Profiles By: Fran Miller

“Giving is not just about making a donation. It’s about making a difference”.

– Kathy Calvin
Former CEO, United Nations Foundation

Too often, people assume to be called a philanthropist, there must be a monetary component involved. But, in fact, a philanthropist is a person who contributes any attribute of value with the intent to make a positive change, whether it be time spent, experience utilized, skills shared, talent leveraged, or money raised to help create a better world.

Now in its third year, Napa Valley Life’s special Philanthropy issue allows us the opportunity to pause and recognize some of Napa Valley’s leaders and local organizations committed to making life better for the less fortunate. Thanks to their dedication to caring for others, these community champions’ philanthropic efforts have resulted in constructive changes with positive impacts, whether it be in support of healthcare, poverty, food assistance, education, housing, animals, or caring for our land.

Each year it’s a challenge to make our final selection of philanthropists to recognize in this issue because taking care of each other is an intrinsic way of life within our local community. For this, Napa Valley is truly blessed.



Liz Alessio, Photo by Lowell Downey of Art & Clarity

Liz Alessio has served the City of Napa since 2018, when she was elected to the city council. But her civic and community involvement started long before. A fourth-generation Napan with a family history of volunteerism and public service, Alessio helped establish Operation With Love From Home (OWLFH) in 2008, a non-partisan group of volunteers that provides care packages to deployed service members who are in harm’s way. “Our goal is to reach every soldier or service member that isn’t receiving cards or care packages from home or their community to ensure they aren’t left behind or forgotten. We provide the best quality care package with each item vetted by those who receive them, so we know what we are sending is needed, desired, and/or a morale boost.” As executive director of the community effort, Alessio oversees the grassroots effort that welcomes the involvement of all. “OWLFH allows for anyone to participate, whether it’s a donation of a pack of gum, a handmade card, volunteering to sort and count donations, be a sponsor, or fill care packages,” said Alessio. “Our goal is to keep this a community effort so that others have an opportunity to demonstrate appreciation for our veterans to family members of those deployed.” When Alessio was first approached to lead the OWLFH effort, she knew nothing of the needs of service members. She assumed they had everything they needed, including support from home. But when she learned differently, her heartstrings were pulled. “I knew I was all in from that moment,” said Alessio, who is also a mother of a Marine who’s been deployed three times in Afghanistan. “We are a community with a history of families serving in the Armed Forces. However, we often forget that most of those who feel called to serve are young adults, many of whom are vulnerable and not from the best circumstances and are looking for a path of purpose for the future or help pay for college or vocational training. Thanking them with care packages is the least we can do.” //



Yvonne Baginski founded Share the Care in 2014 with the desire to create a neighborhood ambassador program in which people are assigned to keep an eye on and help aging neighbors. The idea didn’t exactly fly. “Most people offered to help on a one-time basis,” said Baginski, a Jefferson Award winner. Instead, with the assistance of the Gasser Foundation, she created a program of ten volunteers assigned to help out specific “high need” people over a period of time. Baginski herself provided intense care management and assessments, and volunteers served as companions. The calls for help came in daily; she averaged 10-12 referrals a week. “We were an emergency, crisis type of operation. People called us when there was no place else to call for help.” Baginski also started collecting medical equipment and home health supplies, making them available on her front porch for those in need. Everything imaginable was donated, creating days when Baginski couldn’t access her front door due to the accumulation. People came from far and wide to collect the recycled items. When the pandemic hit, restrictions forced Baginski to halt services, yet she continued with the Front Porch offerings until her retirement in 2021. After a career in geriatric services, she has shifted to environmental causes. She serves on the executive committee of the Napa Sierra Club and serves as a Senior Senator representing Napa and Solano Counties in the California Senior Legislature, where she is working with Senator Bill Dodd on SB 842, which would extend the medical recycling program to allow additional state funds for programs in surrounding counties. Though retired from Share the Care, she is proud to report that the organization has expanded and now works out of a large building at 162 S. Coombs St. rather than her home. “I am still working on behalf of our community’s older adults, but many of their issues also affect people of all ages… poverty, illness, loss…that’s true of any age. We are all here for each other.” //



