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'Vibrant' Rianda House celebrates with events, classes, resources

'Vibrant' Rianda House celebrates with events, classes, resources

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Rianda House

The Rianda House senior activity center in downtown St. Helena.

Rianda House spotlights Upvalley services, challenges, and achievements from sage perspectives by partner agencies, and active locals like this month’s author, Antonia Allegra:

Two massive Redwood trees flank the entrance to 1475 Main Street in St. Helena. The house, built in 1941, was home to Gunilda "Jean" Rianda for 25 years until she generously bequeathed the building to what is now the Rianda House Senior Activity Center. In May of 2008, the doors of the Center opened to the Upvalley community to serve individuals 55 years young and above.

The Center is a place of community, learning, friendship and sharing. Rianda House offers a diverse collection of no-cost weekly classes to promote healthy minds and bodies, and to provide opportunities to make friends for life. Julie Spencer, Executive Director since 2008, welcomes all with grace, creativity and open smiles, along with a highly skilled, friendly and compassionate team.

Rianda House is the kind of place that friends share with friends. In 2011, Lois Swanson, then Program Chair, enthusiastically invited me to join as a member. I've been happy to participate in classes, attend gallery openings and to watch the evolution of the center. I've made friends, learned, exercised, written, acted and much more over years.

For instance, some of my favorite classes include Kris Coryell's Balance & Stretch and Joan Comandant's PWR!Moves exercise sessions — both taught easily via Zoom during COVID. Also, our weekly gathering for Readers' Theater is a delight for the growing group of thespians who read and act through comedy scripts that bring fellowship and laughter. There are classes for Bridge players, writers, art lovers, as well as cooking, memory games, meditation, and much more, including lectures by various pros. And there are useful classes for caregivers and family. The monthly 20+ offerings are free to all. It's no wonder we feel glad to occasionally donate to keep Rianda House up and running!

Yes, there are tough times of loss, too, though they can bring happy memories. My late husband, Donn Black, and I participated as a team over the years. He wrote memoir pieces for the family and we "hammed it up" for the fun of reading scripts with new friends. No question, Donn saw Rianda House and Rotary as his key communitarian elements of living in St. Helena. The vibrant Center is top of mind for me when friends ask for "bests" of Napa Valley.

With the COVID closure of the Rianda House doors, we all held our breath: What would become of our beloved activity hub? In fact, it merely shifted its “location” until we can return to the elegant Craftsman-style house, or other session locations, such as Calistoga Community Center and city parks. It seemed an easy pivot to switch to online programming. As a result, Zoom classes have actually allowed many to find working out, participating in a current events discussion group, or listening to a music appreciation lecture from home to be easier. Bravo to the leadership team, for their imagination and openness in adapting to what's going on in our lives.

Like those huge Redwoods framing Rianda House, there is no question: We are fortunate to have observed the center evolve as a joyful welcoming place over the years. Rianda House has stretched its roots into a sturdy role as a hub for Upvalley seniors and their families. VIVA Rianda House!!

Now, let's hear from the Rianda House team about specifics that will make the coming months extra-special...

Throughout the year, Rianda House is honored to give back to older neighbors, like Antonia Allegra, by offering no-cost enrichment opportunities and vital resources, now virtually and soon again in-person. Annually in May, the Rally4Rianda campaign unites Upvalley communities to celebrate Older Americans Month acknowledging their contributions made to our country, the Center’s anniversary, and help us raise critical funding to support annual enrichment programs.

Recognizing local seniors who are community pioneers, Rally4Rianda has paid tribute to Vera Trinchero Torres, Mike Hardy, Jean Rianda, Mary Novak and John Shafer. The 2021 Rally4Rianda honoree is Greta Ericson, St. Helena’s first female Mayor. Her “can do” spirit made Jean Rianda’s dream of transforming her home into a community senior center a reality.

Beginning May 16-June 30, join the Rally4Rianda to celebrate older adults in our community and Rianda House’s 13th Anniversary. Mark your calendar for the kick-off event: Rally4Rianda Community Drive-Thru Celebration (May 16, 2-3 p.m. in St. Helena, and 4-5 p.m. in Calistoga) — first 75 guests receive a “Celebration To-Go-Kit.” Donate during the Match Challenge fund-drive. Another highlight, view the Napa Valley movie premiere of “Duty Free” (May 19, 3 p.m., via Zoom). Over this month and half, we’ll rally together to acknowledge the many contributions of past and current Upvalley older adults.

For details about Rally4Rianda events, classes, and resources call: (707) 963-8555, ext. 101, email, or visit Rianda House, 1475 Main St., St. Helena. Open virtually Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Antonia Allegra is a Rianda House participant; Julie Spencer is its Executive Director and Leticia Rosado Russell is the Development and Community Engagement Manager.

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