In recent months, a new organization called Napa Valley CanDo has become active, with members volunteering to help others and promote discussion of issues affecting us all.
The Register recently conducted a question-and-answer session via e-mail with two founders of the group, Hilary Zunin and Grania Lindbergh. The group holds a gathering, welcoming all interested people, Saturday from 9:30 to noon at First United Methodist Church, 625 Randolph St., Napa.
Register: What events or people inspired you launch CanDo?
Hilary Zunin: Many people have good intentions and sincerely want to help others, but they often don’t know where to begin. Following the 2008 presidential election, a small group of valley residents motivated to furthering change created Napa Valley CanDo. One of CanDo’s central goals is to encourage and facilitate greater community service by easing the path from intent to action.
Another inspiration was realizing how often I, along with friends, groused about the state of the community, the nation and the world. Yet when my husband and I would ask “How much of your time and money are dedicated to resolving those problems?” the answer was typically an awkward excuse or embarrassed silence. That went for us, too. Talk is only the first step. Action’s what’s needed to make things happen, whether that’s through financial support or with boots on the ground.
Q: What does it take to be a member?
Grania Lindbergh: Two things: A desire to help the community and a willingness to have your name on CanDo’s list for a weekly e-mail. This e-mail is how we stay connected and features opportunities for community service as well as informational gatherings.
Q: Is there a political dimension to the group?
GL: We’re an issue-oriented group, not a partisan one. CanDo welcomes members of all political persuasions. We have issue groups on energy and the environment, health care, and California governance, among others. In addition to our community service projects, we strive to educate ourselves and others on controversial issues that make a difference in the lives of valley residents.
Q: What are some examples of CanDo activities?
GL: Our members have assisted other organizations with Project Homeless Connect, a day of services for Napa’s homeless sponsored by Community Action Napa Valley and the Volunteer Center of Napa Valley, and organized sorting and storing parties at the Napa Valley Food Bank. CanDo members initiated two community forums with speakers on the budget problems in Sacramento; created a Carbon Circle Study Group where five families learned about and took action to reduce their carbon footprints; and distributed information about health insurance reform proposals.
Q: Why start a new charitable organization when the valley is teeming with them?
HZ: The valley has hundreds of nonprofits, many of whom are doing incredible work, but CanDo functions in a different way. First, we assist people who want to put their toes in the water with community service. If they’ve got toes, we’ll find the water! Second, we connect volunteers who share common interests. Third, CanDo supports already functioning non-profits with volunteers for specific projects. Fourth, if our members see needs in the community that aren’t being met, we strive to meet them.
All of this is done on a shoestring. Members donate their time and sometimes pay expenses out of their own pockets. We’re looking at funding needs as we grow. One step at a time.
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
GL: Our members identify many projects, but community groups present possibilities, too. Although we’d like to respond to every need, the requests are far more numerous than our current membership is able to support. With more members who are willing to get off their... sofas, we can accomplish even more.
Q: Is it fun?
Service to others is satisfying, often amazing, and sometimes it’s a blast. When the radio is on at the Food Bank and volunteers are dancing as they sort donated food items, it’s clear we’re having fun. We also hold three or four social gatherings during the year just to get to know each other better and enjoy the time.
Zunin can be reached at 252-7743. Lindbeg can be reached at 480-0174.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story did not contain contact information for Napa Valley CanDo.