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The Napa Valley Vintners trade association has extended funding for the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative for another year, as the initiative's leadership team works to find other long-term sources of funding. 

The local wine industry’s chief trade association, the Napa Valley Vintners, said on Tuesday it would again grant its annual $2.8 million to fund children’s education in the county.

The grant brings the group’s community funding for the year to a total of $9 million, following a grant of $6.2 million to 18 community health agencies in November.  

Ten nonprofit agencies will receive the funds allotted for children’s education, their roster identical to last year’s, though half of this year’s organizations will receive increases in their grant amounts from $5,000 to $30,000. The remainder will receive the same amounts as last year.    

The exception this year is the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative (NVELI), a multi-agency pilot program founded by the Napa Valley Vintners and aimed at closing the achievement gap between English-learning 3-to-5-year-olds and their English-fluent peers in the county.

The program has made strides to that end, according to a school readiness assessment of county kindergartners last year. Yet, with its five-year pilot period ending this year, this latest grant will be the last of the initiative’s funding to come from the Vintners, who are now seeking long-term supporters for the program.  

The group has invested nearly $5 million in the initiative during its five-year history. Of the latest $2.8 million in grants, NVELI will receive $669,000, more than any of the 10 agencies, but down significantly from the $800,000 the initiative received last year.

The decrease is in line with the Vintners’ transition from being the initiative’s primary backers, said Becky Peterson, NVV’s Member and Community Relations director.

As for the search for long-term supporters, the pursuit was put on hold as many of the agencies involved in the initiative became first responders during the October wildfires. “So they were pretty distracted,” Peterson said. “We’ll go after it full force again in January.”

Of the agencies seeing increases in grant funding this year, early childhood development group Child Start, Inc. will receive a $30,000 boost from last year. The Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley and On the Move will each receive $25,000 more than in 2016, while Community Resources for Children and Aim High will take in $15,000 and $5,000 more this year, respectively. The increases are based on grant requests from each group reflecting their needs for more funding, Peterson said.

All told, the 10 agencies serve upward of 25,000 Napa County children from high school to early childhood and involve almost 8,000 parents and teachers, according to a release from the Vintners announcing the grants.

The Vintners’ grants are drawn from proceeds of the group’s annual fundraiser Auction Napa Valley held in early summer each year since 1981. This year’s event, including the live auction, barrel auction and E-auction, reeled in $15.7 million.

With this latest round of grants, the group’s funding to community agencies comes to a total of $180 million since the auction’s inception.

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Wine Reporter / Copy Editor

Henry Lutz covers the local wine industry. He has been a reporter and copy editor for the Register since 2016.