Photo courtesy of Boisset Collection

Charismatic, charming, and ever the bon vivant, vintner Jean- Charles Boisset is passionate about wine. He is equally passionate about the environment, diversity, equity and inclusion, human welfare, hunger, education, the arts, history, and so much more. “It is my fervent belief that the wine life I am fortunate to live demands that I give back to mother nature, to my community, and to the legacy of the destinations our wineries steward,” said Boisset, who supports many causes and non-profit organizations in the regions in which he lives and works –  from Napa and Sonoma to Burgundy and throughout France. In addition to supporting local and regional food banks, cancer research, animal rescue, environmental causes, first responders, and veterans, Boisset also donates to the hundreds of charities and wine auctions in wine communities throughout the country and the world. “These moments show the power of wine to galvanize giving,” said Boisset. “We have always believed in one world united, and the world of wine exists to unite us all.” After the 2017 fires, Boisset chaired an auction, led several fundraising events, and created a wine named Honoris with 100% of the proceeds donated to help rebuild the communities of those directly impacted by the fires. He also created an emergency relief fund to support his employees in times of need, and he continues to maintain this fund. In 2021, he created a Cabernet Sauvignon called Unity to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. The wine helped raise more than $180K, which he donated to African American Vintners and Wine Unify. During COVID, he raised funds and contributed to the United Sommelier Foundation, an organization created to support sommeliers impacted by the closure of restaurants. “We are all stewards of the Earth and its inhabitants,” said Boisset. “We are responsible not only for the Earth and ourselves but also for one another – now and for future generations. Wine has the power to inspire generosity – I am compelled to always contribute in gratitude to the communities that make the wine world possible.” //



Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, Photo courtesy of Clif Family Winery

Kit Crawford and her husband Gary Erickson were both raised to believe in the power of community. As the Clif Bar & Company founders, the duo act on that shared belief by giving time and money to hundreds of organizations through their Clif Family Foundation. In 2020, they funded 545 grassroots organizations to the tune of 2.7 million dollars. “It is important for us to show that we are part of both the larger Clif Bar community and our local community here in Napa County,” said Crawford, president of Clif Family Foundation, who prefers the title ‘brand ambassador.’ Erickson serves as secretary. Through Clif Bar & Company and Clif Family Winery, they also give back to local communities through their employee volunteer programs. And yet another initiative has national reach; entitled “In Good Company,” the program invites other companies to join with Clif Bar & Company in volunteerism throughout the country. Crawford, characteristically modest, throws credit to her staff. “After initiating our vision for how we give back, Gary and I let our employees run the show,” she said. “They have created the programs at the winery such as “Sip and Support,” whereby local Napa Valley non-profits are chosen as beneficiaries at monthly wine tasting events. Recipients have included Girls on the Run, Nimbus Arts, Fire Fighters Resiliency Fund, the Suscol Intertribal Counsel, and the beyond Napa yet timely World Central Kitchen, which provides meals for Ukrainian Refugees. “We are all in this together, and when you can lend a hand to someone, you build strength both inside the organization and throughout the community, and even the world,” said Crawford. “It just feels good to give back, whether it’s for our environment or people who need a helping hand. When we all work together, we can fill a variety of needs.” //



Written by Marisa McCann // Photo courtesy of Frank Family Vineyards

Leslie Frank is an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, philanthropist, and co-founder of Frank Family Vineyards, a winery known for its highly acclaimed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and for having one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country. Recognized as the “Philanthropist of the Year” by the North Bay Business Journal in 2019, Leslie’s ambitious advocacy work is far-reaching, extending to the arts, health, social justice, and more. Leslie recently became the newest board member at the St. Helena Hospital Foundation. This respected local organization has raised over $90 million to fund the latest equipment and technology and obtain the finest medical team for Adventist Health St. Helena.

Thanks to their mobile health testing and vaccination programs, the SHHF has made incredible strides to fight
the Covid-19 pandemic. Through their nearly 300 vaccine clinics from American Canyon to Calistoga, SHHF ensured farmworkers, seniors, teachers, teens, kids, and essential workers were the first to receive vaccinations, keeping Napa Valley protected and essentially free from the devasting outbreaks experienced within other parts of California.

Their mission to improve the quality and availability of critical healthcare services in the community is also fulfilled through the SHHF’s innovative pilot program to bring the Galleri cancer test, a simple blood test that can detect up to 50 different cancers, to those eligible in the agriculture community, without cost. “It’s the impressive work the SHHF has done during the pandemic and their commitment to making St. Helena Hospital one of the leading hospitals in California that makes me passionate about being a part of their leadership team,” said Leslie. //



Photo courtesy of Eric Gonzales

As the founding sponsor of Justin-Siena High School’s Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship Program (DISP), Eric F. Gonzales is helping to change the lives of students from traditionally underrepresented communities. By providing access to Justin-Siena’s Lasallian education via scholarships, his goal is to attract more diversity-passionate businesses and families to become DISP sponsors that can provide underserved students. Eric’s hope is that participating DISP students will one day, in turn, pay it forward and give back to the community at large.

