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Vintage House names new executive director

In May, Vintage House Executive Director Priscilla Call Essert announced plans to step down from her role by the end of summer, after almost four years in the job.

Renee Scott, 58, will take the reins to lead the membership-based nonprofit senior center beginning this Friday, July 30.

“Renee brings over two decades of leadership experience and dedication in the nonprofit sector to Vintage House,” said Paul Chakmak, board chair and president of Vintage House, in the press release announcing her appointment. “We look forward to her contribution to our Sonoma Valley community.”

Scott grew up in Minnesota and she holds a degree in occupational sociology from Minnesota State University in Mankato. Since 2019, she has served as executive director at St. Anthony Catholic Parish in Novato, where she resides.

Prior to that, Scott was executive director of a transitional homeless facility for single mothers and children in Novato, originally founded by the BayMarin Community Church. Now called Gilead House, the nonprofit describes its mission as inspiring and empowering “homeless single moms and their children toward financial stability and independence as they navigate the journey to self-reliance.”

Prior to her stint at Gilead House, Scott’s religious beliefs prompted her to found and, for a decade, run a faith-based Orthodox Christian ministry in Wichita, Kansas called The Treehouse. The group provides supplies and services for “struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live” and the “tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction,” according to marketing materials written by Scott.

Scott stressed to the Index-Tribune the distinction between the faith-based agencies she worked at previously and Vintage House, which is not affiliated with religion in any way.

“I will be working towards advancing and fulfilling the mission of Vintage House,” she said. “This is my sole focus and I look forward to serving the entire community of Sonoma whatever the need is in relation to the Vintage House mission.”

Scott told the Index-Tribune she was a young mother of four living in Kansas when she was inspired to find a career where she could help other moms and kids. Now, she is looking to shift her focus to a new demographic.

“I founded a nonprofit from the ground up serving that audience and today, in my late 50s, I found myself interested in meeting the needs of people in the next stage of life that I, too, am headed into,” she said.

Scott said she is looking forward to helping Sonoma seniors to combat “the isolation and loneliness” they might have felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I love the opportunity to bring people here, nurture friendships and explore the holistic ways we can help with their well-being.”

Vintage House will celebrate its 45th year in 2022. The membership-based organization was founded in 1977 and became a nonprofit in 1983. Its mission is described as “encouraging life-long learning, enhancing well-being and supporting independent living for Sonoma Valley residents as they age.”

The senior center’s facility downtown includes classrooms, activity areas, a library and computer lab, a commercial kitchen and a hotel-style banquet venue.

Vintage House programs for seniors include transportation, weekly meals, home repair and housing assistance, classes, events and more.

Essert joined Vintage House in November 2017. Of her accomplishments during her tenure, Essert is most proud of broadening the programming with new collaborative efforts, a music series and food programs. She and her husband, Bill, will be moving to Angels Camp, California to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Scott, who will commute to Sonoma from her house in Novato, says her first few months will largely be spent listening.

“My plan is just to dive deep for the first 100 days — learn the history of Vintage House, meet the board, staff, donors, volunteers and, of course, the members,” she said. “I’ll be learning as much as I can to figure out how to build on the great work that Priscilla has done for the last four years.”

Supporting Vintage House

What: Vintage House’s Country Garden Party and birdhouse auction

Where: Sonoma Garden Park

When: 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 31.

Tickets: $75

How: Tickets online at vintagehouse.org.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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