9th Annual Heart of Napa – RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED

Heart of Napa Awards

Where volunteers, nonprofits, and leaders shine.
9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards

9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards

$22,500 in awards in six categories, recognizing and honoring Napa County’s outstanding nonprofit volunteers, leaders, and organizations. 


Enjoy event highlights!


Read our press release.


Read the event program.

9th Annual Heart of Napa  Recipients

The Corporate Community Service Award is presented to a business that has fostered and encouraged volunteerism and philanthropy among its employees.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Corporate Community Service Award Recipient. La Cheve Bakery and Brews

The 2023 Heart of Napa Award for Corporate Community Service goes to La Cheve Bakery & Brews. 


La Cheve Bakery and Brews, a Napa-based small business established in 2020 by Cinthya Cisneros, shines with its profound commitment to community and philanthropy. Cinthya’s vision for La Cheve was deeply rooted in supporting her parents and the local community, whom she affectionately refers to as “Familia.” Through initiatives like Dine-and-Donate events and Paint Brunches, she spotlights and supports local nonprofits and schools.


One of La Cheve’s standout endeavors is the American Dream Scholarships, designed to assist local youth, including undocumented and first-generation college students, in their pursuits of careers in business or science.


Cinthya herself serves as an inspirational speaker and contributes her expertise as a Napa Advisory Board Member for 10,000 Degrees. Her active involvement in organizing and fundraising for local nonprofits and schools underscores her unwavering dedication to uplifting the Napa Valley community.


Congratulations La Cheve Bakery & Brews!


Sponsored by: 


The Volunteer of the Year Award and $5,000 for the recipient’s nonprofit is presented to an individual (other than a board member) who has provided exemplary volunteer service to a Napa nonprofit organization.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Volunteer of the Year Recipient, Ray Brantstetter, UpValley Family Centers

The 2023 Heart of Napa Award for the Volunteer of the Year award goes to Ray Branstetter, UpValley Family Centers. 


For 20 years, Ray has served as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistant at UpValley Family Centers, extending free tax preparation services to eligible individuals and households.


Ray dedicates his Wednesdays, Fridays, and alternate Saturdays from January to April to this endeavor. Renowned for his meticulous research and unwavering reliability, Ray has garnered a reputation that draws many clients specifically requesting his assistance. Through Ray’s efforts, countless households have accessed crucial tax credits and refunds.


In 2023 alone, his assistance facilitated 664 clients in saving an average of $300 in fees while securing an average refund of $1,430. As the cost of living continues to rise, Ray’s invaluable contributions play a pivotal role in helping families meet their basic needs and strive toward financial equity.


Congratulations Ray.

Sponsored by: Syar Foundation 

The Excellence in Board Leadership Award and $2,500 for the recipient’s nonprofit is presented to an exceptional volunteer member of a Napa nonprofit board of directors.

9th Annual Heart of Napa Excellence in Board Leadership Award Recipient Kristen Georges, UpValley Family Centers

The 2023 Heart of Napa Award for Excellence in Board Leadership goes to Kristen Georges, UpValley Family Centers.

Kristen’s journey with UpValley Family Centers has been nothing short of remarkable. From her early days as the organization’s first Board President to her return in 2018, she’s been the guiding force behind its growth.

Her deep knowledge of the organization and the communities it serves have been essential to the organization’s growth, with Kristen overseeing a 35% budget increase and 18% staff growth. As a result, Kristen worked to create a board-designated facilities improvement fund to expand office space and the adoption of a Disaster Time Off policy.

Kristen spearheaded efforts to develop a compensation philosophy and program designed to attract, retain, and engage a committed and talented workforce by providing a positive environment with growth opportunities, work life balance, and competitive compensation and benefits.

Kristen led the board in a strategic planning process which included a board assessment that resulted in a streamlined three-committee structure and recommendations to increase the diversification of board members to better match the community served.   

Congratulations Kristen.

Sponsored by: PG&E

Up to five Youth Volunteer of the Year Awards of $1,000 each is presented to full-time middle or high school students serving a Napa nonprofit in the community, education, or faith environment.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Youth Volunteer of the Year Julia Bui, Bring Change to Mind and Mentis

First Youth Volunteer of the Year is Julia Bui, Bring Change to Mind and Mentis.


Julia, a senior at Napa High School, has been actively involved with Mentis’ Teens Connect program for four years, currently serving as President. She leads meetings, manages social media, and serves as a QPR suicide prevention gatekeeper, while also speaking on youth mental health panels.


Additionally, Julia is a dedicated volunteer and musician, participating in chamber choir, orchestra, and tutoring, as well as volunteering and working at the Napa County Library. 


Congratulations Julia.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Youth Volunteer of the Year Edmundo Gonzalez, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley

Second youth volunteer of the year is Edmundo Gonzalez, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley.


Edmundo, a Junior at Vintage High School and captain of the Varsity Soccer team, actively mentors’ peers through Club 1515 and The Boys and Girls Clubs, developing a soccer training program for 40 underprivileged members.


As a leader in Keystone, he has volunteered for numerous causes, organized career panels, and planned the Great Futures Road Trip for teens to tour colleges and businesses throughout California.


Despite facing personal adversity, Edmundo remains dedicated to supporting others and creating equitable opportunities.


Congratulations Edmundo.


Third Youth Volunteer of the Year is Paola Barajas, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley.


Paola Barajas, a Junior at Napa High School and active member of AVID and The Boys and Girls Clubs, leads her peers in service projects through the Keystone program. She supports cancer research, youth programming, and ALS through events like the Crush Challenge and Napa Valley Ride.


Paola also mentors younger students, coaches after-school basketball leagues, and volunteers as a referee, fostering confidence and skills in the next generation.


Congratulations Paola.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Youth Volunteer of the Year Sophia Dominici, God Is Good Group

Fourth Youth Volunteer of the Year is Sophia Dominici, The God is Good Group.


Sophia, a junior at Justin-Siena, created the God is Good Group (GIGG) in memory of her uncle to educate on the dangers of drinking and driving.


As president of the Friday Night Live and Thirst Clubs in her High School, she raises awareness on issues like underage drinking and vaping, and she organized the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.


Sophia also founded the Youth Leadership Academy, provides birthday parties for homeless children, and coaches basketball camps, promoting leadership and sports among young girls.


Congratulations Sophia.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Youth Volunteer of the Year Demian Gonzalez, Napa Valley Education Foundation

Final Youth Volunteer of the Year is Demian Gonzalez, Napa Valley Education Foundation.


Demian Gonzalez, a senior at New Technology High School, co-hosts and edits the Napa Valley Education Foundation’s youth-led mental health podcast, SHINEcast.


He plays a key role in destigmatizing mental health issues, fostering open discussions, and leading the planning and editing of each episode.


Additionally, Demian is active in Mentis’ Teen Connect program, promoting youth mental health and wellness, and is trained in QPR suicide prevention.


Congratulations Demian.


Sponsored by: Redwood Credit Union

The Excellence in Leadership Award and $5,000 for the recipient’s nonprofit is presented to an executive director who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and whose vision has inspired meaningful and lasting change benefiting the organization and community.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Excellence in Leadership Recipient Jennifer Stewart, Napa Valley Education Foundation

The 2023 Heart of Napa Award for Excellence in Leadership goes to Jennifer Stewart, Napa Valley Education Foundation.


Under Jennifer’s leadership since 2014, the Napa Valley Education Foundation has undergone significant expansion, evolving from a single-staff operation to a team of 10 members.


During her tenure, fundraising efforts surged from $400,000 to an impressive $2.6 million. Jennifer forged a strategic partnership with the Napa Valley Unified School District to establish seven Wellness Centers within schools and securing $3 million in funding for mental health services.

Additionally, she spearheaded the expansion of the Music Connection program, extending its reach to benefit over 5,000 students. Jennifer’s leadership also saw the enhancement of career readiness initiatives and the successful launch of the Napa Valley Learning Innovation Summit. Notably, she orchestrated a merger with NapaLearns, ensuring the foundation’s sustained impact on 18,500 students and 1,000 educators alike.


Congratulations Jennifer.

Sponsored by: Comerica Bank

The Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence Award and $5,000 is presented to an organization that has demonstrated exemplary service to their constituents.


9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards Nonprofit Excellence Recipient Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation

The 2023 award for Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence goes to Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation. 


The Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation offers mentorship and professional growth opportunities to predominantly Latino vineyard workers and their families.


Historically deprived of educational access, these workers face barriers to career advancement, civic engagement, homeownership, and effective communication with their children’s teachers.


Since its establishment in 2011, the foundation has invested $12 million, delivering 3,232 hours of education and benefiting 25,000 farmworkers and their families. Their services encompass adult literacy classes covering subjects such as mathematics, English, technology, and financial management.


Notably, participants experienced an average pay increase of $3 per hour from 2020 to 2023. 


Congratulations Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation.

Sponsored by: Peter A. and Vernice H. Gasser Foundation

Thank You Presenting Sponsor

Bank of Marin has served Northern California businesses and the people who run them for more than 30 years, providing insight, guidance and legendary service. Community commitment is one of the Bank’s core values, believing that strong communities benefit everyone. In the words of the Bank’s founder, Bill Murray, “We do well by doing good.”

2023 Award Sponsors

Click here to see all nominees 9th Annual Heart of Napa Awards.