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Just Say Hi: Napa church launches drone greetings during pandemic
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Just Say Hi: Napa church launches drone greetings during pandemic

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Some Napa churches are staying in touch during the pandemic with Zoom sessions and services on YouTube and other virtual visits.

Napa Methodist Church has taken staying in touch with members to a new level, literally.

A group of volunteers from the downtown church has been sending a drone to visit parishioners at their own homes, making videos of the short encounters, and then posting them online for the congregation to view on YouTube. 

Called Just Say Hi, the drone drop-in program started with member Loie Whitmer.

These Napa church members are staying in touch during the pandemic via drone visits. Called Just Say Hi, the program features short video visits of members across Napa County and beyond.

When the COVID-19 shutdown started last year, “people were so sad we couldn’t go to church and greet each other,” Loie said. “I mulled it over in my head … how can we see each other without really seeing each other?”

That’s when she thought of her brother-in-law Bob Amoroso, who happens to have a drone and a license to fly it.

Loie figured she and Bob could head to members’ homes, launch the drone and do a video of that person waving to the drone without leaving their front door or porch. The drone visits are then collected into short videos which are added to the end of each Sunday's virtual church service.

It was a hit, said Loie.

The crew also includes Jan Amoroso, Bob’s spouse.

“Everyone’s just enjoyed seeing each other and it's fun for us, because we get to see everybody, too, at a safe distance,” said Jan. “It’s pretty cool.”

“It’s kind of a novelty,” said Bob. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve ever been recorded by a drone.

She likes being part of the Just Say Hi crew, said Loie, especially because “for us who do the filming, we actually get to see their faces.”

It’s been more than a year since the church held in-person services and those gatherings have yet to resume. The church members really miss each other, said Loie.

Launched in September, the Just Say Hi team has since visited about 65 to 70 homes and made about 13 video “episodes.” Each video is about three minutes long.

Each Just Say Hi video is filmed from a safe distance. First, Bob launches the drone, usually from the sidewalk. Then he flies the drone up above the resident, and slowly takes the drone down to reveal the person or family they’re visiting.

“I think it’s a great way to connect with all my church family who we miss terribly,” said Vicki Poli, who received a visit from the Just Say Hi crew on Wednesday.

“I like watching them,” she said of the videos made by the group. “Oh, there’s so-and-so; I haven’t seen them in a long time.”

“It’s kind of fun, and I’m looking forward” to seeing her own drone video visit on the church YouTube page, Vicki said.

Over the past months, the crew has traveled all over Napa Valley and even to homes in Fairfield and Rio Vista to film the short visits.

Sure, the church members could be seeing each other via apps like Zoom, “but this is more fun and a little more personal because we come to where they live,” said Jan. And anyone can participate, even those who aren’t computer savvy.

All you have to do is wave.

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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