PAL Executive Director Lorraine Woodruff-Long Aims to Make PAL More Volunteer-Friendly

lorraine woodruff-long

PAL Executive Director Lorraine Woodruff-Long, shown here with her dog and PAL office mascot, Sparky, hopes to offer more support and recognition for more than 800 PAL volunteers.

Second in a series of interviews with PAL Executive Director Lorraine Woodruff-Long, examining the challenges that face PAL in 2012 and beyond. 

Lorraine Woodruff-Long worked in the Peace Corps when she was fresh out of college. She spent two years in Kenya working on small-business development.

That experience taught her that, for people to be motivated to volunteer a big chunk of their time, there has to be “something in it for them” — a way to build new skills, enhance a resume, meet new people, make a difference in a kid’s life.

What they don’t want is to be stuck doing paperwork or wasting time on petty administrative tasks. They also don’t want to be ignored or overlooked.

So when she took over as executive director of PAL three years ago, Woodruff-Long set out to revamp the PAL volunteer program, in big ways and small — in short, to make PAL more volunteer-friendly.

“It’s painful to me that people do so much for PAL and don’t get recognized for it,” she says. “We’ve just got to recognize people more. … We need to be making sure our programs are supporting the kids, and we need to be really supporting those volunteers.”

A Giant in Volunteers
PAL may be a small organization, but on a volunteer basis, it is a giant. More than 800 coaches, mentors, program directors, and team managers donate countless hours to making the PAL programs run every year.

Getting those 800 volunteers to sign up — and keeping them happy and free to focus on the kids — is one of the big challenges that Woodruff-Long faces. She hopes to hire another staff person to help volunteers and to grow the volunteer pool. She also wants to find ways to acknowledge and appreciate the coaches currently on board, many of whom have been with PAL for years.

For example, Woodruff-Long looks at the Seahawks football and cheerleading programs as examples where more volunteer support is needed. These two programs, which operate out of the city’s Western Addition, are central to PAL mission’s of reaching all kids, especially those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of the 50-plus Seahawks volunteers are men and women who serve as role models and parent figures. Many have also been longtime PAL volunteers, some for decades. Some even participated in the program as kids themselves, and are now back, volunteering as adults.

“Those volunteers are miracle workers,” Woodruff-Long says. “They’re there because they care deeply about these kids. They don’t want to be doing administrative stuff. … That’s the biggest place where we can make a huge difference for kids. Do something to support those amazing volunteers.”

Lorraine Woodruff-Long addresses the 2011 graduating class of cadets.

Operating at Max Capacity
To create a truly volunteer-friendly organization, as well as meet other goals, PAL has to generate more funding and create new and more reliable sources of funding.

“This is really the big theme for my work right now,” Woodruff-Long says. “We are operating at max capacity. Our staff can’t do any more than they’re doing right now. We’re trying to find ways to be more efficient and generate the resources. But we need another staff person.”

PAL gets most of its funding through individual donors, business and institutional donations, and grants. The recession has put pressure on all nonprofits as they compete for funds from a shrinking revenue pie. It has forced PAL to work harder.

“We still charge among the lowest fees. We also restructured some things so we can provide more scholarships,” she says. “And we have more people who gave more. It’s a perfect example of what you keep reading about happening in the country. You have the haves and the have-nots. We’re asking the haves to do a little bit more and they are, and it’s really allowing us to serve more people who can’t pay.”

To donate to PAL, become a corporate sponsor or sign up as a volunteer, visit our how-to-help page. You can also make a cash donation by visiting our donation page.

How I Became a PAL Soccer Ref – and Scored!

Soccer referee clipart


By Steve Symanovich

Steve Symanovich is editor of the San Francisco Business Times. This article appeared in April 2011. He reffed his first PAL soccer game a short time after, and reported no incidences of fan abuse. He hopes to ref PAL games for many more years.

Some time ago, during a period of supreme contentment, I realized something was missing from my life. What could it be?

I contemplated my life, surrounded, as it were, by goodness and niceness. I confided in my wife. I explained how living a utopian existence of continual affection and approval had left me with an empty feeling.

“Maybe you should become a PAL soccer referee,” she said.

Suddenly a lightbulb went on. She was right. I don’t have nearly enough abuse in my life.

