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Community Builders: The Heart of Napa award winners

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Vounteers

The recipients and sponsors of the 2022 Heart of Napa awards.

The Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) announced the recipients of the seventh annual Heart of Napa Awards on March 17 at the Napa Valley Expo Center where 250 community leaders, volunteers, elected officials, and business members gathered for the first in-person Heart event since the pandemic began.  

The 2021 CVNL Heart of Napa Award for Corporate Community Service was presented to Wine Down Media, the parent company of KVYN 99.3 FM “The Vine” and KVON 1440 AM/96.9 FM “MegaMix." Wine Down Media inspires its employees to make a positive impact starting from its leaders, station owners, Julissa and Will Marcencia. Wine Down Media’s focus on volunteerism is to maximize the impact where employees live and play.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Powell Helems from the Napa Valley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is made up of community members who are trained in how to respond to emergencies and assist first responders. During the 2020 wildfires, Helems contributed 1,300 hours to COVID-19 tests and wildfire response and was instrumental in organizing and managing the large animal rescue. In 2021 he contributed more than 650 hours supporting COVID-19 vaccination clinics. He was helpful in keeping many of the Napa Valley CERT teams together and trained through the last two years. 

The Excellence in Board Leadership Award was given to Sandy Re Sims, Aldea Children and Family Services. Re Sims’ commitment to Aldea’s mission contributed to a  successful first virtual Change-A-Life Gala, which raised $135,000 for Aldea services and programs. She has been active in supporting staff during the pandemic and has recruited and mentored board members.

The Youth Volunteer of the Year award recognizes five full-time middle or high school students serving in a Napa nonprofit, education or faith environment. Through the pandemic, all the youth leaders nominated remained committed to bettering their communities. 

The first Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Ximena Alvarez Parra, president of the Mentis’ Teen Council, where she provides leadership and direction to councilmembers, promotes volunteer opportunities and engages with peers.

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The second Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Emily Long. Emily played an integral role in American Canyon Parks & Foundation’s Park and Play recreation program, which brought healthy activities to 1,100 kids. At American Canyon High School, Emily is the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club and was a guest presenter with the mental health production “This Is My Brave.”

The third Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Nicholas Dominici, co-founder of the Youth Leadership Academy of Napa whose goal is to empower students to see themselves as leaders and apply their strengths to their everyday lives.

The fourth Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Kyle Hadeler, from the Boys & Girls Club, where he has gone from someone who was unsure of his direction to someone who is building a better community.

The final Youth Volunteer of the Year was presented to Hassan Shafi, vice president for Mentis’ Teen Council and a board member of The Napa Youth Council and serves as a lawyer in Napa Peer Court.

Rob Weiss of Mentis was awarded the Heart of Napa 2021 Excellence in Leadership Award. He was one of five employees when he was hired by Mentis in 1996 and became executive director in 2011. As the agency has grown to a team of 45, he co-created a vision that allows Mentis to be proactive in responding to community mental health needs, increasing its focus on early intervention and prevention. In early 2020, after years of partnering to support middle and high school students struggling with anxiety and depression, Teens Connect merged with Mentis. 

The 2021 Heart of Napa Award for Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence was presented to OLE Health, which provides high-quality, comprehensive primary care services to everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of income, insurance, immigration status, or ability to pay. OLE Health had 136,000 patient visits in 2021 and administered more than 45,000 doses of the vaccine to essential workers, senior citizens, and those at high risk.

All recipients were presented with certificates of recognition from Congressman Mike Thompson, State Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, State Senator Bill Dodd, and the Napa County Board of Supervisors. Additionally, recipients (except Corporate Community Service) received awards of $2,500 and $5,000 for their nonprofit organizations. The five Youth Volunteers of the Year received $1,000 each. 

The Napa County Resource Conservation District uses volunteers to track flows in the county's streams.

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