in American history, and the impact colonization has had on indigenous people across North America.

I recently spent five hours at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, reading every name and narrative that accompanied the photos and artifacts. It’s important to respect to those who made things possible.


What drew you to development work for non-profits?

I graduated college with a degree in social science but didn’t want to be a teacher. I put an emphasis on political science but didn’t want to work for the government. I was volunteering at and fundraising for several nonprofits. I was surprised to learn that was also a career.

I found a course that spent six weeks surveying different organizations across the city to learn how they operated. From that experience, I decided I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector full-time. I became the first paid staff member for the New Hope Grief Support Community. That was 2006, and the rest is history!


Can you share some interesting moments you’ve had during your 18 years in development?

People in this field joke about the many hats we wear, the odd items found in donation boxes, and the things we cart around in our cars. I’ve housed 1,000 pairs of shoes in my garage, danced with nuns at a conference, and even dined with the President of Panama. After one event, I was accidentally locked in the walk-in freezer, which wasn’t so bad considering how hot it was outside.


What are the challenges and opportunities related to raising money for arts and culture organizations?

At the beginning of the pandemic, donors gave generously to health and human services and education while arts and culture suffered. Luckily, this has rebounded a bit.

There is a strong case to be made for supporting arts and culture, especially the historical ranch and gardens at Rancho Los Alamitos. It’s not as obvious as something like helping the unhoused, but sometimes we can motivate donors by reminding them that without their support the Rancho’s unique offerings won’t be available to future generations.


Can you share some of what you learned working with Leadership Long Beach?

I loved my time as a class member in 2017. I’ve remained friends with many of my classmates and found the personal connections to be invaluable. Ironically, our very first class was in the tent at RLA. I still remember the impact it had on all of us

As a Board Member, I am proud of the work we’re doing. We’ve built up our DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) initiatives so more folks in the community feel represented. We are actively working to expand its reach and convey its value to private companies and young people finding their career paths.     


You’re working on a degree in public policy and administration. What connections do you see in that area of study and places like the Rancho? 

Understanding city governance, budgets, and leadership is particularly important since the Rancho is owned by the City.

Many classes focus on policy inequity which inspires me to find new ways to bring people of all ages and backgrounds to discover RLA.


What aspects of development are you most looking forward to doing at RLA?

One of my first goals is to grow our small but mighty Development team into a dynamic group of fundraisers and liaisons. And I want to find funding for our Tovaave and Tongva programs. That enriches our community and respects the peoples who call RLA home.

My brain starts firing when I’m with all of you who volunteer here. Your knowledge and passion are the best assets a fundraiser could hope for. You inspire me in building compelling narratives to share with donors and funders. Please tell me your ideas for fundraising or future programming. Let’s “Dream Big” together!


What else would you like us to know about you?

I usually have at least three drinks in my hand (water, coffee, and something surprising) that keep me awake after 6 a.m. gym sessions, carting my kids (11 and 13) to schools across the city, and taking care of seven animals at home!

In the Spotlight:

Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation Board Chair, Henry Taboada

By Joan Van Hooten, RLAF Board Member

Henry Taboada began his two-year term as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation on January 1 of this year. He has served on the Board for five years, most recently as Vice Chair. He has also participated on several governing committees, including strategic planning. 


A long-time civil servant, Henry held several positions at the City of Long Beach and finished his career there with a term as City Manager. He cites his 14-year experience in the Army, civilian government agencies, and his 28-year career at the City as good preparation for his current role at Rancho Los Alamitos: forward planning, personnel, budgeting and finance, investments, as well as contract negotiation and compliance.


Henry’s knowledge of City Hall is serving us well. While working at the City, he was helpful in assisting former Executive Director Pamela Seager in forging the first RLA lease agreement. Henry also advised on the design and permitting of RLA’s master plan that has, over the years, resulted in much-needed site maintenance and improvements. Today he is leading the negotiations on behalf of the Rancho to renew our annual lease agreement that has for many years resulted in substantial funding to partially compensate the RLA Foundation for managing and caring for the site. Like many volunteers, he is transferring skills he developed during his working life to his volunteer work.  

Likewise, Henry is following his personal interests as he volunteers at RLA. His grandparents and parents migrated from Mexico while he was born in El Paso, Texas. His father, as a young man, found employment as an agricultural worker in Southern California, which in part explains Henry’s natural interest in the history of the Rancho. Henry has been active in several Latino civil rights organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is dedicated to advancing the economic, educational, health, political influence, and civil rights of the Latino population.

Henry is quick to say that his wife Julie was instrumental in encouraging him to become involved as a volunteer for numerous local organizations. Julie is, he says, a “full-time volunteer.” He took Julie’s example seriously and has served on numerous nonprofit boards. Among them are the Arts Council for Long Beach, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Long Beach Community Foundation, Museum of Latin American Art, Leadership Long Beach, and Centro Cha. He says being a volunteer is “part of his makeup.” 

Henry has many ideas for things he hopes to accomplish in his term as Board Chair. Overall, his goals may be summarized as keeping Rancho Los Alamitos relevant and valued by our citizens as a community treasure. Exposing the Rancho to the broader community is vital to this goal. He notes that over 2,700 4th-grade students come to visit the Rancho with their classes each year. About 66% of these students are Latino, a reflection of the diversity of our city. He hopes that these children will talk about their visit at home and encourage their parents to take them to see “their Rancho.” 


This can be accomplished, Henry believes, with the many events that the RLA now offers, including the recent free summer concerts and our ongoing art programs. Ultimately, he envisions a wider appeal for engagement with all we do at the Rancho, including expansion of our volunteer groups and broadening our member and donor base.

When asked to consider challenges to RLA’s success, Henry notes that there is a constant need to care for and improve our infrastructure. While newer buildings are in good working order, several auxiliary buildings require continuous upkeep. Unlike a “typical” museum, Rancho Los Alamitos’ permanent collection comprises these buildings as well as our plants, animals, and ancillary structures – and their care is the Foundation’s highest priority. 

Henry is quick to note that work by the volunteers at Rancho Los Alamitos results in 6.75 full-time equivalent employees. Not only are our volunteers critical to our serving the community as docents, volunteer gardeners, animal care providers, committee and board members, they are vital to the financial health of the RLA Foundation. He notes that our small staff relies on volunteers with experience and skills that complement those of the employees. When asked of goals for his term as Board Chair, he cites the need to recognise and appreciate our large cadre of volunteers - not only at the Volunteer Appreciation Event - but every day.

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