Native Napans, Peter and Vernice (Pat) Gasser were invested in our community of Napa in so many ways. As civic leaders, businesspeople, and cultural supporters, they each gave much to our Valley while alive and wanted their inheritance to benefit the Napa community after they were gone. Peter directed that his legacy be planned in the same way he had lived: carefully, strategically, and with Napa interests at heart. The Gassers planted the seed of the idea of a foundation decades ago, and in 1989, the Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation began to spread roots and grow. A beautiful tree has grown, roots deep in the soil of the Napa Valley, and branches that spread out to shelter those who do service and those who are in need of this help.
This is a story of that growth.
Through the years, Gasser Foundation has provided grants to over 250 nonprofits in Napa County, and awarded over $35M. From the beginning, the Gasser Foundation mission has been to serve the people and community today and in the future with a focus on health care, education, and the environment. For the last 25 years, the Board of Trustees and staff have served in many roles: convener, collaborator, funder, and investor.
In the role of funder, we look first at grants to basic services, such as food, shelter, employment and health care to those in our population who are most in need. Other fields of interest include: the arts, education, health and human services, recreation, sustainability and the environment. We provide capital project funds, support fund raising and marketing efforts. The foundation has also funded many initiatives, that is, start-up capital to address emerging needs that have not been addressed already in our community. Gasser Foundation has launched a concept we call mission investments, providing reasonably priced facilities for nonprofits to conduct their business, and for services to be delivered. In these, and in our categorical grants, we have awarded funds to projects that create impact, influenced policy and leverage investments from others inside and outside of the community. Examples of each of these investments are listed in this report.
In this special report on the first 25 years of our Foundation’s history, we hope to show you full color picture of our growing tree: the economic side and human side of our work. In Part 1 of the report we will share information about organizations who have received grants and the people they have served. In Part II, we offer an analysis of the extraordinary impact of these investments on the economy of Napa Valley over the past 25 years. May it serve as a thank you to the Gassers for their wisdom and foresight in planning this tree.
“It takes a noble man to plant a seed for a tree that will someday give shade to people he may never meet.” David E. Trueblood
Part I – The Human Side
Basic services, the sturdy trunk of the tree:
Through our community agents, a half dozen comprehensive service organizations like the Family Resource Centers (COPE, etc.) and the Community Action Napa Valley, we have put food on the table, roofs over heads, and health and dental care has been offered to those who might have been hungry, homeless and ill without this support. Special needs populations have been served by places like Vine Village and UCP. A half dozen organizations, representing a variety of special needs have been fortunate to augment their services through Gasser grants.
A dozen grants have made tremendous difference in our community in making the basic right of shelter made available and more affordable for those in our community who have not a place to spend the night. With the help of CANV and Catholic Charities, Family Support and Bridges, Fair Housing and Calistoga Affordable Housing, we have provided this service as a high priority through the years.
By using a technique created by the Gasser Board of Trustees, called Mission Investing, we have been able to leverage Gasser Foundation assets into stable housing opportunities and affordable office space for non-profits. A good example of this is Serenity Homes. Here, in their own words, is the way this works:
“As you know, Serenity Homes provides transitional housing for men and women recovering from alcohol and drug addictions. During the recent economic depression, the owners of five homes, leased by Serenity, housing thirty (30) men and women lost title by way of foreclosures and short sales, primarily due to the fact that our residents were the first to be laid off and the construction industry was among the lagging employment sectors.
But due to the Gasser Foundation’s Mission Investment Policy, not one of the residents in the homes being foreclosed or short-sold was put out of their home to live under the bridges or on the street! The Gasser Foundation purchased three houses at bargain prices and, in turn, leased the homes to Serenity Homes at a good rate of return to Gasser and a bargain rental rate to Serenity Homes. This allowed Serenity Homes to continue to offer much lower than normal rents to our residents.
Moreover, along with the purchase of the homes, the Gasser Foundation invested funds to remodel the homes. This created jobs for our residents who did the work. Work is essential to a person’s self-worth and critical to a person’s recovery.
On behalf of all of the men and women who hold a great sense of gratitude for the Gasser’s adopting Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy that ‘you can do well by doing good’. We thank you.”
A major project in the Foundation’s history is building both the Homeless Shelter and the Transitional Housing for youth. The Gasser Foundation’s vision to build the South Napa Shelter allows Community Action of Napa Valley (CANV) to provide a safe and supportive environment for women (and men) who are homeless in Napa. CANV representatives describe how it used to be:
“Before this shelter was built, homeless women were in a large windowless room in downtown’s Sullivan shelter, the only homeless shelter for adults in the county. Their only separation from the homeless men was a few sheets hung across a rope. When it rained water flooded the floor in the women’s area. The two bathrooms in the facility (one metal shower, toilet and sink only) were shared by all. There was no real case management as the only staff person on duty was in the same large room as the guests allowing for no privacy to talk confidentially. It had no kitchen, no access to laundry by the clients and was closed from 8 am to S p.m. every day.”
Here are a story from CANV that describe the impact of this important project on the lives of two people who needed shelter to get their lives back on track.
“At age14, Rachel left her parent’s home in Napa and rented a room in a house with her boyfriend. She dropped out of Vintage High School. She did eventually go back to school to get her Certified Nursing Assistant certificate and worked at a local nursing home for a year when she turned 16. She completed her GED. She eventually spent time in both jail and prison. Along the way she had a beautiful baby boy who just turned four this January. Although she is from Napa, Rachel spent a year on the streets of Vallejo after she lost custody of her son.
‘I kept his little sock in my pocket. It was the only thing I had left of him,’ Rachel reports, after a friend encouraged her to move into CANV’s South Napa Shelter.
‘The services there were great and the staff was so supportive. They were my cheerleaders!’
While at the shelter she got a job with a local plumber digging ditches and other general labor. She also completed addiction treatment and started having regular visits with her son. She was determined to get her son back but, to do that, she needed to find a permanent place to live. With just a few months left before her custody hearing, CANV’s Housing Specialist was able to move her into a place of her own.
