The barrel room at St. Helena’s Merryvale Vineyards was filled with people Friday night, all cheering and applauding the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce’s five 2019 Community Honorees.
- Wayne Armstrong and Marcus Robbins, owners of Pennyweight, honored as Business of the Year;
- Stephanie Iacobacci, city of St. Helena Parks & Recreation employee, honored as Employee of the Year;
- Julio Olguin, executive director of St. Helena Preschool for All, which was honored as Nonprofit of the Year; and
- Norma Ferriz, operations director for the UpValley Family Centers, who was named Citizen of the Year.
After accepting the award for Pennyweight, Armstrong said he and Robbins came to St. Helena 24 years ago and opened Pennyweight 15 years ago. He thanked the crowd for their support and for being “so kind.” He also thanked the store’s “amazing” team, which included manager Nichole Stottlemyer. “We could not have had the success we’ve had without her,” Armstrong said.
Andre Pichly, the city’s Recreation Department supervisor, said Iacobacci came to interview for a position with the City of St. Helena in summer 2017, adding after that interview, he knew Iacobacci would be a good employee.
St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth had even more praise for Iacobacci.
“I first met her when she was working at Health Spa Napa Valley, where I swim, and I couldn’t help but notice what an incredible manager she was,” Ellsworth said. “She was somebody who took the job as if it was her own business.”
Later, when an opening in the city’s Recreation Department opened, Ellsworth said he went to City Manager Mark Prestwich and told him Iacobacci “would be the most incredible person for this job” and that she would be “an incredible asset to the city.” She got the job and earned Employee of the Year because she took on and managed “Jingle All the Way,” a month-long ice skating rink put in Lyman Park as part of the city’s Christmas celebration. It was a joint effort between the Chamber and the City.
Presenter Jeannie Kerr talked about St. Helena’s Preschool for All, which was named Nonprofit of the Year. It provides scholarships to 3- and 4-year-olds and since it began in 2011 with a collaboration with the UpValley Family Centers, it has provided 129 scholarships, including 20 youngsters enrolled this year.
“Without preschool, children are not ready for kindergarten,” Kerr said.
Olguin was hired as executive director in 2013. He said he was born, raised and attended preschool in 1983 and graduated from St. Helena High School.
“I left and came back to St. Helena, because it’s a great place to raise kids,” he said. “It’s my way to give back to the community.”
As Shannon Kuleto introduced Citizen of the Year Norma Ferriz, both the honoree and her husband, Evan Massaro, wore smiles a mile wide. After accepting the award, Ferriz read a statement she had written beforehand.
“Thank you for the recognition and for coming to celebrate with us. Sharing this evening with all of you is one of the best parts of this award. You are all an important part of my life: my family, members of the UpValley Family Centers, Soroptimist, editorial board, Girl Scouts, exercise class, singing pals and other dear friends. I love St. Helena and I am grateful to my wonderful husband, Evan, for bringing me here (to the United States) and supporting me in all that I do. I would not be here, if it were not for you.”
Ferriz has spent her career in nonprofits, including environmental nonprofits, for the past 25 years and has spent the last 11 at the UpValley Family Centers.
She added, “I have also chosen to spend a good part of my life doing volunteer community service. Since I arrived in St. Helena, I have volunteered at Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, at Napa Wildlife Rescue, at the Public Library as a trustee and later as a member of the Library Friends and Foundation Board and at the Active Transportation and Multicultural committees.
“I currently volunteer with the St. Helena Star Editorial Board, with Soroptimist — fundraising to support women and girls — and with Girl Scouts, with whom I have volunteered for the past 10 years. I am grateful for having had such opportunities.”