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What does it take to be a volunteer? Norma Ferriz, who serves on our editorial board as a volunteer and also leads a local Girls Scouts troop, said it best, “commitment, commitment, commitment.”

For a small town to work, volunteers are required at every level, including for the city council, planning commission and all the other city’s committees and departments. Two people from the new St. Helena Police Department volunteer program were handing out cold water on Saturday, when the temperature reached 110 degrees in mid-afternoon.

The Rianda House Senior Activity Center only thrives because of its volunteers. These words are from Julie Spencer, its executive director: “Volunteers are Rianda House’s most important resource – they are the heart and soul of all that we offer the community. They are constantly bringing in new ideas to help us grow and thrive. They work willingly together for the betterment of their community and find the donation of their time and energy a meaningful experience for themselves as well as for Rianda House. A true win/win situation. Volunteers help us reach new audiences through their work and social circles and are wonderful informal ambassadors.”

The city’s other nonprofit groups, too, require members so they can serve the community, whether it be the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Soroptimists or Masons. Without volunteers, there would be far fewer scholarships for graduating high school students, fewer funds would be raised for other needed services in town, like the St. Helena Preschool For All, and the list goes on and on. We take it for granted that the American flags will line Main Street for our holidays – did you notice them on Friday morning? – but without the Kiwanis members getting up early, that wouldn’t happen.

Two city volunteer groups, the Tree Committee and the Multicultural Committee, have shut down because the city couldn’t get anyone to serve on them.

Without the members of the American Legion, St. Helena wouldn’t have a Memorial Day service at the St. Helena Cemetery and we wouldn’t be able to honor those who died serving our nation in the armed forces.

If we didn’t have volunteers in St. Helena, this town would be poorer. Volunteer groups provide a social network for the residents of this town and in the last couple of decades, the local schools have done a good job of effectively using its volunteers and teaching its students to serve in the community.

Besides, commitment, what else does it take to be a volunteer?




Ability to listen and ask questions


A willingness to serve

Belief in the cause

Recently, the St. Helena Beautification Foundation handed out its annual awards and named two beautiful and newly landscaped areas: the entrance to Salvestrin Winery on Highway 29; and the front yard of Tim Hayden’s home at Spring Street and Hudson Avenue. They also honored the student artists at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School, who decorated the fence along Spring Mountain Road with their artwork.

We strongly urge you to contact your favorite nonprofit or the city for volunteer opportunities. For example, the UpValley Family Center is recruiting tutors for the elementary school kids, tutors for citizenship and volunteers for tax preparation; Girl Scouts is looking for leaders, and Soroptimists for new members.

Sharing your time and skills as a volunteer is not only a way to help St. Helena thrive, it’s an opportunity to make new friends and work with people who have similar interests. Besides, it can be a lot of fun.

Star editorial board

Besides, Norma Ferriz, six others serve as unpaid volunteers on the editorial board and the St. Helena Star is so much better for their service. They help recruit guests and then interview them when we meet on Thursdays, help form the newspaper’s opinions and help write and rewrite our editorials.

They are, in no particular order, Christopher Hill, Gail Showley, Shannon Kuleto, Bonnie Long, Dave Yewell and our newest member, Peter McCrea.

McCrea, who served on the St. Helena Planning Commission, is co-proprietor, with his wife, Willinda, of Stony Hill Vineyard, founded by McCrea’s parents, Fred and Eleanor in 1943. He has lived part or full time in St. Helena most of his life and spent 37 years as a senior executive for Chevron. During his life, he has served on countless nonprofit and governmental board in San Francisco and in Napa County.

In his application letter, McCrea said he wants to serve on the board to offer “perspective.” He adds, “I believe that the role of a local paper is not only to report the news, but to try through its editorials to put the news in some type of longer term perspective. I think this is particularly important in a community that seems to have lost its sense of history as it has evolved and tries to wrestle with the macro changes that are affecting all communities today.”

In 1943, St. Helena was truly a rural community, McCrea notes. “We had only one bank, but three butcher stores, five bars, a lumber yard, and a downtown that was the center of life for not only the residents of St. Helena, but the surrounding agricultural community. Grapes were the fifth most important agricultural crop in the Napa Valley. I think this is the St. Helena that many of our citizens wish they still had, but is clearly not possible in 2017.”