One of the highlights of my three-year stint as President/CEO of the Napa Chamber, has been the opportunity to get to know — and develop a friendship with — Mike DiSimoni, Sr., a highly respected, but very low-key local developer.

He’s someone who doesn’t want – or get enough — credit for downtown’s resurgence, but it actually began with his Riverfront Residences and Shops in 2010.

In addition to Channel Properties Real Estate, DiSimoni also owns and operates Channel Lumber, a Richmond-based company that has served the Bay Area for over 50 years.

The Napa resident takes great pride in his “dual citizenship” role as a key stakeholder of both communities and has made a point to introduce me to many positive people and things going on in a place known to carry a very tough reputation.

Enter Menbe Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante, who was one of my first introductions, as we would meet for our monthly lunch meetings at her beautiful waterfront Italian restaurant on the Richmond marina.

Aklilu recently pledged to donate 100 percent of proceeds from one full day of lunch and dinner revenue to a Napa organization assisting those affected by the recent fires.

She speaks often of how DiSimoni has been a great inspiration in enabling her to “pay it forward” whenever the opportunity presents itself and it looks like the Napa Police Officers’ Association will be the beneficiary of her very generous gesture.

Locals invited to shop/dine for fire relief:

A large group of downtown Napa merchants — spearheaded by Cadet Wine Bar co-owner Aubrey Bailey — have come together to create a special evening designed to encourage locals to come together, shop, dine and visit participating members of the Do Napa Downtown Crawl to support fire relief efforts.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, from 4 until 8 p.m., approximately 50 restaurants, wine bars, boutiques and salons have agreed to donate a percentage of proceeds from the four-hour event to the Napa Valley Community Foundation fire relief fund.

For details and a complete list of participating merchants, go to donapa.com.

Thank you, Napa:

I know that I’ve not had too much to say publicly about the recent fires, other than acknowledging the efforts of the first responders and local, state and federal officials.

Part of the reason is that, like many of us, I, too, had my own personal situation to deal with as my family was forced to move away from Napa for two weeks during that time.

For the first time in my life, I was simply overwhelmed – first by feelings of fear, sorrow, uncertainty, despair and helplessness and then finally guilt.

I can attest to the fact that “survivor’s guilt” not only exists, it’s a very powerful emotion and I know I’m not the only person dealing with it.

It does help to live in such an amazing community that provides so many opportunities to help others and that has been the best remedy imaginable.

I know this may sound strange, but after going through the earthquake of 2014 and the recent fires, I can honestly say there’s no other community I’d rather go through a natural disaster with.

The community compassion and resilience on display in both cases were truly amazing and inspiring.

Thank you, Napa.

Travis Stanley is the president and CEO of the Napa Chamber of Commerce. Call 226-7455 or visit napachamber.com.

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