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WELLNESS WEEK: Riverstone Wellness offering free classes in the Kern River Valley

Riverstone Wellness is a non-profit organization that puts on a variety of classes that bolster mental and physical health
Posted at 3:06 PM, Jun 05, 2024

KERNVILLE, Calif. (KERO) — The Neighbor to Neighbor grant is a state grant that has been awarded to Kern County – the money is to be used specifically in the Kern River Valley and it’s aim is to bolster communities and reduce loneliness.

Several non-profits up here have received money from that grant, including Riverstone Wellness, which is using some of that money to put on their Wellness Week.

  • Wellness Day, a block party featuring free classes is taking place on June 8th at Riverstone Wellness in Kernville.
  • The Neighbor to Neighbor grant is bringing 500,000 dollars to the Kern River Valley to be used to put on commmunity events over the next two years.


“I spent 23 years in wildland fire which really took a toll on my body and my mind. I didn’t realize all of it until I sat and retired,” said Debbie Santiago, a member of the Board of Directors for Riverstone Wellness.

Forced into an early retirement, Santiago said she struggled making that transition. When Riverstone Wellness opened its doors two years ago, she started going.

“Saw the classes were here, and I started working out, at my pace, slow and easy, and Riverstone allows for that.”

Santiago became a member of the Board of Directors for Riverstone Wellness just a few weeks ago - but has been attending classes - which includes things like yoga, painting and Tai Chi, since it opened two years ago.

“I feel great, these last two years have made me feel like a youngster, I'm happy.”

Yoga instructor Geneva Damico understands the stress that people carry around with them.

“As an ER nurse I see things and work with people who are in the worst moments of their life. I have to come home and put that somewhere,” Damico said.

She learned to relieve that stress with yoga, and started as an instructor teaching others nurses for free in a park.

She now teaches yoga classes at Riverstone Wellness, and does a mommy and me (or daddy and me) yoga sessions every week at Riverside park for parents and their children.

“Yoga is a vehicle to help me show up for my family – to be present in the moment.”

Using money from the Neighbor to Neighbor grant, Riverstone Wellness is currently offering free classes all week long, culminating in a block party on Sunday in Kernville that will also feature free classes - something Damico says she hopes spread awareness of what Riverstone has to offer.

“Once people start realizing that is available to them I think there will be a positive response.”

The Neighbor to Neighbor grant aims to reduce loneliness in California.

Santiago says that aligns with what Riverstone is already doing.

“Loneliness comes from within,” Santiago said.

Santaigo said she’s struggled with loneliness and PTSD, and the community at Riverstone has helped her heal.

“This is a wonderful community, we do a lot, there’s lots of festivals and stuff. This is different. This is each person individually bringing what they have to the table, and healing together, whatever it is.”

Santiago says she hopes wellness week will bring a new awareness to what Riverstone Wellness does.

“We all need to be seen, heard, felt, invited, and that – it’s here, that's here.”

Both Santiago and Damico said that if cost is a barrier for taking classes, you can take your first class for free and that there are also scholarships available.

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