Saturday, 18 May 2024

Meals, teen programs need help to keep going

Yvonne Cox at home with her longtime partner, builder Gary Stevenson. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

LUCERNE – A private effort to feed the hungry and give youngsters a gathering place in Lucerne is foundering for lack of funds.

"I may have to do a photo layout for Hustler magazine to keep it going," joked 40-something Yvonne Cox, who runs a teen center and free weekly dinner with a lot of help from her friends, but none from any agencies or organizations.

Cox, better known as Snake Lady, a belly dancer and tattoo artist, has been offering weekly free meals for about two years, first at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, and currently at Kapitan's Kafé, a donated space. Except for occasional donations, she foots the bills for groceries. Dinner is sometimes a full meal with entrée and dessert, and sometimes a hearty soup.

Her youth center is in a building donated by Dr. Bob Gardner, who has told her he needs some rent money soon.


Gardner owns several Lucerne properties and said he's recently had some interest from potential tenants.

Gardner said this last week, "If there's any help on the horizon I would like to work with her, and I hope the community will pull together. She operates from the heart and doesn't just talk about things that actually does them. I'd love to see her get some help, but I can't carry it much longer. Our original agreement was she had the space free for three months, which ended last April."

Not everyone is a Snake Lady fan. Some criticize her friendship with Eddy Lepp, the Upper Lake marijuana grower who has just been convicted on federal drug charges. Some disapprove of her clothes, often bare midriff, or her stable of motorcycles, or sales of pipes and other marijuana paraphernalia at her former imports and gift shop.

Cox said she met with a representative of the sheriff's office in June of 2007 when Lucerne residents were worried about a rash of graffiti on buildings, hoping for some help from that department in organizing youth activities.

The sheriff's department does have youth activities, but none specifically targeted to Lucerne, according to public information officer Capt. James Bauman.

Those are the Explorer program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and the Sheriff's Activity League's Junior Giants program, an offshoot of the San Francisco Giants, Bauman said.

Cox's youth program includes after-school activities, Saturday movies (G or PG-rated) and occasional dances, all at the corner of 15th Avenue and Highway 20, across the street from Gardner's medical clinic.

The free dinners – which she said have provided 13,000 meals in the two years since they started – were first held at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, where Cox raised $500 for the center with a poker run motorcycle event, and missed becoming a board member by one vote. She and sources close to the center, who asked not to be identified, agreed there were a variety of reasons she moved from there last fall. There were disagreements over food borrowed by the center's kitchen staff, and over how to deal with unwelcome observers of her weekly belly dance classes.

She first moved the dinners to Harbor Park; the timing was unfortunate, just before the winter rainy season started. She requested and got use of Kapitan's Kafé restaurant, 6150 E. Highway 20, from owners Jose Plata and his wife Ramona Gomez. They close at 3 p.m., and Cox and her helpers move in soon after for the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday dinners.

Regular volunteer workers at the dinners are James MacDonald (Mac) and Lillian Sherry, both formerly associated with the senior center, he as head cook and she as a board member.

Another key volunteer is Christina Anderson, who works in Robinson Rancheria tribal administration and whose 11-year-old son is a regular at the youth center. In her spare time she is working on getting nonprofit status for the youth center, and then seeking grants to keep it operating. She said she expects the nonprofit application to be approved in January.

Meanwhile, insurance is under the nonprofit umbrella of Sunrise Services. Anderson can be reached at the tribal office, 275-0527.

E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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