Hands Across The Valley was founded in 1994
when George Altamura learned that the Napa Food Bank was running
out of money. He and other leaders in the Community, decided to
come together to do something about the situation. Upon investigation,
they discovered some surprising statistics: The Food Bank was still
serving hundreds of individuals and families each week, but funding
from the Federal government was being reduced. The First Presbyterian
Church in Napa was providing a hot meal six days a week to over
100 individuals and families. The Salvation Army was doing the
same. A group of citizens in Calistoga was feeding fourteen families
every day and had a waiting list. Meals on Wheels was serving over
100 frail, elderly or disabled housebound individuals each day.
These numbers did not include the over 2,000 families and their
children in the Valley who were receiving aid at a standard below
the Federal poverty guidelines. In the midst of opulence and wealth
in the Napa Valley, it became obvious that hundreds of people were
going hungry every day.
George began a campaign “to
do something about hunger in the Napa Valley," and a committee
was formed to stage a fundraising event.
They had no idea
how the community would respond. To everyone’s delight, over 500 guests
showed up for the inaugural event held at Bistro Don Giovanni Restaurant
to join Linda and Johnny Miller, 49er legend Steve Young, Eleanor
and Francis Ford Coppola and other community celebrities “to
make a few pizzas and share some Napa Valley wines”!
The next year, Eleanor
and Francis Coppola hosted the event at their home in Rutherford.
Celebrities from the world of sports and the silver screen were
again on hand to join over 650 guests. The benefit gained wide
Bay Area coverage and sold out far in advance. In 1996, because
of the event’s tremendous growth, the Coppola’s agreed
to move the benefit to their newly acquired Niebaum-Coppola Estate
Winery in Rutherford. Over 1,000 guests enjoyed Napa’s
finest food and wine, celebrity pizza tossing and dancing under
the stars. In what has now become a much-anticipated annual event,
Hands Across The Valley has succeeded in raising well over $2,000,000
to benefit Napa Valley’s Safety Net Food programs.