Today she is in a management training program in a trusted position at a local store and she has full-time custody of her son. She has a network of supportive friends and has reconnected with her parents. Her son comes home every day to his very own home.
‘Without the support I got through CANV’s Shelter and Housing programs I would not be here today. Without CANV my son would be in foster care and I don’t know where I would be.’”
Since 2011, the Gasser Foundation has granted Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity three annual grants of $15,000. This allowed them to establish themselves in Napa County, meeting and joining with like-minded individuals, businesses, public agencies and other non-profits who have a similar mission of wanting to assist low-income working families, seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities. This helps those who do not have the financial means to do necessary repairs on their homes, especially the elderly who want to stay in their homes as long as possible.
These small grants have shown impact and leverage. Through referrals from agencies such as the Napa County Public Guardian’s Office, Stop Falls, Calistoga Affordable Housing, Our Town St. Helena, the Volunteer Center with the COPE Family Center, who vetted the applicants, Hospice helped 9 families throughout the Valley. In addition, they recently received a Community Development Block Grant from Napa County, enabling them to fully fund the project in Napa, assisting a disabled veteran.
Another example of leverage can be seen with Calistoga Affordable Housing (CAH). Coupling funds from our Foundation with a corporate partner, Home Depot, CAH helped a veteran ease his pain and suffering. Their Rebuilding Calistoga Program used Gasser funds and a donation of a walk-in tub with a Jacuzzi whirlpool capacity to help a WWII veteran and former Navy Seal bathe more safely and allow him hydrotherapy for his lung condition.
The idea behind our housing projects and Mission Investing is to make sure that current housing and business office space can be used more effectively after being revitalized, either through a jobs program or with the help of volunteers. Rather than building new facilities, we focus on rehab and reuse. These remodels always include energy efficiency, with support from Sustainable Napa County, whose story is featured later in the report.
Several grantees have helped us feed many, many people through the years. Fundraisers, like through Hands Across the Valley, several Food Banks operated by CANV, different types of senior nutrition programs, and the work of the Salvation Army and religious based food programs, we have helped to share the largesse of our bountiful Napa Valley.
Here are some effects of Gasser funding on programs operated by CANV that impact hunger in our community:
“Over the years the Gasser Foundation has singlehandedly funded the purchase of all of Food Bank vehicles: 2 commercial vans and 3 trucks! Having a reliable fleet of vehicles allows us to pick up daily donations as well as transport food throughout the county on a regular basis. In those vehicles, CANV staff and volunteers deliver food to 7 Food Pantries, 9 Senior Brown Bag sites, and 13 USDA Commodity locations, as well as other partnering non-profit agencies. Three of the vehicles are refrigerated, allowing much more perishable product such as dairy and produce to be distributed, not just canned and dry goods.
Gasser Foundation has also funded the 25′ cold storage box. When the Food Bank first moved in 2009, it was fabricated at a cost of $74,000. When they moved to the new location in 2014, it was disassembled and reassembled at a cost of $117,000, for which Gasser provided a $90,000 matching grant. The Gasser Foundation makes it possible for us to have a constant supply of nutrient dense items such as meat, produce, milk, eggs, yogurt, etc.
Food Bank policies to access food have changed to make it less onerous on the individual; one no longer needs a referral from another non-profit organization to receive food. They have begun operating a few pantry sites as “Choice Pantries” whereby one can shop for the food they need, rather than just being handed a bag of food and a box of produce. That approach empowers the client and wastes far less food.”
In the words of one grateful customer:
“I am 66 years old and worked for Christian Brothers Winery for 22 years. When they closed down the winery in 1995 I was making $12.00 an hour. I was married to my wife in 2002 and became a step-father. I started coming to the food bank in 2003. We now live with my grown step-kids and one grandchild. I was on disability for a few years, but now I have a job as a security guard. My wife works at Walmart and my step-kids don’t work right now. If it weren’t for the Food Bank we would be in bad times. I get the Brown Bag twice a month and I go pick up food from the pantry once a month. Getting food from the food bank keeps me healthy and helps out a lot when there’s not enough money for the month, plus I met some pretty nice people. I hope to retire when I’m seventy, but I know the food bank will be there for me.”
Sometimes hard times hit more than once, as the following story shows. The continuity of the Food Bank helps sustain those folks, and give a lift to the next generation.
“Orianna first came to the Napa Food Pantry in early spring of 2003 when her husband up and left her with 4 children and no job. She was quite resourceful and was signed up for food stamps and other assistance within the month, but she still found it helpful to utilize the Napa Food Pantry on a regular basis to ensure she had enough food for herself and her children. She always was so appreciative of the meat and produce which she received, even sharing recipes she’d used to prepare unfamiliar “new” items.
By January 2009, she had completed her AA Degree at NVC and began her career in childcare. She knew it wasn’t the best paid career move, but it allowed her the ability to still parent her children and be available for them. She was quite content to live within her means and see her children grow.
It has been a few years since Orianna accessed the Napa Food Pantry. She found herself once again in need as she was injured on the job in 2012 and could no longer do that kind of laborious work. She currently has temp jobs and only accesses the Napa Food Pantry on months that she’s short hours.
Orianna is elated that her oldest daughter and son have graduated college and are successfully on their own. Her other two children still live at home, one is working and attending the JC and the other will be graduating high school this coming year.”
Senior Brown Bags, another program sponsored by Gasser are filled primarily with purchased food so as to ensure nutritious food items for senior diets with no/low sugar and no/low salt items. Here are some satisfied customers, expressing their gratitude.
“The Senior Brown Bag Program is a welcome and vital service to me. At my age I am thankful that I am able to receive delivery of these good food items on a regular basis. Because I live on a tight fixed income and am disabled, I simply can’t afford much food or the means to get it. The brown bags are filled with easy to fix, healthy things I can eat. Thanks again for this program, for the workers, and volunteers who help make it possible. I hope and trust that the Senior Brown Bag Program will continue.”
