Napa Valley Register: City of Napa sets up recreation scholarships for seniors

September 2, 2021 by Edward Booth

A new scholarship offered by the Napa Parks and Recreation Department allows select Napa seniors to take part in local recreation classes for free.

To qualify, Napa residents must be age 55 or older, make below the median income in the city — $55,650 for a household of one and $79,500 for a household of four, according to a city information sheet — and provide proof that they reside within city limits.

In total, the scholarship will provide for up to $500 per household in registration fees for any classes. Those classes include adult bocce league, beginning ukulele, bird watching for beginners, modern calligraphy and True Crimes from Napa Valley’s Past: The Dramas Continue, among many others. Some classes are being held in-person and others, such as the crime class, are being held on Zoom.

Katrina Gregory, recreation manager for the city, said at a city senior advisory commission Wednesday that the program is intended to support and bring in lower income seniors, Latinx seniors and single seniors. That’s part of an overall plan, she said, to create an inclusive environment and cut down on isolation and other health issues.

“A topic we’ve been talking about also for several years is really trying to prevent isolation and depression and create those social opportunities at the senior center,” Gregory said.

Linda Button, recreation coordinator, said at the meeting that seven people had filled out applications so far and six had registered, three weeks after she first sent notices out about the program. All but one of the seniors is single, she said, and half are Latinx. Those who’ve applied so far have been interested in exercise classes, a meditation class and ukulele classes, she said. And, she added, the total registration fees paid for by the program have added up to about $1,300 so far.

One senior interested in the program, Button added, was an 87 year old woman who used to take the drawing and painting class from longtime instructor Joan Tillotson. The woman previously had to stop taking classes because she couldn’t afford it.

“She had to stop taking the classes because of the cost, she could no longer afford it, but she was thrilled yesterday that she’s not only reconnecting to a passion that she had but also with an instructor that she took classes from years ago,” Button said. “People are absolutely thrilled when they find out they’ve qualified.”

Commission member Mark Lucas thanked the city representatives for setting up the scholarship program, and said it was great to see the program finally come together.

“I remember when I first got on the commission I had a friend that, him and his wife were taking dance classes, and they couldn’t afford to take them anymore,” Lucas said. “And I remember back when we kind of started down this path; it’s great to see something come to fruition.”

Funding for the program, $7,000 in total, came from the Napa Valley Community Foundation, from a 2019 Strong Communities Fund grant. The grant is intended to support services and activities that promote health and welfare of senior citizens in the city. The city couldn’t use the grant immediately because COVID-19 closed down the Senior Center for about 16 months.

Gregory said the city’s been in discussion with the Napa Parks and Recreation program to figure out how to continue the program or find additional grant funding.

“But it’s a great way to test the program out, kind of figure out what the need is,” Gregory said.

Button said the city is encouraging those who receive the scholarship to sign up for all the classes they want, as the city is going to lose access the funding next April. But, if there’s funding left over from this year, seniors will be able to register for classes using the scholarship funds in the early months of next year.

“People are so grateful and a few of them have told me, ‘oh I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. This is so exciting,’” Button said. “They’re really, really thrilled to be able to participate.”

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