New and old faces come onboard

Meet our project managers and our new park aide

Having the right people for the right jobs makes everything run more smoothly. That’s why we are thrilled to introduce two new members of our our staff at Friends of China Camp. And we’re equally excited to welcome back a familiar face as we gear up for a blow-out Heritage Day and related events this coming August. Please meet our amazing staffers, all joining us part-time.

BREANA THOMAS – Strategic Project Manager 

Breana joins Friends of China Camp part-time in this newly created position. Her special focus will be overseeing and managing FOCC’s extensive volunteer program.

Executive Director Martin Lowenstein first met Breana at a local farmers’ market. Over the years, they developed a warm relationship, which led to this part-time position at Friends of China Camp.

“Breana brings a fresh set of eyes to our volunteer program and how we manage our volunteers,” Lowenstein says. “She comes from a background of working with lots of different types of people like we have at the park—and she’s good at it. That’s one of the strengths that I thought would work well at FOCC, and why I thought of her for the position.”

Breana, who hails from the Bay Area, says she’s proud to be the first person in her family to put herself all the way through college. Her experience includes playing and coaching high-level competitive volleyball. She has also worked as an advisor to the Graduate Student Mentorship Program at New York’s Columbia University. At Columbia, she also contributed to research and helped with grant proposals targeting the compound effects of trauma.

Breana notes that being on the team at Friends of China Camp gives her an opportunity to work with and give back to the community.

“I’m someone that truly believes in the saying, ‘Many hands make light work,’” Breana explains. “Working with FOCC is an excellent way for me to use my analytical problem-solving skills while being able to engage and serve our greater community.”

“I’m so looking forward to learning from the many skilled volunteers here,” adds Breana. “I’ve got an innate curiosity for learning and the idea that I get to work closely with so many people with lived experience and diverse backgrounds is so exciting. Oh, and the view’s not too bad either.”

SHEILA COLL – Interim Program Manager 

Here’s a name you might recognize. Sheila Coll, who was Friends of China Camp’s program director from 2017 to 2023, is back. Her part-time position focuses on special events and programs, and we’re thrilled to have someone with Sheila’s skill set and experience back on board for as long as possible.

“Sheila has long relationships with people both in and working with Friends of China Camp,” says FOCC Executive Director Martin Lowenstein. “It’s a seamless transition having her back.”

Lowenstein notes that one of Sheila’s key focuses will be our annual Heritage Day Celebration, this year on September 21, 2024. “The dynamic program has lots of moving parts,” says Lowenstein. “Having Sheila managing it all makes it so much more manageable. It’s going to be a great event.”

Sheila, who hails from Marin County, has a long history working with state and national parks in our region. She has held positions as an interpretive specialist at Mount Tamalpais State Park, a One Tam interpreter and aide at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and a park aide at Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

COLIN JACO – Park Aide 

If something needs fixing, fix it. Simple. Intuitive. At least that’s how Colin Jaco is wired. Recently hired as China Camp’s new park aide, Colin had already been helping out at the park as a volunteer. He’s ever on the look-out for trash cans that need repair, barbecues that need cleaning, and weeds that need whacking.

“I’m a happy guy who loves mountain biking and the out-of-doors,” he says exuberantly. “What’s totally unique about China Camp is its volunteers. No other organization has such dedicated people.”

Colin is an enthusiastic, energetic young man who grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, played football and basketball, and graduated two years ago from Babson College, a business school in Boston. His parents unexpectedly moved to California while he was in college, and he followed. He fast became a total convert to the West.

Colin’s passion for mountain biking drew him to China Camp and to Trips for Kids Bay Area, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities for underserved youth. He takes kids on bike rides throughout the Bay Area (including rides at China Camp). He also teaches them bike mechanic skills. At the end of the class, the kids get to keep the bikes they repaired.

A member of California Enduro, a world-class mountain bike racing organization, Colin loves all the amazing trails here in Marin. Someday he’ll get a “big career,” he says, hopefully working outdoors at a park. For now, we’re delighted he has started that path here at China Camp.

—by Janet Wiscombe and Harriot Manley/FOCC volunteers

Photos: Courtesy of Sheila Coll; all others by harriot manley/focc volunteer