“The Senior Brown Bag Program has allowed me to add balance to my meals and have a supply of food on hand when I would not be able to buy any. I am very grateful for your program and know that in this difficult time, as I convalesce, you are a wonderful resource for much needed food.”
Health, the very sap of our tree:
Another large category of funding in the Gasser history is health. One of the original designees of the trust, Queen of the Valley has received many capital campaign and equipment grants. A few of their large projects supported through the Gasser Foundation, often used as a match for others to follow suit, are listed below:
Advanced Diagnostic and Surgical Pavilion
Live Healthy Napa County Project
Queen’s Cancer Wellness Program
Peggy Herman Brain Injury Fund
Bone Marrow transplants
St. Helena Hospital has had considerable help with projects. We have contributed to many capital campaigns, including their catheterization lab, emergency services, cardiac rehab, MRI machine and the newest, the Cancer Center.
Another two dozen grantees have been recipients as well. Many organizations have devoted themselves to increasing access to good health, mental health and dental services. Below are some of their stories.
With consistent support from the Gasser Foundation since 2003, Aldea has significantly expanded its capacity to provide effective mental health and social services for Napa County residents. Gasser support enables Aldea to help children heal from trauma, families strengthen their relationships, and adults with developmental disabilities live independently.
An important merger occurred in 2014, the integration of substance abuse services for youth formerly provided by the Wolfe Center in building that launched mission investing by Gasser, allowed Aldea to provide substance abuse prevention and treatment services for more than 2,500 adolescents each year.
This donation of the building to Aldea has enabled them to attract additional funding, such as grants from Napa Valley Community Foundation as well as donations from individual donors. Gasser support telegraphs to others that Aldea can be trusted to efficiently and effectively meet community needs. Thanks to Gasser Foundation funding, Aldea has been able to leverage additional resources significantly, growing its organizational revenue and the breadth of services by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
Here is a story of a youth served by Aldea during the merger with Wolfe Center:
“Anthony endured a turbulent childhood, with no father or male role model present and an older brother who committed serious crimes. This led to challenges in adolescence: Anthony’s high school years revolved around partying, smoking marijuana daily, getting drunk, and getting into trouble with St. Helena law enforcement.
In January 2014, after being charged with two felonies, Anthony entered the substance abuse treatment program at Wolfe Center (now Aldea Behavioral Health Services) after being told it was required for him to be able to graduate with his high school class. However, since Anthony had not yet internalized his addictions, his substance abuse continued; he received a DUI and had to go to a juvenile detention center for five days.
The transition of the Wolfe Center to Aldea’s management in June 2014 coincided with the transition of Anthony slowly recognizing that his serious substance abuse problems would derail his life if he didn’t act quickly. Anthony’s Counselor, Leslie, did not shy away from making Anthony accountable for his life and actions.
‘It was Anthony’s choice in life to stay wounded,’ Leslie shared, ‘and he absolutely didn’t trust me at first.’
Anthony remembered that, ‘…Leslie wanted me to go to either Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous and get a sponsor. I wanted a new counselor… I was very mad and combative because I still didn’t get it.’
In his own words, Anthony’s “psychological awakening” occurred during the fall of 2014 when pieces in his life slowly started to come together. He restored his relationship with his incarcerated older brother, who has a young son who Anthony is helping his mother to raise. Anthony realized he needed to be a model for his five-year-old nephew, and also discovered he enjoyed the local AA group, where his sponsor was a fellow umpire he met through his Little League Community Service. Anthony’s sponsor is now not only his sponsor, but also his boss: Anthony is apprenticing under his tutelage in general contractor skills. In this man, Anthony found the father figure he had been seeking.”
Another perspective on this merger is offered by Pat Wolfe, a founding member of the Board for Wolfe Center, indeed, the widow of Lloyd Wolfe for whom the building was named.
“Addicted teens are often not perceived as deserving of help as children in foster care or women escaping from abused environments. Funding is difficult for programs for these adolescents. In Napa we are indeed fortunate to have a group that sees the work of helping addicted teens as essential and lifesaving, the Gasser Foundation. Without the financial assistance, guidance and encouragement of the Gasser Board of Directors, the Wolfe Center would no longer be in existence. Through rough times they have believed in the mission and work of the staff. Now that the center has been incorporated (with Gasser’s assistance) into the Behavioral Health program of Aldea, it is experiencing a renewed viability and increased success.
Gasser’s impact in this area and in so many others is increasing not only the effectiveness of programs but also the community awareness of the problems inherent in our culture and what can be done to improve the quality of life of all its citizens.”
Dr. Wolfe has captured another tenet of Gasser Foundation’s approach so eloquently, that is, that it is important to save the mission and services of an organization, even when there may be difficulty in saving the current organizational structure. These transitions, though difficult have often resulted in stronger and more relevant services to meet the needs of our community.
The flip side of that may be Gasser’s willingness to help grow a proven organization into a stronger advocate and administrative entity. Such is the case of Molly’s Angels, an almost 20 year old organization with a health related mission. This organization, one that defines the true meaning of grass roots, has a special place in the heart of the Gasser Board of Trustees.
When Gasser Foundation learned of the need of this agency for a suitable place to work from, the Board offered a permanent office to their staff in the Gasser Building. When they heard the high cost of gasoline for the great work in providing transportation to medical appointments to seniors, Gasser donated vehicles that can be plugged into the electric car stations in the Gasser parking lot, cutting the gas budget by 75 per cent! When they realized the possible synergy between a new start-up supported by Gasser called Share the Care, they provided the means for Molly’s to expand their services back into the original mission of a full-service agency for our aging population in Napa County.
