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Isabel House | Profiles | Photos | Gail's Column

Isabel House
Welcome to Isabel House!
Back in 1982, Chas and Gail Abate opened a Group Home for people with Developmental Disabilities on Isabel Drive in Cotati, California, moving in with their two small children. Sam was 4 years old at the time and Carmen was 2. Since that time, Chas and Gail have administered 8 other specialized homes; and they have been closely involved as designers, developers, consultants, trainers, mentors and friends with countless others. Residents of Isabel House

Meanwhile, Sam and Carmen grew up and Chas and Gail grew old at the Isabel House along with Fred, Barbara, Bruce, and Matthew. This extended family has been through a lot together. We wouldn’t know where to begin to capture the experience in all of its gory and glorious detail.

We can and will, however, show some pictures, tell some stories, and hop up on our soapbox once in a while, partially for our own therapy; and hopefully for your enjoyment. Welcome to the Isabel House!!

Bruce Amen Bruce
Resident at Isabel HouseMost who know Bruce consider him among their favorite people. His blend of charisma and compassion sets him apart. Bruce is deep and spiritual and, at the same time, a natural clown. There is no doubt that one can learn the secrets of life through Bruce. He possesses the wonderful ability to transform each activity of daily life into a dance step to a beautiful song. Bruce never loses his composure or his sense for where and who God is. is full of flair
is wise & centered
is hilarious
is kind & gentle
is a great dancer & mime
is a great friend

Fred Waitt Fred
Resident at Isabel HouseThere are Elvis impersonators and there are Elvis impersonators. Fred’s Elvisness transcends impersonation. Perhaps this is what makes Fred so kingly in all he says and does. And Fred is a benevolent king; who uses his power to help others and to further the common good. Fred is appreciated because he is pure, direct, and honest. He knows what he wants and he is sensitive and respectful toward the wants of others. has great moves
is wise & centered
is a loving & caring husband
is a hard & productive worker
is full of enthusiasm & passion
is truly a king among men

Matthew Rosati Matthew
Resident at Isabel HouseMatthew is a very fascinating and knowledgeable person. He is an expert on most topics. Matthew is known for his stability, integrity, and strength of character. He serves on 2 different non profit boards and he had held the same job for over 25 years. He also has a remarkable memory, a uniquely rich sense of humor, and is easily among the most quotable people you will ever meet. Matthew is, in his own words, “an average community hero.” is devoted to his family
is a talented singer
is an historian & archivist
is always up on current events
is charming & witty
is unforgettable & appreciated

Barbara Moise Barbara
Isabel house residentBarbara is an intelligent, fun-loving, and unforgettable woman. She is enormously talented when it comes to performance arts and conversational skills. Her legend spans far and wide. You can hardly walk down the street with her without running into some admirer or well-wisher from her past. Just about everybody has a prize-winning “Barbara story” or two. Barbara has done many things and she has traveled all over the world. At the same time, she consistently models the art of savoring simple things. has a great memory
is devoted to her family
is happily married
is extremely creative
is a great singer & dancer
is full of wit & wisdom


Grocery shopping
Matt reading the paper
Social worker visits Isabel House
A visit from Mom
The backyard at Isabel House
tea time

Gail's Column Gail Abate

Why Do We Do This?

In 1974, I was a nurse in the infirmary and Chas was a “ward parent” on the men’s locked ward of the institution where my brother, David, lived.

The guys there all had reputations as behavior problems and were considered to be dangerous to themselves and others. At night they were strapped to their beds. During the day they were herded into the stark day room where some were strapped into chairs and some were allowed to pace and rock.

The daily schedule included small group excursions to the ward bathroom where they were strapped to a row of toilets for toilet time. When they left the ward to go to the campus chapel or for their weekly bus ride, many of them were on leashes. Sometimes Chas would be holding four leashes in each hand.

The daily chapel service drew people from every ward of the institution. It featured lots of singing and a sermon with a slide show. Because it was attended by most of the three hundred people who lived there and many of the staff, it was a major social event.

One of David’s ward mates was a fascinating man who provided a running spoken commentary on life for his mostly non-talking companions. He often went by his alias, August Court. Every morning during the sermon, Mr. Court would rise from his pew to bellow “WHY DO WE DO THIS?”

We could hear him loud and clear. Why indeed? August Court’s proclamation became our basic question. Everything we do must be subjected to the test.
1. Why do we do THIS?
2. Why do WE do this?
3. Why do we do this?

CH&S offers training that focus upon these questions. Here are some of my answers. I’d love to know some of yours.

I do it because I believe it is our ultimate joy and our greatest privilege to serve one another with open hearts.
I do it to heal the part of me that was torn when David had to move out of our house to the institution when he was only nine.
I do it to honor the memory of our parents’ love and devotion to David.
I do it to honor the heroes of the human rights movement.
I do it because I believe "if one of us is chained, none of us are free".
I do it because I know that the first people taken in Hitler’s holocaust were people who had intellectual and physical disabilities; and I know that our society can rightfully be judged by the way we treat our most vulnerable people.
I do it because there is only one answer to the question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Okay! I do it because I don't know how to do anything else.
I do it for David.

~ Gail Abate

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