[caption id="attachment_13379" align="alignleft" width="216" caption="The late Belle Rhodes is shown at the dedication of the Belle Rhodes Teaching Kitchen at Napa Valley College's Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena. Students at Napa Valley College's Napa Valley Cooking School work in the Belle Rhodes Teaching Kitchen."][/caption]

NORTH BAY - The Napa Valley College Foundation received its largest donation ever: $900,000 for the school's upper valley campus cooking school.

"Napa Valley College owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Belle and Barney Rhodes for their lasting support of the Napa Valley Cooking School. Their bequest will be thoughtfully used to honor their memory by training aspiring chefs in the culinary arts that contribute immeasurably to the quality of our lives," said Dr. Chris McCarthy, president of Napa Valley College.

Belle and Barney Rhodes, who were instrumental in the establishment of the Napa Valley Cooking School, left 12.5 percent of their estate to the college. The rest was distributed to other entities in the valley.

[caption id="attachment_13380" align="alignright" width="252" caption="Students in kitchen at Napa Valley College"][/caption]

In 1996, the Belle Rhodes Scholarship was created to provide assistance for qualified cooking school students. In addition, Ms. Rhodes left her large cookbook collection to the upper valley campus culinary library, and the Rhodes Trust established an endowment for the cooking program.

The kitchen at the campus was named the Belle Rhodes Teaching Kitchen in order to honor her ongoing support of the school.

Ms. Rhodes died in February 2007 and Mr. Rhodes a year later. Upon their deaths, the Belle and Barney Rhodes Trust provided endowed funds that will provide ongoing support to the cooking program at Napa Valley College.

With the California budget crisis, both universities and community colleges are suffering. Sonoma State University has put registration on hold. And for those already enrolled, fees are increasing. The overflow is falling to community colleges, which are having difficulty meeting the needs of all the prospective students.

Meanwhile, Lewis Adult Education Center in Santa Rosa closed permanently on July 19.

Dr. McCarthy informed the board of trustees of the gift and acknowledged it during a special meeting of the College Board of Trustees on Aug. 1.

For information about the Napa Valley College Foundation, contact Sonia Wright at 707-253-3378 or nvcf@napavalley.edu.

The cooking school is now enrolling students for the new class starting this fall. For more information on Napa Valley Cooking School, visit napavalley.edu or call 707-963-2930.