When questioned, a member of Molly’s Volunteers provided the following:
“The one story that stands out in my mind was from one of my first ventures with Molly’s Angels. I met a young boy who was just graduating from the fifth grade. He had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. His parents had heard of this doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas who had achieved success with this type of tumor. The problem was that he did not operate on children at all. Molly actually called this doctor and told him his story. After a rather long conversation, the doctor told her to send his medical records. After he went over them, he agreed to see the child.
Through the generosity of many, we were able to get him to Arkansas for the surgery. It was a success. This boy has grown up and graduated from high school. He has told many, that if it hadn’t been for Molly’s Angels, he wouldn’t be here today.”
The influence of Molly’s Angels continues to this day. Operating out of an office provided by the Gasser Foundation, driving hybrid vehicles donated by Gasser, and using volunteers recruited in part through Volunteer Napa, each day Molly’s Angels take people for dialysis treatments radiation or chemo treatments.
Almost on a daily basis, “we are told that these people feel like we are their own family. In fact, many of them don’t have a family or close friends who can help them with transportation. We have formed a close bond with them and always conclude their trip with a hug.”
Always on the lookout for ways in which additional resources can be brought to bear in Napa Valley, the Gasser Foundation’s President began convening a group of high level health care executives to discuss the impact of new federal policies regarding health insurance. Advisor to this group was the agency designated to provide a smooth transition to this health insurance system in California: Children’s Health Initiative (CHI).
In addition to the amazing collaboration that is occurring as a result of forming this group, CHI talks about the influence and impact of Gasser Foundation funds on their organization.
“CHI has created several unique programs in our community.
1) We lead a coalition of 42 agencies focused on creating a “no wrong door” system of health insurance enrollment. A large part of our success is due to the 87 staff at our partner agencies who we have trained to assist people who are uninsured and refer clients to us for enrollment assistance.
2) We have staff collocated within the County of Napa Self-Sufficiency Services Eligibility Division. We are the private agency in the state that is facilitating enrollment assistance within the county system. This allows us to follow up with any incomplete application submitted to the county by individuals or agencies. Each year we follow up with thousands of incomplete applications to make sure they are complete and approved.
3) We are the first nonprofit licensed insurance brokerage in California working with individuals and families. Our brokerage license allows us to serve all Napa County residents regardless of age or income, and enroll them in public or private coverage that best meets their needs. CHI staff is trained to assist pregnant women, children, adults and seniors.”
With regard to leveraging Gasser funds, CHI staff offered the following:
“For every $1 we raise to get children and families insured, we bring $9 back to our community in healthcare provider reimbursements. This is due to the public and private subsidized insurance programs in which we enroll most of our clients. The money that comes back strengthens the healthcare system for all Napa County Residents.”
Finally, the stories of 2 of CHI clients help tell the story of how Gasser funds have made a tremendous difference.
“Michelle and Dan are the parents of three children. Until recently Dan was gainfully employed and paying for his children’s health insurance through his employer-based insurance. In the recent economic downturn Dan lost his job, and with it, their insurance. Their youngest child, Ben, has asthma and requires inhalers on a regular basis. When Dan was unable to find work, the family was left with no income but unemployment payments. They could not afford to pay out-of-pocket expenses for doctor visits and costly inhalers, and did not know where or how to find affordable health insurance for their children. Michelle heard about Children’s Health Initiative (CHI) from a friend. She was happy to learn from CHI staff that her children were eligible for no cost Medi-Cal, which would provide medical, dental and vision care until Dan could find work. CHI assisted Michelle with the Medi-Cal application process, and all three children now have health insurance and Ben has his inhalers for his asthma. Michelle expresses her extreme gratitude every time she speaks with the staff of CHI.”
“Max was only 10 months old when his mother, Mary was told he may have leukemia. Mary called Napa CHI in tears because she did not have health insurance for her son. Her medical bills were mounting and she could not afford to take him to get the necessary tests. With proper medical attention leukemia is often treatable, but left untreated it can be fatal. Mary had already applied for Medi-Cal for Max, but her application had not yet been approved. A CHI staff member, Julia, contacted the Medi-Cal Program Supervisor and explained the situation. The supervisor was able to expedite the application process and Max was approved for full coverage, retroactive to Max’s initial visit to his physician. Mary was able to take Max to all his follow-up appointments and get all the necessary tests. After many exhausting hospital and doctor visits, Mary is ecstatic to report that Max is leukemia free. Max now has access to health care services that will help keep him healthy in the future.”
Human Services, the blossoms and fruit:
One of our largest category of recipients, over 50 in total through the years, have provided a variety of human services to the residents of Napa. Family Services, the American Canyon Family Resource Center , various service clubs, the Values Project, and the Volunteer Center are but a few of the human service agencies that have provided a myriad of services for all age groups. Some specialized aging services have been provided through AAA, Share the Care and Molly’s Angels. Youth programs focused on recreation, health, and juvenile justice include: On the Move, Napa County Juvenile Probation, Project Graduation, etc. Support for emergency service accounts for a half dozen providers in this category.
The following are many examples through the years on impact, influence and leverage in this category of service that Gasser has enabled. The first is the Volunteer Napa, now a program of The Center for Nonprofit Leadership. When the Volunteer Center found themselves in mission drift and in constant financial insecurity as an agency, Gasser stepped in to save services and to preserve the concept of volunteerism. Six critical programs were housed elsewhere, with staff hired by the receiving agency. Now a merger with a longtime volunteer organization has allowed all the services previously offered to remain in Napa County and resulted in additional volunteer opportunities.
“Natalie is an 84 year old woman who lives on limited income in a mobile home. Her kitchen sink was not draining properly and she had a 5 gallon plastic bucket under it to catch the water that didn’t go down the drain. When it filled up she carried it to her bathroom and poured into the toilet that didn’t work so that it would flush. Also, she hadn’t had hot water in 4 years because she couldn’t afford to have the water heater fixed. A volunteer looked around in her home and found a place to install a 20 gallon water heater to replace her 5 gallon tank. Boden Plumbing from Sonoma gave her an ‘at cost’ billing for all of the work, a fire fighter in Napa City who also has a contractor’s license pulled out the old water heater to reduce the costs from the plumber and inspected all of the work. Natalie is thrilled and extremely appreciative because now she no longer carries water down the hall, can flush the toilet normally, and has lots of hot water.”
