Downtown Napa is currently a confounding maze of obstacles, partitions and diligent workers. But once the dust settles on the new Napa, just imagine the possibilities. Revitalized retail, new lodging and dining options, beautified streets – if you look past the construction zone, just in sight is Napa’s next chapter – growth from newly tilled soil fed by a rich local commerce.

In the meantime, downtown shoppers and diners are urged to navigate the maze and support local shops, many whom are struggling through the construction phase. The rewards are there. Shops are offering “hardhat discounts” and other incentives to lure visitors. And, you’ll surely be greeted by a friendly smile. A chat with a local business owner can quickly quell the frustration caused by a jack hammer’s fury.

With all this change, one thing that stays the same is Napa’s strong sense of community. Our Community Awards celebration takes place on Thursday, May 15 at 5 p.m. at the former COPIA building, 500 First St. in Napa. We’re honored to be working with Mechanics Bank to honor the worthy heroes of our community. And, proceeds from the event will benefit the Napa County Adopt-A-School program, which seeks to engage Napa County businesses and organizations to support local schools and further enhance our children's educational experience.

Choosing the 2014 Community Awards honorees was not easy, as many heartfelt and very worthy nominations were received. We look forward to celebrating on May 15 at the awards celebration, where we will also announce the honoree for Outstanding Community Visionary.

2014 Community Awards Honorees

It was an unexpected gift, but not surprising knowing the source. Keeping the Napa downtown clean and free of litter is a personal mission of our 2014 Outstanding Community Booster, Michael Holcomb, Sr. He can often be seen picking up trash from the street, and recently purchased trash pickers for his neighbors and other local merchants, urging them to join him in keeping the area clean. Mr. Holcomb, a long-time local resident, has made his mark in Napa through a series of commercial property investments and beautification projects.

“Michael is relentless in his pursuit of a better Napa and a better world,” said Ryan Gregory, in his nomination letter. “He does this not for the praise or recognition, but because he loves downtown Napa and wants to be a part of making it better.”

We look forward to recognizing Family Service of Napa Valley as the Outstanding Nonprofit Organization, dedicated to the emotional health and wellness of the community through accessible and affordable mental health services.

The 2014 Outstanding Nonprofit Employee is Mark Bontrager, Executive Director of Aldea Children & Family Services. Says Joelle Gallagher of COPE Family Center: “Mark's dedication to serving the most vulnerable members of Napa County with the upmost integrity and compassion, combined with his tremendous work ethic and ability to develop creative collaborative solutions make him the ideal awardee.”

Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services has been recognized as the Outstanding Healthcare Professional, with several heartfelt nominations illustrating the organization’s deep care and understanding.

Teresa Graham, Director of Napa Valley Tours & Transportation, will be honored as Outstanding Hospitality/Tourism Professional. She has elevated the organization to the forefront of Napa hospitality by implementing a number of community outreach programs. 

“Teresa serves as a key ambassador of the Napa Valley,” said NVT Director of Corporate Development Michael Basayne in his nomination letter. “The company, under her leadership, actively promotes the Napa Valley brand, its culture and events.”

Our Outstanding College Student is Cassarie Soungpanya, a student leader and “exemplary scholar” at Napa Valley College.

We will also provide special recognition to Hilary Zunin of Napa Valley CanDo for the Napa Valley Give!Guide, which helped raise more than $100,000 for 40 local nonprofits in its first year.

And, we’re happy to recognize the Napa County Teacher of the Year Christopher O’Connor, a science teacher from St. Helena High.

We will also be announcing our Community Visionary at the event. We’ve kept this person a secret long enough and we’re excited to celebrate him or her in style on May 15. According to one of the people who nominated this individual, he/she is: “someone who can see into the future and act in the present to collectively make the best happen for an entire community.”

The celebration following the awards ceremony promises to be an event in itself. Chamber Board President, Chef Ken Frank, has wrangled his fellow Oxbow Garden Co-Op partners to provide an amazing array of food. Local restaurants including: La Toque, Zuzu, Hog Island Oysters, Fish Story, Carpe Diem, Oenotri, The Thomas, Ca’Momi Enoteca, and Kitchen Door will provide savory bites, while wineries including St. Clair Brown will be on-site to pour for guests.

Tickets for the Napa Valley Community Awards are on sale now at NapaChamber.com/awards.