“As the son of Filipino immigrants who only became naturalized because of my father’s service in the US Army, I know the impact that race, ethnicity, and heritage can have on educational and economic opportunities,” said Gonzales, a 25-year veteran financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Napa, CA. “As we met with faculty, staff, parents, and students, it became clear that Justin-Siena provides something special – a campus community that sees, knows, and loves its students. The DISP program is a natural extension of the school’s mission and purpose, which calls for the promotion of an inclusive community that provides access to students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities.”

The annual DISP award offsets the student’s tuition at Justin-Siena and may be combined with other merit scholarships and/or tuition assistance awards. Additionally, scholarship recipients will have access to networking and job shadowing opportunities throughout their Justin-Siena education and beyond.

“I was raised to see my diversity as a strength,” said Gonzales, who served as the former chair of Justin-Sienna Parent Association (J-SPA) and on the boards of Community Action of Napa Valley, Nelda Mundy Elementary School and the Justin-Siena Foundation. “It is what propelled me through school to become the first in my family to go to college in the United States.” //



Photo courtesy of Rochelle Heskett

As the founder and president of Canine Guardians Assistance Dogs (CGAD), Rochelle Heskett is the organization’s principal trainer, working with Golden and Labrador Retrievers who will ultimately serve as working companions to veterans and individuals with physical disabilities. She founded CGAD in 2013 after serving as a Puppy Parent for another service dog organization. “I saw a great need and started my own program in Napa,” said Heskett, who would one day like to add equestrian therapy services to her program. “Veterans who suffer from PTSD benefit greatly from riding horses.” To prepare herself for her CGAD venture, Heskett attended Bergin University of Canine Studies in Santa Rosa to become a certified Service Dog Trainer. She involves the greater community in CGAD by asking adults and high school students to become Puppy Parent Volunteers and help with training the dogs. Puppy Parents are requested to take a dog into their homes for 12-18 months and socialize it by taking it wherever the volunteer goes: work, school, restaurants, stores, etc. Puppy Parents are also required to attend training classes every other week. “Our high school students take the dog to school with them, and the dog is a great source of comfort to students going through a stressful time,” said Heskett. “Our dogs save lives. Many of our veterans are on the verge of suicide before receiving one of our dogs. Their lives change for the better after they start living with their new dog. Their mental attitude becomes more positive; they sleep better at night and feel more confident in public. For individuals with physical disabilities, our dogs help them live a more independent and happy life.” //



Photo courtesy of Larry Kromann

When Larry Kromann retired as principal at Napa Christian in 2006, he and his wife Shirley moved to the Springs MH Park in Calistoga. After supporting a neighborhood effort to protect rising rental costs, he joined the Calistoga Affordable Housing (CAH) Board, serving as president since 2009. CAH advocates for financially attainable housing and encourages residents to get involved on behalf of their own interests and for the future of Calistoga. “The Calistoga community is a unique composite of small businesses, hospitality venues, Hispanic farmworkers (49.3%), and seniors ages 45+ (43.6%),” said Kromann. “Calistoga has a much lower income base than other Napa communities due to our demographics; thus the need for affordable housing.” Kromann explained that developing housing is challenging due to the parameters outlined in the AG preserve protection plan. Over the past 17 years, CAH has developed 58 low-income housing units, among the most of any developer in Calistoga. “A small amount when compared to current need,” added Kromann, who, in 2019, partnered with the CA Senior Legislature and CA Sen. Bill Dodd to change CA law, allowing senior MH park owners to rent portions of their homes. Kromann, a recipient of Calistoga Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award in 2011 and AARP’s “Create the Good” national recognition in 2012, is actively involved in various community projects and committees that advocate the unique needs of his community. “Affordable housing is a right,” said Kromann. “I will continue my work in ensuring that opportunity exists for every Calistoga resident to live safely and with their means.” //