“Another example involves earthquake repair. During the earthquake the cabinets in Helen’s garage fell down making a mess and leaving her unable to use that space. Helen requested that someone from the Repair Team help with emptying the cabinets and remounting them securely on the wall. A team member secured the cabinets so they would not fall again and cause Helen difficulty or unnecessary damage to her house.”
“The last example shows how small changes can save water and money in this time of drought. Jane is an older woman living in a mobile home and called CVNL Volunteer Napa Repair Team to repair a dripping faucet. Her rent space is $500 per month and her income is $700 per month. She, obviously, needs every dollar to buy food, pay her utilities, medical bills, and any necessary expenses just in order to live. She was afraid that unnecessary water use would increase her bill and cause her expenses to go over her very small fixed income and thus creating a spiral of debt she could not pay or from which she could not recover. A plumber made a quick fix of a simple problem, thus solving a significant financial hardship.”
A good example of services to our youth is the work done by the Boys and Girls Clubs. We have helped them in big ways, through capital campaigns, and in smaller ways such as the following example:
“Concerned about the safety of our youth because the back parking lot of the Napa Boys and Girls Club was being used as a camp ground for homeless people, Gasser stepped in. Staff regularly had to pick up drug paraphernalia out of the bushes, so they approached the Foundation for immediate emergency assistance. With funding to build a fence and enhance the back lot, the problem was fixed. As a bonus, the area was turned into program space that now includes a Club Garden, basketball court, and a safe outdoor play area.”
Families often find themselves in need of support and some of our best agents for doing this are the Family Resource Centers in the Napa Valley. One of them, Puertas Abiertas, had help from us in starting up their enterprise, focusing on Hispanic families and their myriad needs, particularly those who are new immigrants to our country. Now in their 10th year of operation, there are many examples of how basic needs have been met using resources provided by the Gasser Foundation. Workshops there provide families with help on immigration issues, housing, food and basic needs, legal issues, parenting, addiction and much more.
Another wonderful model of a family resource center is in American Canyon.
“The Gasser Foundation provided the initial funds to design and implement the American Canyon Family Resource Center (2006 – 2008). We received $275,000 (total) – these funds gave us the much needed time to:
Apply and receive our 501(c) (3) status (creating our own Board of Directors, securing an AC location, implementing our internal systems),
Secure additional funds to hire cultural competent staff, expand resources, including parent education and case management (ANV, First Five, and NV Community Foundation),
Establish a presence in American Canyon to offer community driven resources (including foreclosure counseling, debt management, free tax assistance, employment counseling), participate/coordinate outreach events for the community (including Health Education Workshops, Health Fair, cultural events), provide ongoing ACFRC information and updates to our elected officials, and work with local businesses for job placement assistance,
Advocate/educate locally and regionally the needs of our community (including the increase of poverty in the suburbs, impact of the economic downturn),
Begin the conversation with UWBA – to be become a SparkPoint center – we developed strategic partnerships to provide financial education and support for families in need. We received funding at the regional level and created a collaborative that represents the ongoing work in 7 Bay Area Counties. Our partnerships/resources are critical: many participants are at risk: low skills, under employed, transportation/childcare problems, disabilities, language barriers, unstable housing. We are the only SparkPoint site in Napa County.”
“We have two wonderful folks that we can highlight because of our services; one individual is on staff; she started as an intern at 18, completed her AS degree, and has worked with the agency for the last 4 years. Our other participant has utilized our SparkPoint services and just completed his BA degree in Counseling and is at USC working on a Masters’ Degree. He has worked with our Credit Counselor and utilized our Tax Program – we first met this father at an outreach event. He needed backpacks for his two daughters. We initially helped him with taxes – although he worked 7 jobs, he still made less than $45,000 annually. (We have additional stories of families/single parents, veterans, and seniors who have benefited because of our services, purchased a home, completed education/training, prepared for kindergarten – our family literacy classes, assisted after the 2014 Earthquake.)”
Gasser has not ignored the growing aging population of Napa County. We have sponsored initiatives such as the Healthy Aging Population Initiative (HAPI), now successfully launched as a forum for change and collaboration among service providers for older people. We are in the midst of launching Share the Care, a volunteer based service program that is featured below. And as you will read now, we have supported the work of Rianda House, the Up Valley center for a number of great services and a broker of many more.
“There are at least 876 UpValley seniors and families better off because of the Gasser Foundation’s support of Rianda House Senior Activity Center. By way of explanation, in 2014 there were 876 seniors who participated in health, wellness, cultural and social programs at Rianda House, accounting for 10,750 visits to the Center. These seniors found resources that aided not only the seniors themselves, but their families, caregivers, and other individuals concerned with care of the elderly. … Seniors here are better equipped to navigate the challenges of aging to live as safely independent, healthy, and joyful lives as possible. Families, neighborhoods, and the UpValley community in general benefit as a result.”
“A Rianda House regular invited an older woman (mid 80’s) who lives alone, to join her for a game of dominoes that is offered weekly at the Center. Cautiously the woman showed up to play and realized she was having a lot of fun. As time went on however, this feisty gal started showing signs of ill health, frustration, dementia and her “dominoes day” friends began to worry. When the woman didn’t show up one day, they were told by another group member that the woman wound up in the hospital after taking a bad fall. Her friends wanted to take action and were able to make contact with a relative and learned that indeed she had started down the path of mental decline and as a result, was not eating well or taking care of herself. Knowing the resources available at Rianda House, her friends encouraged her to get more involved. Motivated by this outpouring of support and feeling comfortable with the familiar surroundings at Rianda House along with the encouragement from the Director, the gal signed up for the weekly brain fitness and exercise classes, attended a Falls Prevention workshop and then began coming to the thrice weekly congregate meals. Five months later, she was coming to the center daily, her health had greatly improved and she could often be heard laughing with her Rianda House friends.”
