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News: 12/01/2016

Giving back is beautiful

Chris (right) gives esthetician and Kenwoodian Karen Borgfeldt a kiss after receiving a facial from her at The Great Thanksgiving Banquet on Nov. 23 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Photo by Max Dreyer.

The spa area was busy. The six pedicure chairs were full and all three facial tables. There was a line of people waiting for both. Karen Borgfeldt, owner of Hello Beautiful Skin in Santa Rosa and a Kenwood resident, circulated around the tables greeting patrons and asking how they were feeling.

“When people are relaxed, they feel valued,” said Borgfeldt, who has been a licensed esthetician for three decades. But Borgfeldt wasn’t waltzing around a day-spa at a high-end wine country resort. She was on a higher mission: volunteering her time at this year’s annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet, organized by the Redwood Gospel Mission. On Wednesday, Nov. 23, thousands of people in need received things like free haircuts, coats, medical check-ups, and a Thanksgiving dinner during the annual event at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Foot massages and washes have been offered at the Great Thanksgiving Banquet for three years now, but this is the first year facials have been offered, courtesy of Borgfeldt and Sonoma Lavender, a Kenwood-based company owned by Rebecca and Gary Rosenberg, which donated all the beauty products. Borgfeldt and long-time Banquet volunteer Max Dreyer were able to get donations for all new spa equipment. Together they transformed one corner of Grace Pavilion with new padded chairs, foot tubs with disposable liners, towel warmers and massage tables for reclining facials.

Volunteering at the Great Thanksgiving Banquet is new for Borgfeldt. She began her journey after finding a young homeless man sleeping in the bushes near her office. “He could have been my son. Would I want to see him like that – anyone I know like that? It stabbed me in the heart like a stake. I felt helpless.” So she looked for a way to help.

“You can call it divine intervention or whatever you want,” said Borgfeldt, “but it drove me here.”

Borgfeldt sought out Redwood Gospel Mission, a religious organization that has been helping the needy in Santa Rosa for more than five decades, and connected with Dreyer, who has organized the foot washing station for the past three years at the Banquet. With her experience, Borgfeldt saw an opportunity to improve the event for both the volunteers and patrons by providing organization and the proper tools.

“Sometimes we don’t know we have a higher mission beyond the day to day things we do. But we all can give different things.”

“To bring this together, Karen has worked really hard, but that’s the kind of person she is,” said Dreyer, decked out in a tie-dye T-shirt. Most of the volunteers at the spa station were in tie-dye. Dreyer said he finds the tie-dye breaks down perceived biases and barriers, and helps people relax and open up around each other.

Two women giving facials
Elena Jauregui (left) and Brianna Borgfeldt give free facials at the Great Thanksgiving Banquet on Nov. 23.

There is an intimacy that happens between two people during a foot washing. Dreyer likened washing someone’s feet to blessing a person in a humble way – emulating what Jesus did. A similar intimacy happens during a facial. Borgfeldt understands the importance of the face as a part of someone’s persona, or what they present to the world.

It was also a family affair for Borgfeldt, who was accompanied by her two daughters Brianna and Dakota (one at the facial station and one painting nails), and her husband Brian. Elena Jauregui, who works with Borgfeldt at Hello Beautiful, also volunteered for the day. Borgfeldt said she was thankful her daughters wanted to participate. As a mother, she was impressed and very touched, in many ways, the whole day, she said.

Borgfeldt said she’d like to make this an annual event for her family and hopes to expand it next year by getting other businesses involved.

Find out more about the Redwood Gospel Mission and The Great Thanksgiving Banquet at

Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.

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