Photo courtesy of ParentsCAN

When a parent learns their child is diagnosed with a disability, it launches one of the most challenging journeys a family can face. Such families within Napa County can turn to ParentsCAN for help. As executive director of ParentsCAN, Marlena Garcia’s work is inspired by her two brothers with intellectual disabilities. At ParentsCAN, Garcia utilizes her personal experience in helping families navigate the associated challenges of raising children who have a wide range of special needs. “At ParentsCAN, we believe that every child’s journey is different,” said Garcia, a former banking executive and mother of two. “We partner with and guide parents when challenges arise in their child’s development, health, education, or behavior. We work towards creating a community where every individual is valued and accepted, regardless of the degree or severity of their disability.” Starting as a volunteer with ParentsCAN in 2005, Garcia held many positions within the organization before taking on the director role in 2012. She finds gratification in sharing her own family’s journey with others. “Every human being desires to be accepted and have opportunities to fulfill their potential,” said Garcia. “Children with disabilities and their families are no different, yet they face tremendous obstacles in accessing services and support that help them thrive. ParentsCAN staff are parents of children with disabilities themselves, so we understand the challenges families face on a very personal level. Investing in a child’s early years, helping them before they give up on themselves, is the best investment a community can make.” //



Ryan Bracher and Miles McDonnell, Photo by Alexander Rubin

Their father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis led Ryan MacDonnell Bracher and her brother Miles MacDonnell to the Alzheimer’s Association, where they found the compassionate help and resources they needed to navigate the disease. “Elizabeth Edgerly, executive director for Northern California and Northern Nevada, was so caring and helpful in guiding our family throughout the process,” said Bracher, co-owner with her brother of Round Pond Estate. So when the duo (each of whom has lived within Napa Valley for more than 20 years) and their families considered a cause for Round Pond to support, the Alzheimer’s Association was a natural choice. “This was something very close to all our hearts. We were thrilled to start a program in 2020 of donating a percentage of Round Pond wine sales to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of our dad and the 50 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.” The organization focuses on providing support to those in need and enhancing care for those living with the disease and its mission of advancing research. “Through our work with the Alzheimer’s Association, we hear countless stories from customers, partners, and friends who have personally been touched by this disease that affects one-third of all seniors,” said Bracher, who well knows how shattering it is to watch a loved one struggle with the disease. “It is truly staggering how prevalent the disease is in our world today. The more we can educate people and shine some light on it, the more we can help those suffering from it, and the higher possibility that we may someday find a cure. Our dad believed in hard work, kindness, and taking care of people. Our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association honors our dad and his commitment to making the world a better place.” //



Photo by Joy West

Artist, or HeARTist, Jessel Miller has always utilized her talents for the betterment of society, her selflessness instilled by her small-town doctor father, whose devotion to his community provided her example. Canada-raised and living in Napa since 1980, Miller’s philanthropic efforts are spread amongst several nonprofits, including ALS Cure Project, The Lou Gehrig Foundation, Elephants for Africa, Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and currently, the World Community Kitchen and other organizations supporting Ukraine, for which proceeds from her portrait of Volodymyr Zelensky are donated. An intuitive painter who works in watercolor and acrylic after finding she was allergic to oils, Miller began her career with portraiture, painting famous faces such as Dianne Feinstein and Melvin Belli, but the intense connection required between subject and painter became exhausting for the formerly shy and retiring introvert. So she pivoted to abstracts, opening a gallery where she openly exhibited other artists’ works. “To be honest, I never liked the spotlight on me personally, so the idea of just my work in the space seemed too exposing,” said Miller. “So I started to show other artists alongside my work.” That magnanimous nature has made Miller a Napa Valley gem. She shares her talent via painting classes within and atop her gallery/apartment rooftop, and she has written and illustrated six read-aloud books for children and adults. Her ‘full circle moment’ happened in 2020 after the death of Kobe and Gigi Bryant when she was compelled at 4 a.m. to paint their portrait “to honor these two souls.” And so it was that she returned to ‘famous faces’ and her portrait of Zelensky. “I feel blessed every day that I have the time to do my work after devoting most of my artistic career to supporting other artists. I love what I do, so it really can’t be called work. It is more a “devotion” to letting go of the HeART.” //