“The Gasser Foundation financial support over the past years (since 2009) was crucial to keeping our programming relevant, state-of-the-art, and nimble… we offer brain fitness, dementia support, falls prevention, chronic disease management, nutrition services, physical exercise, and grief support groups with steady frequency in St. Helena and now several off-site programs in Calistoga through partnerships there. Long-term support from the Gasser Foundation allowed us the flexibility and vision to answer the rising tide of senior health issues and help our clients meet their individual challenges with more confidence and resolve.”
Another grateful grantee sums up a sentiment expressed by so many.
“When Gasser gives a grant to an organization, the fact of the grant can be used to state to the general public that a prestigious foundation like Gasser had enough confidence in a non-profit to provide financial help. That can be a great basis for branding and marketing the mission of any non-profit. “
Speaking of leveraging, a philosophy of the Gasser Board of Trustees has been to leverage the workforce talent as well. We have supported programs that combine volunteerism and services to special populations. One such program is Share the Care and here is a story of one of their volunteers:
“Tom MacDonald turned 65 this year and prepared a long list of bucket items to be completed before he dies. Most of the list was destinations to visit, concerts to be seen and experiences to be had. But one item, volunteer where needed, has grown into a passion of service in helping people, one-to-one, in the details of daily life.”
“He doggedly pursues paperwork and details for banking and financial items. He’s helped people with computers, cell phones, cleaned up viruses, and sorted coins. He is the expert in electronics, which is often the most complicated of all for people. Patiently following through on each detail, his deepest pleasure is found in completing a project to perfection. He’s personally assisted ten people, from one hour, to forty, and is a truly dedicated volunteer.”
Another population that is dear to the heart of our Board of Trustees is that of vulnerable children in our community. CASA, A Voice for Children is the only program in Napa County that serves abused and neglected children who because of the severity of the abuse or neglect have been made dependents of the court. CASA receives no county funding. This allows CASA to be an independent voice for children placed in the child welfare and court systems.
The Executive Director of CASA writes,
“The support of the Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation has enabled CASA to continue to advocate, support, and mentor abused and neglected children hundreds of children placed in foster care. Their investment in the work of Napa CASA supported our most valuable resource, our children… The funding received from The Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation encouraged other sources to contribute funding to Napa CASA. CASA received a matching grant in 2013 and 2014 that was generously matched by a private donor. We are grateful to The Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation for helping to ensure that CASA continues to serve abused and neglected children in Napa County. With continued support and greater awareness of the CASA program, Napa CASA can accomplish our goal of providing a CASA for every child that needs one.”
A thriving result from this kind of timely intervention by a constant caring adult that CASA trains and deploys is depicted in Laura’s story:
“During my five years in foster care I had more than a dozen social workers and foster parents. Throughout all the changes and different people I had to deal with, my CASA volunteer, Sally was the one person who was there just for me. Knowing Sally cared about me meant the world to me. She was the anchor I desperately needed to stay in school, to keep moving forward, to make the choices that got me safely out of foster care and into service to my country. She made me believe that I was destined for success—in college or in whatever else I decided to do. I was a Marine from 2000 to 2005, and I served two missions in Iraq. Today I am 27 and a civilian police officer at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. I am also a college student, studying psychology. Sally’s lessons have never left me and neither has Sally. I am living proof that CASA volunteers change kids’ lives.”
Arts, the leaves of each branch:
The arts have seen a lot of support from Gasser Foundation. Nearly 30 organizations and a variety of combined efforts have received grants. The Opera House, Symphony, Lincoln Theatre and more have benefitted from generous gifts from Gasser, and have also provided the venue for fundraising efforts by a multitude of other nonprofits.
Here is a discussion of two recent educational events held at the Lincoln Theatre.
“The Napa Valley Film Festival, in partnership with the Napa Valley Unified School District and the Napa County Office of Education, offered an exciting full day field trip to the screening of two wonderful films for Napa Valley students. These films told the inspirational story of young students from diverse backgrounds as they overcame critical challenges to achieve their goals in life. This event was free for students and the community, and would not have been possible without the support of the Gasser Foundation.”
“In addition to the film screenings, the filmmakers and stars of the documentaries attended this daylong event, along with executives from Silicon Valley. Superintendents of schools, local officials and community leaders also attended. This event was offered at no cost to schools, and almost 1100 students from across the valley attended. Entire schools attended, including New Tech High and River School, along with students from Justin Sienna, Silverado and the NCOE Adult School among others. Students were thrilled and inspired by the experience, many returning to their classrooms and schools to share the incredible stories they heard and lessons they learned.”
“The Gasser Foundation made it possible for a very special program by NapaReads to take place at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater. Napa County Reads, now in its 11th year, is a coalition of educators and community members dedicated to helping Napa Valley children connect to reading through personal visits from authors and other events. A very special feature this year was the publication of a cookbook by Napa students who wrote about their favorite family recipes and stories”
The collaboration with this theatre has allowed many agencies to have a reduced rent venue to raise money. For example:
“With the support of the Gasser Foundation, an agency dedicated to ending sexual exploitation and trafficking has been able to host their annual fundraiser at the Lincoln Theater, allowing them to save resources on rent, expand their ticketing capacity, raise more funds, and utilize theater infrastructure (including marketing) to achieve their goals.”
A theatre director explains:
“Because of the generosity of the Gasser Foundation, arts funding has done more than just support the arts, it has built a stronger and safer community here in the Valley.”