That’s not a problem for youth soccer refs. Parents and coaches often treat them like verbal punching bags.

I had stood on the sidelines long enough watching my two daughters play soccer to hear screaming moms and dads hammer referees for good calls, bad calls and no calls. “Wake up ref! Are you blind?”

Parents can be brutal, and why wouldn’t they be? Eight-year-old Dylan’s or 9-year-old Sophie’s future professional soccer career depended on it.

My daughters are teens now, and I’m proud to say I’ve never yelled at the refs. If I don’t like a call, I prefer to emit a tortured, multisyllabic grunt: “Aaarrrrgggggrrr-guh-guh-guh-rrrgh!”

I guess that’s not good. It was time to atone for my transgressions.

“I’ll do it,” I told my wife.

Soccer duty calls
Soon after, I got an email from my wife. “So you’re going to do the PAL ref training, right?” she wrote.

“When?” I wrote back.

“Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.” she replied.

I winced. Eight hours on a Saturday. “I’m on the fence.” I wrote. “I’m leaning toward no.”

“Chicken,” she wrote back. “Turncoat. Traitor.”

“OK, sign me up,” I wrote.

“I already did,” she replied.

Still sleepy, I showed up for the training session. About 25 other would-be refs had already taken seats in the classroom. Like me, they were there to fill a need — a shortage of refs in a high-turnover profession. Unlike me, their average age was 13 years old.

The instructor, a big guy with the air of one marinated in soccer for a lifetime, looked me up and down. “How did you get here?” he said.

At the end of the day, I took the 50-question multiple-choice test and squeaked by with a “B.”

The referee has arrived
Word got out that I had nabbed my PAL referee credential.

I’d see my familiar circle of soccer moms and dads. They treated me with the reverence of one who has lost his mind.

“PAL soccer ref, eh?” said one dad. “You need the money?”

Another said, “I guess you like getting smacked around.”

A soccer mom assured me that I would look good in a shiny yellow shirt, black shorts and knee socks. She suggested I audition for a “Men of Youth Soccer” calendar, and laughed.

It worked.

I haven’t reffed my first game, and already I feel abused.


Sign Up Now for March 3rd PAL Soccer Referee Clinic

Do you love soccer? Interested in expanding your horizons and becoming a PAL soccer referee? Sign up today to become a Grade 9 soccer referee for the PAL spring league and earn $20 to $40 a game. You must be 12 or older to participate. This is the only referee clinic for the spring session, so don’t miss it!

Date: Saturday March 3, 2012
Time: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $50
Location: Clinic location is provided once have registered and payment is received.
Registration: Fill out a form to register for the March 3, 2012 clinic.


PAL Senior Cadets Eye a Career in Law Enforcement

Many first-year cadets have vowed to stay with PAL until they have “aged out” of the cadet program at age 21. Here they are shown assembled for crowd control at the San Francisco Giants World Series Parade in September 2010.














As the Summer Cadet Academy gears up for its third year, the impact it has had on participants is beginning to be felt. Many first-year graduates are still involved in the program — as sergeants, lieutenants, and captains — while eyeing careers in law enforcement.

PAL has always had a cadet program, but in 2010, the program was relaunched as an intensive, four-week summer academy. Year-round internships at two San Francisco police stations were added, along with monthly training sessions.

We spoke with some of early graduates to find out how the Cadet Academy has changed their lives, and how they view their future. Here are their stories:

Gamaliei Ruiz, 18, says the PAL cadet program changed his life.

Until he joined PAL, he says he hung out with kids who were into graffiti, vandalism and general trouble-making. “This program really set me straight. I’m proud to say that when we go and talk to kids from different high schools. PAL helped me see things clearly, helped me mature.”

His mother, Felicia, agrees, and says, “It’s helped him find an identity. He’s convinced 100 percent [law enforcement] is the only thing he wants to do in life.”

After his family moved to Milpitas, getting to the PAL program became difficult for Gamaliei. But he calls the two-hour train and BART ride “a great investment,” and says he will do whatever it takes to be part of PAL and part of the SFPD.

While he doesn’t have any immediate family in law enforcement, he was deeply affected by the brutal murder of his cousin’s brother-in-law, Isaac Espinsoza, a SFPD officer killed in 2004 by a suspicious character wielding an AK47.

“I really looked up to him,” he says. But although the killing made him think twice about law enforcement, ultimately he was undeterred. He has applied to be a San Mateo County correctional officer and wants to apply to the SFPD as soon as he is eligible. Until then, he will stick with PAL until he is aged out at 21.

He says he sees the police as family. “I have so much respect for them. When something goes down, people automatically blame police … I’ve learned to say there’s more to this story.”

Scott Anderson, 18, always wanted to be a police officer — “every since I was little” — so when, in his junior year at Riordan High School, he heard about the PAL cadet program, he jumped at the chance to join the first-year cadets.

“It was amazing,” he says. “I learned a lot of stuff … We did everything.”

He especially liked the Firearms Training Simulator, or FATS, where digital technology and laser-emitting “dummy” weapons are used to simulate live-fire incidents. The cadets have to role-play and respond as if they were police.

“It wasn’t just like a police officer telling a war story,” he says. “It felt like you were in there, actually having that command presence. You role play with this screen. The people behind you are controlling the screen.”

He also liked the “ride-alongs” with police during his internship at the Bayview Station. “They are the most fun I think I’ve ever had, other than my motorcycle,” he says.

Scott wants to spend the next three years in the academy. His dream job? To join the SFPD. If he doesn’t make it on first try, his plan is to join a smaller police force outside of the city, eventually making a “lateral move” to San Francisco.

A cadet training session led by the SFPD.

Daniel Soto, 19, is a busy guy. Besides working two jobs, he finds time for his cadet internship in the Tenderloin Station and also volunteers four hours a week at the Hall of Justice, in media relations and the police chief’s office. On top of that, he studies at City College.

He has always been interested in the “whole field of law enforcement.” He attended the city’s Community Police Academy before applying to the PAL program. But it was the PAL program that really ignited his interest.

“It was intense but it wasn’t too much,” he says. “We learned about

gangs and youth things relevant to our age group.” The cadets were treated “like adults – we got to learn about real stuff. It was actually very serious training,” he says.

Daniel says he wants to join the SFPD. “As soon as applications open, when I’m 20, I will definitely apply.” Until then, he will stick with PAL. “The people I know of who are still here, the senior cadets, are definitely the ones who are dedicated and who are directing themselves to a law-enforcement career.”

Akwame Muhammad, 20, was in high school when he saw the cadet program flyer. But the deadline for applications had already passed. He called PAL to see if they would consider a late application. Since it was the first year, PAL bent the rules and Akwame squeaked into the program.

“I just said, why not give it a try?” he says. “When you’re a kid you think, what do you want to be? I thought, why can’t I be a police officer and get to protect people?

Akwame admits he had some initial doubts about the cadet program, thinking it might be more of a “boot camp.” The program surprised him.

“I liked how everything was formal, organized and set up, like a workday 9 to 5. It was kind of like high school and college put together … They really want to educate you.”

A police officer, wearing a special padded uniform, shows cadets how the SFPD works with trained police dogs.

Akwame, who attends City College, will be aged out of PAL by year-end. After that, he wants to join the SFPD. Ultimately he hopes to go into federal law-enforcement work, joining the FBI, and working in such areas as sex crimes and child abduction.

Clarissa De Mesa, 20, is a sergeant in the police academy. She says her interest in law enforcement was encouraged by family — an uncle who is an alumnus of the 1992 PAL academy and an aunt on the Los Angeles Police Department.

She calls the academy “very mind-blowing.” The classes opened her eyes to the dangers of police work and provided a much “wider view of civilian life” than she had had. “There’s a lot of judgment on the streets,” she says. “It’s shocking just how kids from 7 to adult, how they act” toward police.

Clarissa is working to get her bachelor’s degree through an online program and would like to apply for the San Francisco Police Academy — “as soon as they open up [applications] again.” Ultimately she is interested in work as a SWAT officer, possibly with a federal bureau.

Hannah Korn, 20, was a junior in at Lick-Wilmerding High School when she first heard about the PAL program and joined it.

Today she is the highest ranking cadet, a captain. She attends monthly cadet meetings and her internship. She also attends UC-Berkeley as a part-time student, and works full-time as an emergency medical technician.

“It’s totally worth it,” she says. “What I’ve gotten from the program is definitely a lot of confidence. … There a huge amount of leadership experience.”

