Community Interest – April 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” April 2010.

Food Bank Volunteers

CANV – Serving The Napa County
By Marsha Dorgan

Napa County has many programs available to help the low-income, homeless and seniors. The majority of these programs are made possible through Community Action of Napa Valley. CANV is a federal program which started about 45 years ago to aid low-income and poverty-level families. The oldest program is Head Start, which was implemented during President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. There are 1,043, community action programs nationwide.

The Napa non-profit organization oversees five programs, which include the four homeless shelters, the food bank, child development and daycare, senior nutrition centers and tobacco and quit smoking center, according to Drene Johnson, CANV executive director. There is no cost for any of CANV’s services.

“It can be a juggling act,” Johnson said. “But I have a dedicated staff and volunteers. We couldn’t pull it off without everyone’s devoted work and care for the clients we serve.”

The county’s homeless shelters include the Hope Center, south Napa shelter, Samaritan Family Center and the winter homeless shelter.

Johnson said the Hope Center, a downtown Napa day-treatment center for the homeless, offers many services. “We see from 85 to 90 people a day. The Hope Center offers showers, phones, computers, clothing and food,” she said. “We also have a small medical clinic.”

Thanks to a federal stimulus grant, the center has started a culinary program. “It’s in its third class. We have been able to get catering jobs, and we have placed some of the students in local restaurants, thus putting the homeless to work,” Johnson said.

The Samaritan Family Center houses homeless families with children. The shelter can accommodate seven families. The CANV staff assists families in becoming self-sufficient. The south Napa shelter is open to individuals 18 or older. Those using the shelter are given access to programs to help them find jobs and permanent housing. The emergency winter shelter provides a safe, warm place for the homeless who otherwise would look for shelter on the streets.

“The long-term goal is do away with shelters and get people into immediate housing,” Johnson said.

“The Napa Valley Food Bank has served 11,000 Napa Valley residents in the past six months,” Johnson said.

The food bags, available to those people, are filled with dried beans, cereal, peanut butter, soap, fresh produce and other food items are bagged at the agency’s warehouse in south Napa, which is run by CANV employees and volunteers. “We buy some of the food and a lot of it is donated,” Johnson said. “We serve people from American Canyon to Lake Berryessa.”

The food bank trucks stock up at the warehouse in south Napa and head for the delivery site at Living Vine Church on Linda Vista Avenue in north Napa. The food giveaway is available on Thursday and Friday mornings.

“We don’t start distributing the food until 9:30 a.m. But people start lining up around 8:20 a.m.,” said Mike Boos, Napa Valley Food Bank warehouse manager. “We usually serve about 90 families each day.”

Boos said there have been times when the center ran out of food. “We don’t have a lot or space to store the food.”

Another arm of the food bank is the Meals on Wheels program. The program not only provides seniors with a daily nutritious meal, it also gives them contact with others, and for many seniors, it may be the only daily contact with people they have, Johnson said. The food is prepared by Napa County jail inmates and delivered to the seniors by volunteers.

“Three hundred meals are delivered seven days a week to seniors,” Johnson said. “Fifty-seven meals are delivered to non-seniors, such as the disabled, five days a week.”

The program also serves about 150 people a day at the four senior centers. The Brown Bag program delivers foods such as fruit, canned vegetables and meats twice a month to about 560 shut-ins. Others who qualify may pick up the groceries at the Food Bank. Johnson said the Food Bank supplies about 40 Napa County non-profit agencies. They pay 18 cents a pound. There are about 200 volunteers between the food bank and Meals on Wheels.

CANV also heads up the child development and family program. “We have two childcare centers, providing care for 104 children from infants to 6 years old,” she said.

The centers encourages parents to get involved and participate in fundraisers. The tobacco education and quit smoking program helps those addicted to cigarettes kick the habit.

Free classes are available, focusing on education about the long-term effects of smoking, quitting techniques and the tobacco industry’s advertising techniques.

CANV’s annual budget is around $5 million. In addition to federal money, the non-profit also receives money from local fundraisers such as the Wine Auction and Hands Across the Valley.

“The Gasser Foundation, Napa Valley Foundation and so many wineries have also been very generous,” Johnson said. “We hope to do more fundraisers on our own this year.”

Although Johnson said funding at this point looks solvent, “I always have a lump in my throat.”

For more information visit CANV’s Web site  at http://www.canv.org

http://www.napavalleymarketplace.com

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