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Community effort rebuilds Red Cross’ gravel driveway to Rianda House, St. Helena

St. Helena Kiwanis Club

This group of St. Helena Kiwanis Club members spent a day in May rebuilding the driveway at the American Red Cross, spreading gravel and filling potholes that had made the driveway unsafe. They are, from left, George Watson, Dee Dee Green, team organizer Bob Beckstrom, Bob Matheny, Jay Lewis, Howard Walker, Jan Darter, John Ponte and Jeff Farmer.

A community effort has remade the gravel driveway that runs between the American Red Cross building on Oak Avenue and the Rianda House Senior Activity Center on Main Street, next to the post office.

The effort to fill the potholes with gravel and make it safer for both drivers and walkers began when St. Helenan Thelma Stratton came to the Rianda House earlier this spring.

“She brought it to our attention that the driveway over at the Red Cross building was becoming very unsafe,” said Julie Spencer, executive director of the Rianda House.

The driveway is gravel, not paved, and with the weather this past winter, it had seen better days.

Elizabeth Cobb-Bruno, Rianda’s program and volunteer manager, thought they could put a bucket at the door to collect money. Phoebe Ellsworth heard about the effort and came in with a beautiful canister. The effort was named “Pennies for Gravel.” Within a week, $101 had been raised.

Spencer then said that Alonso Villa came into Rianda House, as he has since it opened more than a decade ago, and wondered about the campaign. He told them he would put up all the money to buy the gravel.

“I had already spoken to the St. Helena Kiwanis Club, because I knew we needed help and they are always amazing,” Spencer said. “They have helped us with so many projects, they can build anything and thy do great things.”

She also got permission from the local Red Cross chapter to rebuild the driveway and they were thrilled, Spencer said. She also called Harold Smith & Sons, who came over, looked at the job and estimated how much gravel would be needed. “They were right on and gave us a little bit of a discount,” Spender said.

Then on a Wednesday after their weekly meeting, nine Kiwanis members showed up and got to work. The potholes were filled the same day.

“It was a huge team effort, now it is safe and Thelma is happy,” Spencer said. “A lot of people walk back and forth to Rianda House through the Red Cross driveway and then walk to the post office. It was a good deed done by all,” she added.

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star and The Weekly Calistogan.

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