By Lisa Adams Walter
Sometimes the simple things mean the most. Small acts can make a big difference, and leave a lasting and important legacy. In Napa, the simple act of placing a large pickle jar on a restaurant counter more than 15 years ago created a community of care by some local “angels.”
In the late 1990s, Molly Banz, then a Napa restaurateur, learned of a local family hit with an enormous tragedy. Family members, and their home, were lost in a devastating fire. With her unstoppable spirit and desire to help, Molly rallied her customers by simply placing a pickle jar on the restaurant counter to encourage customers to give what they could to help the surviving family members pay for funeral expenses. Quarters, pennies, five dollar bills, along with a few Benjamins and dimes, began to fill the jar. Molly’s customers, who became known as “angels,” paid for the final expenses for that family AND raised enough to help them also relocate to a new home. Molly’s Angels was born!
Molly had a simple plan: if everyone in Napa County would donate $1 per month, there would be plenty of money to help those in need due to catastrophic events. Over the years, thousands of people, ranging from children to the elderly, have been helped. Referrals from social workers, neighbors and friends of those in need, as well and the needy themselves, reach out.
Molly’s Angels has evolved mainly into a free transportation program for any senior citizen who resides in Napa County. Angels will even assist by taking Napans to medical appointments out of town to important facilities such as U.C.S.F. Medical Center, Kaiser Hospital Vallejo and Kaiser Hospital Vacaville.
The existence of this important, non-profit service relies on two things: monetary donations and gifts of time. “We rely on volunteers to assist with driving the client. They will pick up the client at their house, stay with them during the appointment, and will also take the clients grocery shopping or to pick up their medication after the appointment,” said Nicole Pfister, Director of Volunteers for Molly’s Angels.
The staff at Molly’s Angels repeatedly hears, “If it were not for Molly’s Angels, I would not be able to get to my doctor.” One local resident even said that, “If it weren’t for Molly’s Angels I would have lost my leg!”
Molly’s Angels client, Sharon Haeckl, remembers that when Molly’s Angels came into their lives, she and her husband and were both nearly bedridden, without
family nearby, “Their loving and friendly staff gave us quality care and service. They provided transportation to numerous doctor appointments without complaint or cost. Without their services we would not be here today. It was like a light in the window when Molly’s Angels arrived.”
When asked how Molly’s Angels has helped, Hedy Kinder started singing, “You light up my life!” She went on to explain, “Molly’s Angels has enriched my life and has given me a better quality of life. They have taken away some of my worries and doubts. They go above and beyond my expectations.”
Absolutely critical to the mission that the late Molly Banz started are the volunteers, such as Andrea Stover who said, “I want to do something to help others and this is one of the things that is easy to do and very rewarding. The people are very nice and so appreciative for the service. They don’t have complete control of their lives anymore and this is a way for them to regain some control. It provides options for seniors and helps them to not feel like a burden to their families.”
Circumstances sometimes necessitate the creation of a custom program for special needs, of which there are many. Additional programs in which Molly’s Angels participates include: “Access Adventures,” which provides outdoor recreation, open space access, education and therapy through a working partnership with horses; “Share the Care” which is a Napa County-based peer-to-peer program that connects older adults in need of assistance with advocacy, referrals and support for well-being and quality of life; “Celebrating Seniors” a festival, with food, information and fun for seniors
and “A Senior Wish” developed to make a wish come true for several seniors.
Molly’s Angels is always seeking, and needs, new “angels” – so if you are moved to do some simple things to help, call (707) 224-8971 send an email to email@example.com or visit the website