Photo courtesy of Peter Read

While Peter Read’s Circle R Ranch survived both the Atlas Peak and Hennessey fires, his 1200 Atlas Peak acres suffered significant damage. In the aftermath, Read has led by example, clearing dangerous underbrush, low-hanging tree canopies, and ladder fuel. And he is safeguarding the area’s natural wildlife via a master plan created in collaboration with the Land Trust of Napa Valley. “The animals were here long before we were, roaming the area for centuries,” said Read, the former Grocery Outlet Bargain Market CEO who purchased his ranch land in 2015. “We are improving their habitat and creating a wildlife corridor, giving them room to wander. With the addition of our own horses, cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and cats, we are wisely grazing and improving the land.” Read has upgraded fencing and gates, refurbished springs and water troughs, and added three new watering stations. He is adamant that the land be protected in perpetuity, committing to no future building construction. Originally entitled for 295 acres of vineyard, Read’s plan calls for a total of 75 acres to be planted, and income from the sale of grapes and livestock will be used to support local non-profit organizations. “We hope that by our example of creating a wildlife corridor, implementing sustainable farming practices, and reinvesting in the community, it will encourage others to follow suit,” said Read. “At this stage of my life, I have come to realize the importance of giving to worthy causes and organizations with far-reaching impacts and positive consequences. It is satisfying and fulfilling and ‘food for the soul.’ It helps me appreciate the support and assistance I have received over these many years from family, friends, and community, without whose help I would not be where I am today.”



Photo courtesy of The Hero Foundation

As Michael Rupprecht witnessed the destruction caused by the 2017 wildfires, he was called to action. “I saw that our community was being struck with a level of panic and adversity not faced by Napa in our lifetimes and felt it necessary to act,” said the longtime Napa resident and guest services coordinator at Frog’s Leap Winery. With friends Raphael Genty and Dominic Di Pasqua, Rupprecht founded The Hero Foundation as a platform to carry out community aid whenever and wherever needed. “The three of us agreed that our world needs more heroes, so we formed what would hopefully become a home to all future heroes.” Rupprecht’s dream is for The Hero Foundation to become the premier, state-of-the-art platform for people of all ages and backgrounds to directly involve themselves in community issues that matter to them the most. Through the organization, Rupprecht, who serves as executive director, hopes to organize as many Napa County residents as possible to tackle a multitude of service projects. “The concept for The Hero Foundation was a dream and idea of mine for quite some time prior, but the 2017 wildfires presented a sort of “if not now, then when?” question,” said Rupprecht. “There are children, teenagers, and even young adults who have the energy to offer to vital causes, yet they do not know where to start their search for these service opportunities. As an integral part of the Napa County community, The Hero Foundation is a resource for when there is a call for aid in Napa County and, one day, the greater Bay Area and beyond. The foundation and I share the same mission: Do our part in saving the world every day in any way we can. That is what The Hero Foundation’s purpose has been and always will be.” //



Photo by Sally Seymour

As co-founder and president of Jameson Humane, Monica Stevens oversees strategy, vision, and fundraising in achieving the impact-driven non-profit’s mission to improve animal welfare through global collaboration and education for the benefit of all life. “We are a solutions-based organization that works to champion all animals as sentient beings deserving of freedom from harm or cruelty,” said Stevens, who works with a talented team of 15 staff and a crew of 400 volunteers. “Additionally, we help humans in need care for their animal companions, which limits the number of animals being surrendered to shelters or worse, due to financial constraints, domestic violence situations, houselessness, evacuation from disaster, displacement, death, etc.” Stevens also leads the donor communication and planning for Jameson’s annual fundraiser, WineaPAWlooza, one of Napa Valley’s most celebrated yearly events. Jameson Humane programs include a variety of novel solutions and approaches, driven through education to create a truly unique animal welfare organization unlike any animal rescue or sanctuary in the nation. Programs of note include a 7-day per week Helpline, a Senior Citizen Pet Wellness Program, helping to maintain activity and care for seniors’ companion animals, Pet Pantry and Disaster Supply Program, developed during the wildfires and pandemic to provide free pet food for families who are unable to provide for their animal companions, and Community Animal Assistance Program (CAAP), ensuring animals and humans can stay together through subsidized medical care, food, and temporary housing assistance. Stevens is especially proud of Jameson’s soon-to-be-opened Regional Disaster Response Center, a gathering place for local Community Animal Response Teams, law enforcement, and Community Emergency Response Teams to serve as an Incident Command Post for communication, training, and response to varied disasters. Stevens founded Jameson Humane in 2014 with her husband David, in memory of their beloved, adopted Great Pyrenees Jameson. “Jameson brought immeasurable companionship and love to us, helping us see beyond the traditional path of animal rescue by listening to the community and responding holistically to the needs of the animals and their human guardians.” //



