For the last 15 years, UpValley Family Centers has been providing vital health services for families in the Napa Valley community. Last year alone they served more than 3,000 individuals.

With locations in Calistoga and St. Helena, the nonprofit also acts as a safety-net for those in need, from toddlers to seniors.

Each year they also host a free a back-to-school celebration for families and students.

Along with free meals of hamburgers and hot dogs, live music, games and activities for children, this year the Center was duly honored at its own Aug. 24 event with a proclamation delivered by Congressman Mike Thompson. In a brief speech, Thompson praised the center for all they do throughout the year, most recently, for providing wildfire victims with avenues of assistance and resources.

The yearly event, held at Berry Field at Calistoga Elementary School, is also vehicle for more than a dozen local agencies to provide families with education and community assistance resources.

The message from Napa County Health and Human Services this year was for a tobacco-free Napa.

Most parents don’t know, for example, that children start smoking in middle school, and as young as 10 years old.

“E-cigarettes are such a new thing, people think its safe,” said Nancy Wynne de Rivera, a health education specialist with Napa County Public Health. “They are so easy to buy and parents don’t know it, that’s the problem. But every day, school principals are taking them away from kids.”

E-cigarettes and JUUL pods — a cartridge for vaping — can easily be purchased online with an Amazon gift card, and there are local stores that carry these products and don’t check customer IDs, Wynne de Rivera said. The pods account for 30 percent of the e-cigarette market, and one JUUL pod is the equivalent to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes, she added.

At the celebration entertainment was found at every turn. Calistoga Art Center engaged students in arts and crafts. Snow White and two of the dwarfs from the Disney animated story also made an appearance and led eager youngsters in dance exercises and a conga line.

And thanks to UpValley’s LGBTQ Youth connection, a poster-sized 15th birthday card was signed by community members for the UpValley Family Centers.

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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com or 942-4035.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor