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CVNL 6th Annual Heart of Napa Awards™ Recipients

Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership’s 6th Annual Heart of Napa Awards™ is Pleased to Announce Recipients

NAPA, CA, 3/22/21 — Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 6th Annual Heart of Napa™ Awards. Nearly 300 community leaders, volunteers, elected officials, and business members logged into the virtual event on Thursday, March 18th, 2021, from 11:00am to 12:30pm.  

“This was the second year we had to convert Heart of Napa, a very large, in-person event, into an online format,” said Linda Jacobs, CEO at CVNL. “Even though Heart of Napa is attended by many, we pride ourselves on making it intimate, meaningful, and inspiring for all. We were thrilled that we were able to transfer that feeling to a virtual event without losing the ‘heart!’”

“The community came together to show appreciation and gratitude for all the nominees and recipients,” continued Jacobs. “With contributions of their time, talent, and resources, the individuals and organizations nominated for the Heart of Napa Awards demonstrate repeatedly that Napa is a community of great leaders that do the right thing.” 

Tim Myers, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer at Bank of Marin, the event’s Presenting Sponsor, had this to say: “The uncertain times we are living in have challenged each of us to step up and do more where we can, to come together for the benefit of our communities. As the presenting sponsor of Heart of Napa, Bank of Marin is grateful that Linda and her team at CVNL continue to ensure that we have the opportunity to honor some of the very special people who have responded to that challenge in support of our Napa County nonprofit community.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Barry Christian of American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation. Barry volunteered to lead virtual hikes to ensure that everyone could experience the outdoors safely during COVID-19. He volunteers to help elementary school students with creek clean-up activities, worked with American Canyon High School Students for science projects, served as a Board Member for the Friends of the Napa River, serves on a variety of elected or appointed positions throughout the County, and more.

The Excellence in Board Leadership Award was given to Deborah TonellaMusic in the Vineyards. Deborah worked with the Executive Director during the pandemic to create budget scenarios, engage sponsors and board members, create a work-from-home structure for staff, and replace their summer festival with virtual events.

Youth Volunteer of the Year Award recipients included: Andre Aikins, American Canyon Boys & Girls Club, for his help with meal services and his fundraising initiative “go-to-high-school, go-to-college,” a program that helps to inspire and empower youth to reach their educational goals; Rudolph Barragan, Napa Valley Boys & Girls Club, for his involvement with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, putting together care packages for troops with Operation with Love from Home, the ZD Wines Crush Challenge, helping coordinate fundraisers for the Northern California Wildfire relief efforts, and leading projects such as Teen Family Dinners; Kalaya Jones, Mentis, for her involvement in the Teens Connect Program where she implements activities to help combat trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as her work in numerous other community service projects such as serving food, distributing care packages to isolated seniors and filling backpacks for homeless people; Ava Rubin, Napa County Robotics, who manages two robotics teams, and who in 2020 volunteered 400 hours providing hands-on assistance, peer-to-peer tutoring, project planning, and helping teams work with schools in presenting their STEM projects; and Mariah Smith, Expressions of Hope, where she volunteers two to three times a week serving foster families and social workers, helping them with resources such as meals, clothing, and holiday gifts.

Hilary Zunin, Co-Founder of Napa Valley CanDo, was awarded the Excellence in Leadership Award posthumously. Her legacy includes: the Give Guide, which has helped raise $3,746,341 for 125 participating nonprofits; four food projects aimed at reducing food insecurity; and creating a volunteer arm for Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster to address the need for volunteers due to COVID. 

The Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence Award was presented to NEWS, dedicated to providing safety, hope, healing and empowerment for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Last year, NEWS continued to provide all programming without putting the health of their staff or clients at risk, serving a total of 1,560 individuals, 247 of which were sexual assault survivors, nearly ½ of those were children under the age of 18. 

All recipients were presented with certificates of recognition from Congressman Mike Thompson, State Assemblymember Cecila Aguiar Curry, State Senator Bill Dodd, and the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

Additionally, winners received an award of $5,000 or $2,500 for their nonprofits. The five Youth Volunteers of the Year received $1,000 each. The Awards were sponsored and presented by Syar Foundation (Volunteer of the Year); Comerica Bank (Excellence in Board Leadership); Redwood Credit Union (Youth Volunteer of the Year); Pacific Gas & Electric Company (Excellence in Leadership); and Kaiser Permanente (Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence). 

“In the six years CVNL has produced this event in Napa, we’ve been able to award thousands of dollars to dozens of nonprofits,” said Jacobs. “CVNL is a resource, connection, and voice for the nonprofit community and the challenges we face.  With offices in Marin, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma County, we stand united with our nonprofit colleagues and stakeholders, ready to support them in 2021 and beyond.”


About CVNL: For over 50 years, CVNL has advanced nonprofits and volunteerism by strengthening leadership, encouraging innovation, and empowering individuals in their communities. Passion alone isn’t enough when it comes to creating strong nonprofits. That’s why we work with aspiring and established leaders and volunteers every day to help them build the skills and connections that can take their impact to the next level. Together we offer comprehensive programs that support nonprofits and volunteers including training, executive search, customized consulting solutions, volunteer services, and corporate engagement. Heart of Marin™, Heart of Napa™, and Heart of Sonoma County™ events support nonprofits of every size and mission through recognition and cash awards. Other programs and services include the Sonoma Human Race, Secret Santa, Court Referral Program, and Volunteer Wheels. We provide disaster preparedness training and serve as an Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC), overseeing spontaneous volunteers and donations for Napa, Marin, Solano, and Sonoma Counties in the aftermath of a disaster. We believe that with confident and prepared leaders and volunteers, our nonprofits will be better equipped to create healthy, happy communities. Visit to discover more.