Monthly Archives: April 2011

Food of Love

“How do you turn down someone who says ‘I’m hungry’?” asks chef Amy Cohen. How about if they’re a cancer patient whose treatment is giving them a myriad of symptoms from nausea to fungus of the tongue that make normal food impossible to consume?

Once a week in a gleaming A&A Kitchen facility in St. Helena, a group of teens and adults gathers for an afternoon of culinary compassion, making incredible menus for just such people.

Currently hosted by St. Helena Hospital’s Martin O’Neil Cancer Center, A&A Kitchen, and the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center, this project is highly rewarding ─ and promises to grow. Under the direction of chefs Amy Cohen and Amanda Tuttle, young participants are cooking and delivering meals for cancer patients in treatment at MOCC.

The young cooks, who are recruited by NVYAC and come from local public and private schools, home schools, and service groups, range from grades 5 to 12 and are across the demographics (and style) spectrum. The consistent factor is that the kids are participating because they want to, because they love the project. “They’re volunteering because their cousin or aunt or somebody had cancer, so they want to be involved,” Cohen says.

So far, 37 kids, seven college students, and ten adults have volunteered with the program, with several becoming regulars. They’re involved in all aspects of the program from nutrition education to menu development to problem solving ─ and, of course, culinary skill development. NVYAC executive director Tom Amato has been impressed with the young volunteers. This program is one of the most powerful I have seen,” he says, “with a learning curve that is fast and intense as the kids step up to the plate to do a phenomenal job.”

In turn, Cohen is “the consummate auntie,” developing relationships with the teens that include interactions ranging from the exchange of menu ideas through the week to online games of Scrabble! “It’s fun to get in there and watch these kids get a sense of accomplishment,” she says. A trendy teen with a “yeah right” attitude who refuses to eat anything green might join the project, and a couple hours later their mom shows up and asks what they made. Cohen loves it when the response is, “It’s like a kale salad – try this!” and the mom’s jaw drops.

Amato sees the project as the perfect place for this kind of transformation. “Many of the teens involved have had difficulty in traditional settings and are thriving with the personal attention, opportunity to be involved in making a difference, and training of caring mentors,” he says.

A story that sums up both the project and the kids’ commitment comes from a moment when the group was discussing possible names for the project. One young participant didn’t think the name should be in English. With a little research, they came up with “alimento di amore” ─ which in Italian means “food of love.”

Film Festival 2011

In a lively community event that’s all about imagination, stories, and film, local teens get a chance at the spotlight. The second annual St. Helena Family Film comes to the Valley May 27-30, and the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center is once again closely involved.

Started last year by Cathy Buck of St. Helena’s Cameo Cinema, the SHFFF is an event for families and kids of all ages and is all about community, stories, and supporting youth. This year, four days of events hosted at the Cameo and the St. Helena Oddfellows lodge will include movies, cartoons, workshops, special guests from the film industry, and the gala events for the screening of the make-your-own-movie and make-your-own-music-video projects. Like last year, proceeds from the event will again benefit NVYAC as well as other similar organizations.

NVYAC is working with the Cameo, serving on the planning committee, setting up connections with local schools, encouraging youth participation, and providing support during the weekend events – including teen volunteers.

Teens: Debut a Film, Join a Community

– Make a Short Film
Anyone ages 7 to 21 can make a 30-second to 7-minute video. Check out the details and applications at the St. Helena Family Film Festival website St. Helena Family Film Festival website.

– Make a Music Video
For ages 13-18, make a 30-second to 5-minute music video and debut it at the Music Video and Dance Party. Learn more at the St. Helena Family Film Festival website St. Helena Family Film Festival website.

– Volunteer at Events
Volunteers are needed at events May 27-30. Contact Tom Amato at or 888-7557 for more info or to volunteer.

The Angwin Event 2011

The Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center is facilitating teen involvement in an annual Angwin community event hosted by the Angwin Volunteer Fire Department and the Angwin Community Council. For many years, the fire department has hosted the Angwin Flea Market, and recently the community council added a Classic Car Show. This year, they introduce the “Art in the Clouds” show for local artists.

The Event
The Flea Market, Classic Car Show, and Art in the Clouds will take place on Sunday, May 22, and will feature music, food, and prizes in addition to the flea market booths, art, and cars. The Classic Car Show takes place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and “Art in the Clouds” will be on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All events are off the main road through Angwin and will be easy to locate.

Youth Involvement
Teen artists are encouraged to bring their artwork to “Art in the Clouds” on the day of the event to display it at the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center area, where the Mobile Arts Center will be open and exhibiting student artwork. For more, see our news story. The community council is also accepting student art exhibitors free of charge, if they wish to set up their own booth.

Additionally, youth are invited to participate in the community festivities of the day. If they are interested in assisting with any aspects of the event, they can contact NVYAC executive director Tom Amato at or 888-7557.


Invitation to Angwin Festivities

We invite our friends, participants, and supporters to join us in Angwin on May 22, 2011, for a community celebration! Food, friends, classic cars, music, a flea market – and art. This year at the annual Angwin flea market and classic car show, the Angwin Community Council is hosting the first “Art in the Clouds” exhibit.

The Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center invites teens to join the show by displaying artwork at the Mobile Art Center. Or, to set up a booth of their own, students can reserve a space free of charge through


  • Artists: Local artists of all ages will have exhibit booths
  • Teen Artists: NVYAC is hosting a booth just for teen artists
  • Art: Art pieces of all types – drawing, painting, jewelry, ceramics…
  • When: Sunday, May 22, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Where: Near the College Market in Angwin


More info: