This is in response to Gil Herrera's piece in the Oct. 4 Journal.
Herrera's comments are riddled with misstatements and distortions and serve only to malign my character and that of my husband, Bill Lunghi. I take great umbrage at Mr. Herrera's attack on us.
First, Susan Prather died in July 2008, not August. But that is the least egregious of his errors.
Mr. Herrera was never a volunteer at Fresh Start. Susan appointed me as the volunteer services director in early 2006. As per her instructions, that position entailed interviewing prospective volunteers. Mr. Herrera never went through this process. He was here a very few hours and was asked to leave by Bill after causing damage to our clothing shed while engaging in a "project" for which he had not obtained permission.
An important part of my position, as Susan explained to me, would be to assess potential volunteers as to their "fit" with the Fresh Start community. We get so many interested potential volunteers we cannot possibly accommodate them all. Also, prospective volunteers should not have any "hidden agendas." Yes, I have determined some would not be a good fit. That was my job.
Bill and I donate, on average, 75 to 80 hours a week to Fresh Start, not only on the days Fresh Start is open, but on other days as well. We do this in accordance with the vision and mission statements of Fresh Start and out of love and respect for Susan and her life's work. We receive no monetary compensation.
To accuse of us of treating Fresh Start participants poorly is preposterous. Yes, we have asked participants to leave if they were not following Fresh Start's rules of participation, if they had been drinking or taking drugs, selling drugs, behaving in a threatening manner or were disruptive in any way. Susan wrote those rules years ago and enforced them consistently. To do less would have been disrespectful to Susan and her legacy.
For the record, Bill Lunghi was a co-founder (as were many others) of Fresh Start; he prepared the incorporation papers and filed the application for nonprofit status with the IRS. Herrera's assertion that Bill did not become involved with Fresh Start until three years after Susan Prather established it is blatantly untrue.
But Mr. Herrera would not have known this, as, to the best of our knowledge, he never met Susan. Bill was married to Susan until her death, and knew her since her teenage years. Note: Susan would never have referred to herself as the "queen" of anything. That was not her style.
Finally, the homeless of Walnut Creek are not "The Invisible Society." They are quite visible at Fresh Start and comprise the 50 to 60 participants that we serve each day we are open.
Robin and Bill Lunghi are set to retire at the end of this month as Fresh Start's executive directors. The Journal received several other letters in support of the Lunghis.