San Rafael resident Rev. Dina Gardner, a Presbyterian minister who worked the past five years with the Novato Human Needs Center and helped direct its annual Holiday Share program that brightens the holiday season for needy families, died Friday after a battle with cancer. She was 41.
The announcement was made Sunday by Novato Human Needs executive director Deanna Euritt.
"She fought a brave battle for many months with a rare form of cancer, but finally passed peacefully surrounded by her loving husband, family, and close friends," Euritt said.
Gardner went on medical leave from her job in June and had been working part-time since she was diagnosed with cancer, Euritt said.
The center's Holiday Share program allows economically challenged families to choose gifts for their family members. The program, based at a previously empty storefront at the Novato Fair Shopping Center, wraps up its campaign Dec. 14.
"She did a wonderful job with that for several years and just made those the most efficient ones we've ever had," Euritt said. "She always added some really nice touches that made it a very pleasant event for everyone involved."
Regina Bianucci Rus, a Human Needs board member, said she worked with Gardner for many years on the Holiday Share program.
"I have been so impressed with Dina and her ability to motivate people to do the right thing — helping people less fortunate or who are experiencing financial crisis, who just need a friendly hand and a smile to lift themselves up," she said. "She was very important to the Novato Human Needs Center and also to the community at large with her ministry. She will be so missed."
According to her website, Gardner held a Master of Divinity degree from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo as well as a diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction. She also completed the Master of Intuition Medicine program at the Academy of Intuition Medicine in Sausalito.
Gardner served as adjunct faculty member and taught social and administrative ethics at the University of San Francisco. In addition, she was a certified yoga instructor, trained spiritual director, intuitive energy practitioner, pre-marital counselor, spiritual life coach, conflict management expert and violence prevention expert.
She officiated weddings for more than a decade and led many spiritual retreats.
"All of us at the center felt she was a true angel walking this Earth and adored and appreciated her bright spirit, loving manner, sweet sensibility and meticulous devotion to her work," Euritt said. "She made everything better for everyone in all that she touched, and we were always the better for it. I thank all of you who supported her in so many ways. Her light may have left this earth, but she will always remain as a shining star in our hearts. "
Gardner is survived by her husband, Edgar Meza, and many other family members. Plans for a memorial service are being finalized.