Recreation, the swing hanging from the sturdiest branch–
This category often relies on boosters and passionate volunteers to sustain the mission and focus of their nonprofit. Gasser reserves funds for this purpose, often for small grants, and has given to almost 30 recipients through the years. Programs for youth, such as 4H clubs and ball teams, as well as planned events through City recreation departments offer more than single experiences: they build community and promote leadership. A half-dozen organizations which act as service providers or watchdogs (no pun intended) for animals have benefitted from the Gasser legacy as well. If dogs could talk, they may well bark their thanks. If the fish in the Napa River could tell us how much nicer their environment is because of Gasser donations, we would be impressed. And children will swing their bats and pump their swings for generations to come in parks that have gotten built and illuminated by Gasser funds. May the band (in their new uniforms) play on.
Employment, the soil that feeds our tree:
This category is a relatively new category for Gasser and has been funded fewer times, less than a handful. But the impact in terms of jobs and self-esteem is significant. We also fund special internships with community organizations, bringing the talents of young civic minded people to nonprofits, and exposing them to the gratifying choice of work in this field. Businesses such as Buckelew and Serenity Homes have created job training programs using Gasser funds. And others, like United Cerebral Palsy, have received grants for other purposes (see Environment for this story), but have parlayed their grants into support for their employment programs. For example, meet Christopher Bennett, and hear his story as told by UCP staff and Chris: “I am for equal rights for everyone no matter what their disability is – I have been working for that all my life.”
“Chris is an advocate for himself and for people with disabilities. He wants to work earning a living wage, he wants to be an active member of the community, and he wants to continue living in Napa. UCP of the North Bay, with the support of the Gasser Foundation, is helping Chris achieve his goals. Chris just celebrated his 5th year with WineBev Services, working at our newly built out and solar-energy powered warehouse funded by the Gasser Foundation. Most recently, Chris has joined our group of employees working at Sutter Home Winery, which was made possible through his hard work and dedication.”
“The support that the Gasser Foundation has given UCP of the North Bay has helped all of the members of our workforce. It has also allowed Chris to present an even stronger message to other people with disabilities about the value of work. He has spoken at many community forums including the Breakfast with the Mayors at the Napa Women’s Club in celebration of National Disability Employment Month. When Chris is not helping others to realize their dreams, he enjoys dancing, communicating on social media, photography, and spending time with his girlfriend.”
Here is another story (told in his own words) of a combination of services sponsored by Gasser funds that led to the recovery and a career for a local man.
“When the HOPE Center opened a number of years ago, I was only allowed to come in for 15 minutes-I was that out of control. I was a homeless alcoholic addict. I had lost everything and was living literally under a tree in Napa.”
“I realized back then that if something didn’t change, I would lose the only person who has ever stuck with me – my wife- and the HOPE Center staff kept telling me I could change. They believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. I can’t tell you that I had an instant change because I didn’t. I continued to do bad things and landed in jail for a while. That’s where I finally got clean. At that time there was no detox center in Napa so jail was where many people went to detox back then. When I got out I stayed at the Shelter for a while and then went into a sober living house where I lived for 16 months. That’s when Community Action took another chance on me by hiring me to work at the Winter Shelter part time. When the new South Napa Shelter opened five years ago, I was given a full time job as a shelter manager and within the first 6 months I was promoted to this new position.”
“(At the shelter) …We want people to give back to this generous community while they are staying here. We have about 14 other non-profit organizations where they can volunteer and everyone who is here is expected to participate. Those who work full or part-time give one to two hours a week and those who are looking for work or can’t work give up to 10 hours a week. This is in addition to the daily chores they do here at the shelter. Last week our clients gave over 130 hours back to the community.”
“Community Action’s homeless programs all have one main focus -to move people from homelessness to housing they can keep and maintain. They are expected to work to increase their income so they can qualify for a rental unit and we treat them not as “homeless” but like the adults that they are. I really don’t like the word homeless. It makes me think of people who are “bad” – people who are “less”. When people come in here, they are in charge of where they end up. We give them the space and stability but it is up to each individual to make the choice to change. Nothing is forced on people but we coach them and give them the opportunity to see new choices and make the changes to get them.”
“Today I have my wife and family back and a job that I’m proud to do. I love the change in me. I’m a better person. I’m living proof that people can change. A while back, I was out with my wife when Joe Peatman (President of the Gasser Foundation) came up to me and shook my hand. It made me feel like I was doing a great job. That was so incredible. I mean, just a few years ago, people would cross the street or look the other way just to avoid me.”
Environment and sustainability, the sun, the water and the wind that nourishes:
Always a high priority, and with a long history of support by the Gasser Board of Trustees to almost 20 agencies for various projects to positively affect the environment, this effort gained momentum several years ago with the establishment of Sustainable Napa County (SNC). The effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our community in the preservation of Mother Earth has been a cornerstone of our funding philosophy.
So much has come from this partnership, it is impossible to list all the benefits. But a quick recap of the 2014 year-end report shows results from just one of their programs: Energy Watch.
Some of the goals of this program include:
- Work with municipalities to capture the improvement in energy efficiency that they have left to achieve – including post-earthquake building improvements and assistance making new or renovated buildings more energy efficient;
- Make nonprofits more efficient by leveraging PG&E resources with the SNC Gasser Reserve Fund;
- Expand work with small and medium business customers using targeted marketing;
- Identify and educate customers about financing for retrofits – On Bill Financing, PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) and other still-emerging strategies;
- Promote programs for energy efficiency assistance to low income residential customers;
- Work with the Napa Workforce Investment Board to develop a Youth Energy Corps to train income qualified and at risk young adults in employment and life skills, connecting them to job opportunities in the energy sector.
- Plan and execute a Policymakers Summit – preceded by smaller targeted meetings with leaders in each jurisdiction – focusing on a Napa County Energy Vision.
The Executive Director of Sustainable Napa County says,
“Without Gasser’s creation of then investment in SNC, there would be no Energy Watch partnership in Napa County and therefore, none of the rebates and incentives at this level for our community. It is worth noting that cumulatively, since the PG&E contract began in 2010, we have saved a total of 6.4million kWh, which equates to 1,664 tons of GHG emissions reduced, with savings of over $1 million annually for customers in Napa County – savings that will continue year after year.”