Photo by Katherine Zimmer

Founded in 1987, the Leadership Napa Valley (LNV) program is the most prominent leadership program in the Valley, preparing its ‘students’ for effective participation in nonprofits, businesses, and government roles. Danielle Barreca serves as president, guiding the Board of Directors in decision making, program innovation, policy, and future growth, and Jill Techel, former mayor of Napa, serves as program coordinator, organizing and running the nine-month program. Through their partnership, this dynamic duo mentors future generations of local leaders – those who seek to be instigators of positive impact in the community. “We identify and develop individual strengths to help leaders become more effective,” said Techel, a five-decade resident of Napa who has worked with LNV since 1989 when she was a student in the second class; Napa’s City Manager recruited her after she ran a recreation bond for the City of Napa. “We also develop and work on team and collaboration skills, and we explore all aspects of Napa so leaders can see the complete picture.” Barreca has worked with LNV since 2015 when she was accepted into Class 29. After graduating, she joined the Board of Directors and became Chair of the Alumni Events Committee before accepting her role as president. “Leadership Napa Valley was one of the most transformative experiences of my adult life,” said Barreca, who has worked in local real estate since returning to Napa in 2013 after living in the region as a child. “I gained confidence as a leader and was inspired to start giving back to my community and LNV as well. And that’s what LNV does – we inspire residents to give back in their own unique ways. Having involved and informed leaders eager to participate and volunteer in our community benefits everyone.” Added Techel, “We empower citizens to make a difference, whatever their passion.” //



Photo by David Ortega

For 50 years, OLE Health has provided vital care for the essential workers that power Napa Valley. Its mission is to improve the health of the communities served by providing high-quality, comprehensive care to all, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. As the organization’s chief development officer, Sonia Tolbert oversees OLE Health’s nonprofit foundation to support this mission. She fundraises for the organization, leads outreach efforts in the community, and is responsible for marketing and communications. “My goal is to increase community and donor engagement,” said Tolbert, who has been with OLE for just more than a year. “If you have enjoyed a meal in a Napa restaurant, stayed at a Napa hotel, or had a glass of Napa wine, you have benefitted from OLE Health’s services. I want people to understand that and support OLE so we can continue to provide those vital services for the next 50 years. We fill a vital gap in Napa’s healthcare landscape, and if we weren’t here, I believe we would see much poorer health outcomes in the community.” Tolbert also believes that if OLE Health did not exist, the industries and businesses that define Napa Valley would grind to a halt. “We provide healthcare to nearly one in four people in Napa Valley. Nearly 80 percent of our patients live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Most are on some form of Medi-Cal or lack insurance. They are the hourly and seasonal workers who work the fields, wash the dishes in restaurants or clean the hotel rooms and homes throughout Napa Valley. Access to high-quality care keeps these individuals able to work and provide for their families. It also reduces unnecessary emergency room visits. There aren’t many primary care options in Napa Valley if you have private insurance; there are fewer if you’re on Medicaid/Medi-Cal, Medicare, or don’t have coverage. And we welcome everyone, regardless of insurance or ability to pay, because everyone deserves access to quality health care.” //



Photo courtesy of St. John’s Lutheran Mission Farm

For 55 years, Ted Zimmerman (better known as Farmer Ted) served as a Lutheran pastor in Napa Valley and San Francisco. Now in retirement, he is the spokesman for a corps of volunteers that oversees St. John’s Lutheran Church Mission Farm, growing and harvesting organic fruits and vegetables for distribution among food anxious families in the Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Food Bank. This year, Zimmerman, fellow pastor Ron Johnson, and their fellow volunteers have raised and delivered 29,000 lbs. of produce to the Food Bank. “In retirement, I sought a change of pace in how I delivered service,” said Zimmerman. “As a pastor, I used my theological acumen, mind, and verbal skills. With Mission Farm, I found that I could serve people by employing my brawn and my hands. It was a nice change of pace.” Zimmerman has worked the farm for 12 years, starting when it was attempting to grow beyond a few raised vegetable boxes that produced salad makings for lunches for a few needy families. “I saw the potential since the congregation was blessed with three acres of land held for future development but were likely to remain unused for ministry for a very long time, if at all,” said Zimmerman, who comes to his avocation naturally. His father was a grocer, his grandparents were gardeners and canners, and while in college, he earned money by working the produce aisle in a grocery store. “So getting involved in gardening and working produce again was a natural and delightful activity in which to engage.” Zimmerman notes that while the Napa Valley is an agricultural area, hunger exists, and the success of the church’s ministry depends upon volunteers who donate time, talent, and energy. “It has always been necessary for the blessed to reach out to the food stressed and share. These past two years with the pandemic in full force saw a marked increase in the need for increased donations. We ‘hopped to’ and increased our production to help the Food Bank meet their need.” //