FOCC Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Claire Golan, village volunteer who goes the extra mile for China Camp

As one of our “keepers of the village,” Friends of China Camp volunteer Claire Golan goes above and beyond to keep our park clean and welcoming. Like other volunteers at China Camp Village, Claire runs the cafe, tells visitors about the fascinating history of the park, and makes sure that the park’s thousands of beachgoers have a safe and enjoyable visit. 

FOCC Volunteer Claire Golan

But Claire consistently does more, especially when it comes to ensuring that our shoreline stays beautiful. Hundreds of visitors frequent the beach every weekend, and an unintended consequence of this popularity is unwanted trash. However, soon after the crowds have left, that litter often seems to disappear. Where does it go? It’s not a mysterious beach fairy who cleans with the swish of her wand, but Claire, armed with her trusty trash grabber, a bucket, and her keen eye for MOOP (“matter out of place”). 

Claire also attacks the park’s gnarliest problems head first—or  should we say clippers first. Most people would cringe at the thought of cutting back large prickly briers of  Himalayan blackberry plants. But not Claire! Her invasive-plant removal efforts have had some impressive results, including clipping back a large wall of blackberry that had smothered the residence of Frank Quan, China Camp’s last original resident. Her efforts revealed the beautiful historic structure for all to see.

In fact, Frank plays into Claire’s first memory of China Camp. It began on a rainy day, when she stopped at the cafe and got a hot chocolate from Frank Quan, who then ran the low-key eatery. She was flabbergasted that someone still lived at the historic village, and was warmed by Frank’s hospitality during the storm. That trip inspired her to bring her children to China Camp Beach on sunny weekends, and she soon developed a deep connection with the park.

In 2012, Helen Sitchler, the lead of Friends of China Camp’s museum docents, invited Claire to join her team. Five years later, cafe volunteer Andy Fletcher recruited Claire to help at the cafe. Since then, Claire has been an enthusiastic museum and cafe docent, eagerly sharing the park’s history with visitors. Claire has an amazingly cheerful attitude, and is always encouraging and uplifting others. She has become a treasured part of the group. 

Berkeley girl changes her life at a kibbutz

Claire was raised in Berkeley and went to UC Santa Barbara to study anthropology. One of her fondest memories was a trip to Europe, scooting around on a scenic tour of Rome on her Vespa. This European tour inspired Claire to move to a kibbutz in Israel, where she stayed for four years. While working in the kibbutz’s orange groves, pruning and treating diseased trees, Claire discovered a deep love for working with her hands. The focused, zen-like nature of pruning provided a calm balance to life. One of the reasons she loves taking on vegetation management at China Camp is that it reminds her of her peaceful life in the kibbutz.

While in Israel, Claire converted to Judaism and married her husband, Yacov. Together, they decided to return to the Bay Area and start a family. Claire is the proud mother of three and grandmother of five.  

Another thing Claire loves about China Camp is the community. She enjoys offering the same hospitality to visitors that she was offered from Frank during her first visit to the park. In addition to working for China Camp, this go-getting gal also volunteers at Stinson Beach, McInnis County Park, and Tobey Community Park in Point Reyes Station.

Thank you, Claire, for all of the hard work you’ve done to keep our park a clean and welcoming for all.—reported by FOCC Program Director Sheila Coll