July 31, 2014

History

By Deb Alter-Starr, founder of Somos Napa -We Are Napa and its website:

The Somos Napa-We Are Napa  (“Somos Napa”) bilingual network and bilingual website at www.somosnapa.org  was born on December 10th, 2010, the same day my 90 year old mother-in-law, Adele Starr passed away.  This coincidence is compelling to me because Adele changed thousands of lives and became a nationally known figure through her networking in the pre-internet age. I dedicate my own  work for the greater good to her memory.  Her story is at the bottom of this page.  

After almost a year on our first bilingual website and bilingual newsletters, built by Sara Avila — a , Somos Napa Advisory Board Member, community volunteer, and parent of bilingual children –  we moved onto this new website in 20111, created by Chris Templeton, another Somos Napa Advisory Board member.  Chris is also a  parent of children in the Napa Valley Unified School District as well as the President of Influence Internet.

How  Somos-Napa – We Are Napa  Started:

Somos Napa- We Are Napa grew out of my belief, similar to  my mother-in-law’s,  that community members can powerfully help meet our own needs for communication, support, connection, empowerment.    More specifically, I believed we needed a visible group of Spanish and English speaking community members modeling cross-cultural friendships and working with schools and community organizations together to realize a stronger, more integrated Napa Valley.

Several years ago, I first began discussing the idea a bilingual, grassroots network and website in our community.  Parent websites for example were popping up all over California and across the nation, typically started by middle class mothers.   These websites did not typically include Spanish speakers or enough content for low income families.  I wanted a Napa Valley parent-community network to be more inclusive.

With encouragement from Joelle Gallagher, Michele Grupe, and Karin Poire at Cope Family Center as well as support from my husband and friends I started an email network first in English,  March 2009. I began sending weekly newsletters to 300  people in my email address book. People liked what I was doing and through word of mouth, our network grew. At the time of our first (bilingual) website, we had almost 800 subscribers to what was originally called “Napa Community Network.”   This first name was chosen to be similar to Berkeley Parents Network, a group that allowed us to copy their methods.  Berkeley Parents Network itself grew from a handful of parents in graduate programs at UC Berkeley in 1993 to serve over 31,000  parents from multiple counties by 2013 without formally advertising itself.   Craigslist similarly was started by one individual who offered his friends -  his email contact list – an opportunity to participate in an online network .

Our experiment in Napa County also worked.  Adults without children, college students, and parents enjoyed our initial email network  and website. Many contributed content to our  newsletters in addition to reading it.

The informal, advisory group for this project grew and we picked up additional organizational partners. Volunteers stepped forward to help build our website. Cope Family Center agreed to be our fiscal agent and nonprofit base.  Our advisory group members felt strongly that Napa needed a bilingual website and grassroots organization. We surveyed Spanish and English Speakers on a new name and became “Somos Napa – We Are Napa.”  We decided we would move beyond “word of mouth” promotion as soon as our website, newsletters, and calendar were automated and we could guarantee ongoing Spanish content.  Cope Family Center contributed $2,500 to pay for programming that we could not do ourselves on our first website and continues to donate that amount annually to underwrite our technology costs.

On December 10th, 2010, our calendars were installed into our first website-work-in-progress. I consider this our unofficial birth date because it felt like a beating heart entered the framework we were building in two languages.   On this  soft-launch date we had working calendars, our first news items, and our first visitors.  Our official launch date was  February, 2011.

About Adele Starr: “Because its the Right Thing to Do:”

The passing of my mother-in-law on the day our bilingual website capacity was born may not mean much to the reader but it supports my persistence to develop and sustain Somos Napa.  PFLAG, a  support group organization Adele co-founded the living room of her Los Angeles and presided over for 10 years, eventually became a Washington DC based nonprofit, with over 200,000 members, more than 300 chapters, and an annual budget of 5 million dollars.  It’s impact is international with support brochures printed in multiple languages.  While Adele’s goals remain controversial to some – to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer family members -  she changed the world because she followed her conscience.   When she died, the Los Angeles Times wrote a lengthy obituary about her was picked up by news services across the country.

Similarly, those involved in this website are following our conscience, bringing  people in the Napa Valley together across languages and cultures, ages.   If our vision succeeds for the Napa Valley, we don’t know whether our methods will be adopted in other communities as well as Adele’s were.  What we do know is that our future in the Napa Valley and the state of California is majority Latino, and that we want to help make that future a good one for all of us together.

Thank you for reading this.  We invite you to join us on this unfolding adventure.


 

This post is also available in: Spanish