Raising the CanDo Spirit:

A Year of Connection and Reflection

 

It doesn't just happen. For a community to be not only sustainable but to thrive requires the concerted effort of individuals, families, private and public organizations. It takes energy, focus, partnerships, and activities that raise awareness and sometimes change behaviors. It takes a deep commitment and recognizing what we CanDo when we work together.

Napa Valley CanDo isn't a 501c3. It's a grassroots volunteer service organization, just one of dozens of valley groups that help cultivate a spirit of community. We charge no dues and have no required volunteer hours because we don't want anything to get in the way of service, whether it's a couple of hours reading to children or helping organize logistics for a valley-wide drive. Happily, our efforts to "ease the path from intent to action" seem to have touched a chord. We know this because since forming in 2009, we've grown from 15 original stalwarts to nearly 1000.

 

In 2011, CanDo extended its reach by making connections for individual volunteers and by cultivating partnerships with other organizations, weaving together those "invisible threads" that form the fabric of a vibrant community.

Here's a quick review of the year:

CanDo's Great Napa Valley Shoe Drive for Soles4Souls collected more than 13,000 pairs of gently-used shoes for distribution to those in need in the United States and abroad. This involved 75 CanDo volunteers, 90 collection sites, students from a dozen schools, and generous contributions from Biagi Brothers, Napa Valley Petroleum, Teacher Resource Center of the North Bay, Napa Environmental Management, and the Napa Sanitation District.

 

Our Better Bag Project informed and encouraged local residents to reduce their use of plastic and switch to reusable bags. We engaged dozens of volunteers, prompted resolutions and assistance from five government agencies, screened nearly 30 showings of the documentary Bag It, including an evening at the Napa Valley Opera House. We also worked with many local grocery stores and distributed 2,500 free reusable bags.

 

CanDo's 10-10-10 Drive raised nearly $8,000 for the Napa Valley Food Bank. Since beginning these annual drives, CanDo members and friends have raised more than $35,000 to help feed those in need.

 

In partnership with Clinic Ole, Napa Sanitation District, and Household Hazardous Waste, CanDo's "Booster Shot" promoted Clinic Ole's pharmaceutical take-back program. CanDo volunteers transported over 2100 pounds of unwanted medications to Household Hazardous Waste for proper disposal.

 

"Neighbor2Neighbor," a CanDo column, now appears weekly in the Napa Register. Each column showcases a different non-profit or service group. It's one more piece in CanDo's effort to educate the public about the terrific work being done by so many local groups and to learn about opportunities for activism and community service.

 

Partnering with Arik Housley of the Ranch Markets in Yountville, CanDo provided holiday gift cards for Pathway Home veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries. 

 

Our volunteers assisted in activities sponsored by more than 20 local non-profits including COPE, Community Resources for Children, Regional Conservation District, NV Food Bank, Girls on the Run, Clinic Ole, Somos Napa, and many more.

 

CanDo strengthened partnerships with public and non-profit entities. Some of those included the Napa City Council and County Board of Supervisors, Napa Recycling and Waste Services, Sustainable Napa County, Puertas Abiertas, Clinic Ole, Napa Co. Public Health, St. Helena Climate Task Force, and Calistoga Green Committee.

 

Our State Governance volunteers held a free, non-partisan public forum on the California fiscal crisis. County officials discussed the anticipated multi-billion dollar state deficit and the effect it would have on local residents.

 

Involving youth in community service is a value we hold dear. In 2011 CanDo Kids and CanDo Teens involved kids from NVUSD leadership programs, Justin Siena High School and Blue Oak School. We worked with Green Teens, Napa High Sierra Club, local Girl Scout troops, and middle and elementary schools.

 

CanDo staffed tables at the Napa Farmers' Market, Chefs' Market, and Earth Day. We greeted neighbors and disseminated information on current projects.  

  

Teaming with Napa Valley Life magazine, we sponsored "CanDo Conversation" social gatherings, get-togethers featuring refreshments and lively conversation. No agenda, no volunteering, just getting to know neighbors a little better.

  

To further spread the word in 2011, CanDo members addressed some 30 community groups, wrote regularly for Napa Valley Life magazine, grew our Facebook page, and launched a website, NVCanDo.org, that's had over 10,000 visits in its first year.

 

* * *

 

When we reach out to others, we often first reach in to the very best in ourselves. There, if we're honest, we find that good intentions alone are not enough. They need to be coupled with positive action. Reflecting on needs, making connections, and then taking action to enrich the lives of those in our community is what CanDo and so many other service organizations in the valley are about. It was William James, the American philosopher, who said, "Act as if what you do makes a difference." CanDo says, "It does."