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History San Jose starts emergency relief fund after devastating fire

History San Jose CEO Bill Schroh Jr. says the nonprofit started an emergency relief fund in the wake of last Sunday’s devastating fire, which destroyed the historic Nelson-DeLuz house and damaged two other buildings.

“We appreciate the outpouring of concern we have received and our hearts go out to the staff, volunteers, and community members who hold fond memories and personal connections to the Nelson-DeLuz House,” he said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but its effects will continue to be felt at History Park, a 14-acre village of original and recreated houses and buildings that represent decades of San Jose’s past. The Nelson-DeLuz House was being used by O’Briens — now operated by the owners of Treatbot — to host themed tea events. The house also served as a storage spot for many items utilized for those events and others. Due to the damage to the adjacent Pasetta House, artwork from History San Jose’s permanent collection at the Leonard and David McKay Gallery has been removed and will need conservation work to mitigate smoke damage.

To contribute to the emergency relief fund, go to

You can count Jim Salata among those who were sad to hear about the fate of the Nelson-DeLuz house. When the house — which was built around 1905 — was moved to History Park in 1987, Salata’s Garden City Construction was hired to work on it. And when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989, building owners in Los Gatos called History San Jose to find out who could help rebuild their historic structures. Garden City was at the top of the list.

“That led to restoration of the Beckwith Building, Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company building, the Rankin block and others,” Salata said. Sadly, the Nelson-DeLuz building is too far gone this time for even Jim Salata’s to do his miracle work.

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OFF TO A GOOD START: The YMCA’s Project Cornerstone brought back its in-person Asset Champions breakfast for the first time since 2019 Friday morning, and it included a CMT Mainstage performer Bella Villasis singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and a keynote by Oakland native Victor Rios, who went from being a gang member who did time in juvenile hall to obtaining his doctorate in sociology at UC Santa Barbara.

The program honors individuals and schools who provide positive role models and exhibit caring behavior for youth. The Asset Champions honored Friday at the Santa Clara Convention Center were Lauri Scirigione of Lauri Gray’s School of Dance; Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action; Farah Tavana of Van Meter Elementary in the Los Gatos Union School District; and Los Gatos High School teacher Annameekee Hesik.

Three schools also were honored in the “Caring Schools Climate” category: Aptitud Community Academy at Goss in San Jose; Price Middle School in San Jose; and South County Community School in San Martin. You can find out more about Project Cornerstone at

CELEBRATION FOR A CAUSE: Maitri, a nonprofit that empowers South Asian survivors of domestic violence, raised more than $600,000 at its gala held at the Crown Plaza hotel in Palo Alto on March 11.

The festivities included a musical performance by Vidya Vox, a YouTube superstar whose music blends the intricacies of Indian music with electronic and hip-hop elements.

Geetha Krishnamurthy, Maitri’s board president, said the pandemic has been a difficult time for survivors, who lost jobs, experienced more violence and continued to struggle. The number of clients helped by the nonprofit increased by 28 percent in the past year. Still, there was reason for optimism. “Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, the volatility of the markets, and uncertainty in the world, our community once again came together to fund the critical work at Maitri,” she said.

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WORTH THE WAIT: “A Statue for Ballybunion,” the play written by former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, finally got its U.S. premiere Thursday night after a three-year delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The comedy about a town in Ireland’s quest to get U.S. President Bill Clinton’s attention on his trip to the Emerald Isle was charming and touching, and the opening night crowd definitely got the humor. My favorite line: “Irish pubs were the information superhighway before Silicon Valley — just with less pornography.”

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