Community Link
A newsletter of Napa Valley Community Foundation
August 2014

The word "community" can mean many things. Taken literally, community refers to groups of people who live in the same area, or who share interests or traits. We also know this about community: It can be built from scratch, with intention. It also can appear in unlikely places.


This month's edition of Community Link features three organizations that foster community among those they serve--whether it's bringing groups of isolated people together for support, or creating shared purpose among nonprofits. All programs featured have been vetted by Community Foundation staff.


If you'd like to support any of them, you can recommend a grant by logging into your DonorCentral account from the homepage on our website. Or, you can fax us a completed grant recommendation form at 254.7955. 




Julia DeNatale & Marla Tofle

Philanthropic Services Staff


Animals bring comfort to children and seniors


Organization: Loving Animals Providing Smiles (LAPS)

What's needed: $2,500 to provide specialized training for animal-assisted therapy teams


Why they exist: LAPS is an all-volunteer organization that trains animals and their owners to provide therapeutic companionship to vulnerable community members. Since 2001, LAPS has been training animal-handler therapy teams that visit with inmates at Napa County Juvenile Hall, residents at senior centers, and elementary schoolkids in special-education classrooms.  The benefits of these monthly visits go beyond companionship. For instance, a senior that has difficulty expressing or interacting due to dementia, can experience an emotional reprieve while petting a cat. LAPS volunteers incorporate animals into math lessons at Juvenile Hall, including calculating the cost of caring for a pet, or measuring the animals' bodies and computing the averages. Children with developmental and learning disabilities practice reading to pups during LAPS' time in the classroom, which reduces their anxiety.


What they do well: LAPS teams go through rigorous training and must be certified in the highest standards of safety and effectiveness in animal-assisted therapy before they can be deployed in the community. Teams must re-certify every two years. This kind of intensive training ensures the volunteers--both human and animal--are prepared for any situation, like a crowded classroom of antsy kids, or clients that are reticent to participate because they are afraid of cats or dogs. In the past year, LAPS' 33 therapy teams have logged 440 hours in visits at one of 10 locations in Napa County. Teams are placed at a location based upon the animal-human's specialty and unique personalities. For example, a therapy team might have a particular knack for playing fetch, or easy games with seniors.


What we learned when we met with them recently: LAPS doesn't just work with dogs; the nonprofit has had on its roster everything from cats to birds to rabbits.  Currently, there are certified therapy teams that pair a human handler with a miniature horse and visit senior centers and hospitals. LAPS wants to expand training for therapy teams to deepen their expertise in working with elderly and youth populations, and is actively fundraising to cover those costs.


People served: 1,428 (plus 33 volunteers--the human half of a team)


Budget & Board: $4,500 ($3,000 is for training programs)/7 Board Members


Contact: Gwenn McKenzie, Board Member,

Adults with mental illness gain independence and learn life skills


Organization: Buckelew Programs

What's needed: $10,000 to support programs in Napa


Why they exist: To assist low-income adults with severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses to prepare for, find, and maintain both employment and housing.  Buckelew's clients often have mood, anxiety, personality, or psychotic disorders as their diagnosed illness. The first step in working with clients is placing clients in housing with the appropriate level of supervision, and developing life skills--everything from personal hygiene, house cleaning and cooking, to managing medications, budgeting and maintaining a bank account. After this foundation is built, Buckelew helps clients find jobs and maintain them. Most clients start their working career at one of Buckelew's two social enterprise businesses, Blue Skies Café, or Blue Skies Cleaning Service. This approach gives clients, who often also have very low self-esteem and confidence, a very supportive work experience, which means they are more likely to find long-term employment in the community. Successful employment also works as a positive feedback loop and increases their ability to live independently and maintain stable housing. Buckelew's Napa program works with 31 clients; the nonprofit also offers services to residents in Marin and Sonoma counties.


What they do well:  Many people diagnosed with mental illness face stigma and discrimination, and can feel invisible in society. Buckelew's clients often have lived on the edge of homelessness or joblessness, and few can afford private treatment programs. When clients enter Buckelew's program, they receive case management services tailored to their particular needs, and work toward living independently at a pace that is manageable.


What we learned when we met with them recently: In Napa, Buckelew runs three group homes with round-the-clock staff for clients in the Valley that need the highest level of care.  Buckelew also leases apartments in Napa and rents them at below-market rates to clients who can live more independently; 27 clients currently participate in this program.  Buckelew has more clients that are ready for semi-independent living, but Napa's lack of affordable housing stock means these individuals are on a waitlist.  As Napa's housing stock bounces back from the 2008 recession, the rental market has tightened and is very competitive. As a result, there are fewer property owners that are willing to: lease apartment buildings to Buckelew at reasonable rates; and agree to having tenants that live semi-independently with drop-in case management. Additionally, Napa County's allotment of Section 8 vouchers--the federal program that provides subsidies to low-income residents so they can afford market-rate rental housing--is at an all-time low.


People served: 31 adults with mental illness in Napa County (8,300 throughout the North Bay)


Budget & Board $12.6 million ($730,000 for the Napa program)/17 Board members


Contact: Steve Eckert, Executive Director,

Culture-sector allies champion arts education in public schools


Organization: Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV)

What's needed: $8,500 to support its arts education advocacy project


Why they exist: ACNV, which was founded in 1981, is the umbrella nonprofit organization for arts and culture programs in Napa County--think of it as the trade association for the local sector. In 2006, the arts were in crisis, and the nonprofit developed a countywide cultural plan to help the sector rebuild and sustain, and do so in partnership with the community. ACNV's other projects include advocating for public art ordinances, partnering with City of Napa to create Napa's ARTwalk sculpture tour, staging Valley-wide events like  "Arts in April" that showcase the local culture sector and the wine industry.  Recently, ACNV re-evaluated its role given the current state of local arts organizations, which is stronger, more financially viable and more collaborative. As a result, ACNV has focused its programs, and also is redoubling efforts as the county's leading advocate for the arts.  


What they do well: ACNV has partnerships with regional, state and national arts groups, and knows how to leverage those resources toward local impact. For example, public schools' arts education programs have experienced protracted decreases in state funding that have eroded offerings in classrooms. ACNV has partnered with  the California Alliance for Arts in Education to bring the statewide organization's successful arts-advocacy model to Napa County. ACNV's first step was to build a local coalition, called the Napa County Alliance for Arts in Education (NCAAE), made up of art teachers, school administrators, nonprofits dedicated to youth and arts, donors, as well as visual or performing artists. The local coalition's goal is to put arts instruction back in school classrooms by developing a Countywide Plan for Arts Education. ACNV is leading NCAAE through a series of workshops that examine the current landscape of arts offerings in schools, inform and arm the group with data on how arts education has a positive impact on academic performance, and create a public awareness campaign that will foster a groundswell of support--and funding. 


What we learned when we met with them recently: ACNV purposefully used a public-private partnership model when building the NCAAE coalition, and it seems to be working. The diverse group of stakeholders, which previously never gathered to work on common issues, is engaging in frequent dialogue about the value of teaching students how to apply creativity in the world.  NCAEE also is rolling up its sleeves and has formed various subcommittees that are tackling research and data-gathering, like conducting interviews and surveys with different arts education programs, as well as students, parents and community members. ACNV and NCAEE expect to complete the Countywide Plan by fall of 2015.


People served: 18,000 k-12 students in Napa Valley Unified School District


Budget & Board: $228,000 ($15,500 is for ACNV to lead NCAAE and develop a Countywide Plan)/11 Board members


Contact: Olivia Everett, Executive Director, 

(Photo credit: Lance Shields)

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