“It’s nearly impossible to be a productive member of your family or community if you don’t know where your next meal will come from or you have to worry about having a roof over your head,” said Napa Valley Vintners Executive Director Linda Reiff.

The Napa Valley Vintners announced its investment of $840,000 in community services that offer a safety net to meet the most critical and basic needs — food and shelter — for those living at or below the poverty level.

“These funds will help solve the most immediate problems affecting those living at or below the poverty level — or at risk of doing so — to help them be able to get back on their feet,” said Reiff.

Nearly 10 percent of Napa County residents live below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2007-2011, with 40 percent of its seniors living under the poverty level. The target audiences of programs receiving funding in this fifth category of giving from Auction Napa Valley 2012 proceeds include those working in lower-wage jobs, those who are homeless or at risk of being so, and those who are retired or disabled and living on fixed incomes.

The eight agencies receiving funding in this category are Community Action Napa Valley, Napa Valley Community Housing, Napa County Housing Authority, Fair Housing Napa Valley, Legal Aid of Napa Valley, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and Calistoga Affordable Housing. Funding will allow these organizations to expand their programs and outreach to help these most vulnerable populations on their way to self-sufficiency.

Calistoga Affordable Housing, which received $45,000, believes that neighborhoods are more than clusters of houses. CAH advocates for financially attainable housing and builds neighborhoods that encourage residents to engage in a vibrant vision of Calistoga’s future and their own. CAH wants to be a principal partner in development of and/or preservation of an average of 10 or more moderate-income dwelling units annually.

Community Action Napa Valley, which received $240,000, has as its vision that all families and individuals have equal access to community resources that lead to and support self-sufficiency. Housing First clients are homeless or imminently at risk (within 14 days) of becoming homeless Napa County residents. All are at 50 percent or less of HUD’s median income.

Fair Housing Napa Valley, which received $75,000, works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, conciliation, outreach, advocacy and enforcement.

Legal Aid of Napa Valley, which received $75,000, provides free bilingual legal advice and representation to seniors, immigrants, and low-income residents of Napa County, thereby helping them solve critical problems that affect basic needs and enabling them to lead healthier, safer and more productive lives. Legal Aid strives to ensure that all residents have equal access to the justice system so that they can utilize the courts and other forms of legal intervention to meet basic needs.

Napa County Housing Authority, which received $90,000, owns and operates three 60-bed farmworker centers to serve primarily unaccompanied male farmworkers who range in age from 17 to 60, providing dorm-style accommodations and meals. They are located in Calistoga, St. Helena and Napa. By providing housing to migrant workers, the centers help to keep agricultural workers out of undesirable or illegal housing when they are in the valley for a specific task such as pruning, suckering or harvest.

The Salvation Army, which received $57,000, has been providing for those in need for more than 100 years, serving nutritional meals, supplemental food, and recovery-based programs. William Booth, the Salvation Army’s founder, understood that it is hard for anyone to focus on anything other than survival when hungry, hurting and in need.

Napa Valley Community Housing, which received $188,000, provides a safety net for low-income families and seniors. NVCH provides a stable place to live with support services. Their Resident Services staff provides a variety of services including farmworker advocacy, assistance with social services, wellness education, socialization, parenting, homework help and youth activities, and on-site seminars to teach life and leadership skills.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, which received $70,000, reaches out to all people in need, and offers hope and builds a spirit of community. Their Rainbow House Transitional Housing Program was a response to an unmet need of young mothers (ages 18-24) who are too old for the foster system in Napa County, and/or young mothers with very young children (ages 0-5) facing or experiencing homelessness. They are committed to improving opportunities for the community’s most vulnerable families, according to a press release. Rainbow House allows young mothers to develop the life and parenting skills necessary to unravel the cycle of poverty and build a foundation for a more stable, successful future.

(Gail Newton Showley is a St. Helena resident and a member of the St. Helena Star’s editorial board.)

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