Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” August 2007.
By Kathleen Dreessen
Vine Village is an extraordinary place for people with special needs. Set on a 25-acre ranch in the Carneros District of Napa, Vine Village offers a residential program and an arts day program for developmentally disabled adults. To help raise much-needed funds, Vine Village sells its own label olive oils, vinegars, wine, produce and a cookbook. The major fundraiser of the year is the Vine Village Annual Celebration and Wine Auction. This year’s event will be held on Friday, August 10 at Chardonnay Golf Club.
“The Vine Village Celebration is our major fundraiser for the year and provides critical funding for our programs for people with developmental disabilities,” says Mike Kerson, executive director. “Since 1973 Vine Village, Inc. has provided a world-renowned residential program for people with developmental disabilities as well as the Vine Village Arts day program. We are a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.”
The non-profit Vine Village ranch is a peaceful spot; birds and butterflies flit from flower to vegetables in the huge organic garden. The quiet is broken by the calls of nesting blue herons high in the eucalyptus trees. The wind rustles the grape leaves in the vineyard.
Cottages that dot the landscape house Vine Village’s 18 residents. Many of the residents work in town, in food and retail settings and sheltered workshops; some prefer to work around the ranch. There is a waiting list for the residential program.
Independence is encouraged and the staff assists when needed.
Each day, the bustling art center sees an average of 20 people, who take VineGo, taxis or are dropped off at the site. Once there, they create paintings, crafts and ceramics under the guidance of professional artists and teachers. The art program, whose participants are sponsored by the North Bay Regional Center, is open those with developmental disabilities on a space-available basis. Prior arrangements are necessary.
Kerson’s adjacent property has horses, burros and a donkey. The Vine Village residents often get to interact with these animals and also care for two llamas, several goats and chickens.
Residents of the program are active participants in the area’s Special Olympics, and have taken home medals in swimming, basketball, gymnastics and bocce ball.
Vine Village relies on contributions and monthly fees. “The truth is that the residential program doesn’t pay for itself,” says Kerson, adding that most of the people living at the Village wouldn’t be able to pay for the actual costs of their housing and care.
The Vine Village Annual Celebration will feature lunch and a golf tournament, dinner with live and silent auction and sale of original artwork created by Vine Village participants. The event is actively seeking sponsors, donations, volunteers and attendees. For information, call (707) 255-4006 or check the web site: http://www.vinevillage.org