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Helping people, especially seniors, seems to be in Fran Rosenberg’s DNA.

Twenty years ago, Rosenberg helped found Molly’s Angels, a Napa-based nonprofit dedicated to assisting Napa’s seniors.

She’s has spent the past two decades working for the agency, the past 10 as its executive director.

But that torch is about to be passed.

On Jan. 31, Rosenberg officially retired from her leadership position.

“I loved helping our seniors,” she said. “It’s just such a privilege.”

However, “I made a 20-year commitment and my 20 years are up. I’m going to go and do a lot of golfing now,” Rosenberg said with a laugh.

This happens to be Rosenberg’s second time to retire. The first was more than 20 years ago. At the time, Rosenberg and her husband had a HoneyBaked Ham retail store at Strawberry Village Shopping Center in Mill Valley. They also previously owned a number of dry-cleaning businesses.

The Rosenbergs later moved to Napa where Fran was recruited by friend Molly Banz, the visionary behind Molly’s Angels.

“She asked me if I would help her. I said ‘Sure, of course” — not knowing the agency would become her home for the next 20 years.

Rosenberg said the first years of Molly’s Angels were a challenge.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” she admitted. “We were just a group of ladies that wanted to make a difference.”

In the beginning, getting donations and volunteers took plenty of convincing.

To be honest, “We didn’t think it was going to last,” Rosenberg said. Maybe they’d make it to three or four years, she recalled.

“And here we are 20 years later. It’s unbelievable.”

Today, Molly’s Angels has an annual budget of $160,000 and includes an estimated 70 volunteers.

It offers three key programs:

First, with its transportation program, Molly’s Angels volunteers provide seniors with free rides to and from medical appointments in Napa County and across the Bay Area.

“We go to Stanford, UCSF, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Vacaville and Oakland. We’re in Vallejo once or twice every single day. We are all over the place,” she said.

In 2018, Molly’s Angels provided 2,928 rides to medical appointments. Volunteers drove 35,807 miles in and out of Napa County and donated 3,806 hours of their time, records show.

Second, in its telephone reassurance program, volunteers make weekly wellness check-in calls to seniors living alone in Napa County. In 2018, volunteers made 2,809 such phone calls.

Third, in its food redistribution program, Molly’s Angels volunteers pick up packaged foods from local Starbucks and Pizza Hut locations to be delivered to low-income senior housing.

After being volunteer-run for its first 10 years, Rosenberg was paid “a small, small, small” salary once she was named executive director. There are two other part-time paid staff. An office is located in the Gasser Foundation building on Soscol Avenue.

Banz passed away in 2013. When Rosenberg was named executive director, her goal was “to take Molly’s Angels to the next level and get more well known in Napa for our programs.

“I joined a lot of groups” – especially senior groups — to spread the word about the services Molly’s Angels provided, she said.

It worked, she added. Today, Rosenberg said she now calls those contacts friends. “All the senior programs executive directors work together.”

George Pieczonka, chairman of the Molly’s Angels board, said that Rosenberg “has led Molly’s Angels to what it is today, a very highly respected organization and nonprofit.”

The board chairman described Rosenberg as “a very dedicated person,” who has tremendous empathy and good will — particularly for seniors, said Pieczonka.

Pieczonka said the board is in the process of naming a new executive. The salary for the job is about $40,000 a year, he said.

When asked about the kind of person it will take to fill Rosenberg’s shoes, Pieczonka gave a deep sigh.

“I think it’s going to be a hard choice to make,” he said.

As for her hopes for Molly’s Angels in the future, Rosenberg said she’d like to see the nonprofit grow to include more programs to benefit seniors, such as how to prevent falls. More community awareness about seniors needs is also important, she said. More money is always needed.

Even though her last official day was Jan. 31, Rosenberg said she will still help with some fundraising and the Molly’s Angels Christmas party.

“I have a 24-hour open line to the office and they can call me at any time,” she said.

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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.