Over 5,000 free meals, prepared by local Napa Valley restauranteurs, were distributed to families as they were returning to their homes in Deer Park, Angwin, Yountville, and Calistoga, California, after evacuating for approximately 10 days because of the Glass Fire. Fabio Maia, Chaplain at Adventist Health St. Helena Hospital and Pacific Union College (PUC) Service and Missions Coordinator, planned and the five-day event.
“Happy Local Clean your fridge day… Welcome back to the hill…” read the announcement on Angwinville, the community Facebook page. Having returned to refrigerators full of rotting food because the power was shut off while they were away, the residents found delicious meals cooked by some of Napa Valley’s best restaurants welcome indeed. Adventist Health St. Helena Hospital also invited anyone impacted by the Glass Fire to access four 30-minute resiliency counseling sessions with a licensed counselor at no cost.
Although COVID restrictions meant that the recipients were confined to their cars, the event was festive, with much waving, honking, and well-wishing in the air. The dominant emotion seemed to be relief at being back home, though tempered with the sad knowledge that some had lost their homes to the wildfire.
In Angwin, a long line of cars drove slowly across the PUC campus and through the gymnasium parking lot each evening for five nights as PUC students and employees, as well as personnel from Adventist Health St. Helena, distributed the hot meals to residents through car windows. Also available were N95 masks, personal hygiene items, backpacks filled with school supplies, five-gallon water bottles, and groceries. “Kiddie bags” with crayons, pencils, and pictures to color were provided to the children.
“We are still giving out water and trying to support people as Deer Park is starting to be repopulated,” said Maia. “People have different needs, and we are trying to meet them.”
Meals were also distributed at the Yountville Community Center and Calistoga High School. Most of the recipients in Calistoga were farmworkers who have been especially affected by the fires during harvest season. “We are hopeful that by giving this good food we are making connections that will help us reach out in the future with our health message,” said Maia.
Deer Park was the hardest hit community, with the Foothills Adventist Elementary School’s main building and The Haven Thrift, a ministry of the Haven Adventist church, completely destroyed, and dozens of homes in ashes. Adventist Health St. Helena Hospital did not burn but was evacuated and will be closed “until further notice.” Elmshaven, the historic home of Ellen White, was spared.
Collaboration among multiple entities made the event a success: Adventist Health St. Helena, Pacific Union College, ADRA International, Adventist Health Rapid Response, Adventist Health Roseville, World Central Kitchen, PRESS Restaurant, Tra Vigne Pizzeria and Restaurant, Bouchon Bakery, Bon Appétit, Stone Brewing Napa, Feeding It Forward, Napa Farmers’ Market, Napa Food Bank, Celebration Nation, Yountville Community Center, Calistoga High School, Calistoga Fairgrounds, UpValley Family Centers, Napa Sunrise Rotary, Calistoga Police Department, and Community Action of Napa Valley.
Nancy Hoyt Lecourt is retired from teaching and administration at Pacific Union College.
Photos provided by the author.
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