We often combine a nonprofit mission investment with a project that is designed to help the environment. One such project is one we helped with for the Napa Valley Land Trust. Their unpaid caretakers of the Wantrup Preserve sent this letter:
“We came to the property to take on the Caretaking Position eight years ago. It was a nice house but it was built long ago in the early 50’s and electrical power was inexpensive and they installed baseboard heaters for heat in every room. Electric hot water heater and electric clothes dryer, it was an all-electric house. At some point a Franklin stove was added. Over the years the house had not had work done on it. The aluminum windows could not be closed tight and you could feel air leak. There was some long ago blown-in insulation in the attic that did not seem to work. It was a very cold house…My ninety four year old mother in law came to stay with us for four weeks right around the Christmas Holidays. She stayed in a back bedroom, which worked fine. Family visited. It was a great time. I can remember telling her, Ruth you can set the baseboard heater to make sure you are warm and comfortable. She kept warm, but the result of that cold month in winter was our PG&E bill was very, very high. That set in motion an alarm that something had to be done.”
“The Preserve Committee and Mike and Doug from the Land Trust decided to look at solutions. There was a lot of discussion and everyone’s first choice was solar but how was it going to be paid for? That was when Doug approached the Gasser Foundation. After some feedback from the foundation, we all worked together as a team to meet with the energy experts that Gasser suggested and then to pull together the proposal. It was a miracle. What seemed impossible became possible when we received the news that the Gasser Foundation had provided the grant.”
“The electric costs have decreased enormously – almost disappeared – and that is allowing us to instead use all that money to do what we are supposed to do – maintain and manage this 700-acre preserve as an asset for the community.”
Education, the roots that sustain and support our tree’s growth:
Appropriately reflecting Peter and Vernice Gasser’s wishes, education remains the largest funding category of this Foundation, both in terms of the number of recipients and in terms of the amount of granted dollars. The details of support range from buying supplies for the classroom to large capital donations. Justin Siena is named in the Trust and has benefitted from many capital expense projects as well as general operating expenses. Some of these projects include:
- Tennis Court
- Classroom renovations
- Financial Aid to students
- Computer system
- Faculty development and training
Although our small foundation cannot correct this problem, we can help teachers here in Napa. Each year we give away $45,000 in small $500 grants to schools which then award the money to our local teachers. Here is a quote from Larry Kroman, who now heads Calistoga Affordable Housing, but remembers his days in education, A binder of notes from grateful students and teachers holds a place of honor in the Gasser files. Please come by anytime and read their letters.”Valley Oak High School greatly appreciates the scholarships the Gasser Foundation provides to our students. These scholarships say, ‘We believe in you,” and give the students the added encouragement, in addition to the financial resources, they need to pursue their educational and career goals.” Another, soon to be a U.C. Davis student, dreams of a world, “…that focuses on the importance of education, doesn’t fear cultural differences, and allows the expression of language and art to thrive.” The letters from the high school graduates reflected their excitement about their upcoming college adventures and their family’s gratitude for the financial help. All told of their planned majors and the college they will attend. There are literally thousands of stories told over the last 25 years, each representing a small or large victory for the recipient of a service or fund provided through the auspices of the Gasser Foundation. Please join us under the shade of the tree to listen to echoes of lives changed, services offered and received, and a healthier community growing compassion and care.
The next section of the report will detail the financial impact of the Foundation over the last years, and explain projections for giving in the future, giving us the wherewithal to grow our tree and listen to the stories told under it. Finally, one letter writer described the profile of the values encouraged by this scholarship program by describing herself as the first in her family to attend college, as a first generation immigrant, as the oldest sibling in a large, impoverished family. She will attend U.C. Berkeley in the fall. She wants to eventually go to law school and come back to the Napa Valley to practice. One of our recipients wrote to us to give us a copy of his grade report from U.C. Santa Barbara, and to tell us of his journey this last academic year of learning to juggle his interest in dance, his social life and academics. He thanked us again for investing in his future and plans to update us each year. The stories of these recipients are many and varied. The thanks we have received, from the schools and from the recipients are heart-felt and inspirational. One woman, a mother of children at Napa Valley Language Academy, after completing her high school diploma at Adult School, decided to continue her education at Napa Valley College to become a school counselor. Her Adult Ed teacher calls her, “…dedicated, reliable and determined.” Without our scholarship, she would not be able to finance her higher education. And another way of helping is through scholarships. Here are some grateful responses to the scholarship funds, $45,000 given each year to all high schools in the Valley to pass along to graduates who plan to further their education. “When I was principal of Napa Christian Campus of Education (2003-2006) asked for a grant to provide technology into two classrooms. This specialized technology was integrating a “smart white board” into our elementary curriculum. The Smart board allowed a teacher to write or type to the white board, or use it as a 5 ft. screen for internet, video, etc. I installed 5 smart white boards over a 3 yr. period but the first board was from an education grant from Gasser. The technology greatly assisted me in bringing new teaching styles to Napa Christian and increasing the school enrollment by 25% in two years.”
Nearly 50 organizations have benefitted by grants, and every school in the Valley has received years of support through teacher grants, and scholarships. We have made it a point to try to defer some of the expenses often covered by teachers to make their classrooms a better place to learn. Research has shown that one of our most underpaid professions funds their own work. “…a 2010 survey by the National School Supply & Equipment Association found that 92 percent of teachers spend their own money on supplies and 85 percent buy instructional materials for the people they teach. Perhaps more surprising, the study concluded that, teachers’ personal money is the most common source of funding for classroom projects. On average, teachers spent a total of $398 on school supplies in 2009-2010 and an additional $538 on educational materials. The total expended that year by the nation’s 3.7 million teachers? A whopping $3.5 billion.”