As a cadet, she learned a lot of people skills — how to “ approach people and talk to them and to really be an understanding and competent person.”

Her dream is to attend a school to work in law enforcement as a “tactical medic” officer. This is someone who is trained as both a police officer and a paramedic, and can function in either role, as needed. As a first step, she has applied to the paramedic program at City College.

Meanwhile, she has six months to go before she ages out of the PAL program. “It’s a great program,” she says. “The kids we have right now are pretty dedicated. It’s a great, great group of kids.”

Soccer Dad Bernard Sandoval Masters the Art of the Coaching “Hat Trick”

WINNERS!: Soccer Coach Bernard Sandoval (center last row, holding soccer ball trophy) and his boys soccer team, the Jamestown Littlemen, show off their medals and trophies at season’s end.

Plenty of dads coach their kids’ sports teams, but few have achieved what Bernard Sandoval has — what you might call a coaching “hat-trick.”

Sandoval coaches three PAL sports —baseball, basketball and soccer—and he does it year-round. His 10-year-old son DJ (short for Derek James) plays all three sports.

What makes Sandoval’s dedication all the more admirable is that many of the kids he coaches come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, Sandoval is not just your run-of-the-mill coach; he’s also something of a father figure to the roughly two dozen kids in his charge.

He provides transportation for kids who have trouble getting to and from practice, lends them equipment if they can’t afford to buy their own, and even feeds them meals and snacks after games. Sometimes he takes the kids on excursions to the beach or the park.

“I want to make a good experience for them,” Sandoval says. “Some of these kids don’t get out of the Mission. They don’t know about Golden Gate Park.”

No Program? Do It Yourself 
Sandoval’s involvement in PAL sports started when his son was in third grade. His son’s Mission-district school did not offer an after-school sports program. So Sandoval took it upon himself to tailor his own after-school sports program.

He started with basketball. His son’s team was named the Mission Dolores Tigers and the kids played in both PAL and CYO.

“It’s a great set-up if you have PAL,” he says. “Once the [PAL] season is over, you roll into CYO. The PAL league is pretty competitive, so it gets the kids very prepared” for the winter league. The PAL basketball season runs from October to the end of November.

The team was a U10 finalist in the championship game last year. This year, facing tougher competition, they ended the season in 5th place.

Sandoval also signed on as soccer coach for Jamestown, a soccer club in the Mission.  His team plays fall soccer in the Viking league, winter futsal in the SF Rec & Park league, and spring soccer for PAL.

The Jamestown Littlemen, as the team is known, have developed a following among kids who want a competitive team but don’t want — or are unable — to play on the more demanding travel teams. The Littlemen won the city championship for Viking this past fall.

“Sometimes it’s tough to get enough kids” to play soccer, Sandoval says. “But because our team has been successful, I haven’t had that problem… We’re not too demanding yet we’re very productive and successful at the same time.”

Sandoval likes the PAL league because “it’s tough, good competition, good refereeing, and the fields are great … PAL is awesome.”

Finally, Sandoval created a baseball team for the PAL Jr. Giants, which plays during the summer. That team is also called the Tigers.

First, Keep Them Save
Sandoval’s coaching philosophy is, first, keep kids safe and second, help them to master the skills they need to enjoy the sport. Ultimately, if you do both those things, he believes, kids will develop a love for the sport.

“You may get a child who doesn’t like this sport, but a parent wants them to play this sport,” he says. “We work with them until they get better and start wanting to come on their own. The most important thing is, get them to love the sport.”

As an example, his son DJ was initially a reluctant athlete. Today, however, he enjoys all three sports. Sandoval didn’t push him too hard, but gave him lots of room to be a kid and build skills.

He says, “Sometimes you get coaches who are too demanding. Other coaches don’t ask enough from the children. It’s a fine line between making the parents happy and making sure kids don’t feel like you’re killing them, especially when they’re small — because when they’re small they can get turned off easily.”

In soccer, Sandoval teaches kids how to protect themselves so they don’t get hurt on the field by flying balls. He says this important for young children. When they feel safe, they can tackle the fundamentals with confidence.

“We’ve been fortunate on all the sports,” he says. “My kids know now, they’re starting to equate fun with getting good rather than fun with just running around.”

For information on how to become a PAL coach, visit our soccer web page.