Saturday, 22 June 2024

Giving groups named this year's Wine Auction beneficiaries

The United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team at a recent funeral in Kelseyville. The group has been named among the beneficiaries of this year's Wine Auction. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Ten community organizations and agencies that work hard to make Lake County a better place have been chosen to receive the proceeds of this year's Wine Auction. {sidebar id=84}

Thirty-five groups applied for funding from the annual event, which over the last eight years has contributed more than $621,500 to local programs since the first event was held at Guenoc Winery in 2000, according to the Lake County Wine Alliance. The beneficiaries are selected by the Wine Alliance Board of Directors.

The beneficiaries from this year's event are Kids 4 Broadway, Lake County Special Olympics, Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, Hospice Services of Lake County, Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, the Military Funeral Honors Team, Church Women United, Operation Tango Mike, the Lake Family Resource Center, the Lake County Literacy Coalition and the fine arts programs at five Lake County high schools.

The Buckingham Junior Golf Program will receive support through the auction of golf balls to fund activities of the Lake County Junior Golf Council, the Wine Alliance reported.

The ninth annual Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Buckingham Golf and Country Club, Kelseyville. This year's gala charity benefit is chaired by Congressman Mike Thompson.

Military Funeral Honors Team chosen this year

This is the first year the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team has received a grant, said Rich Rich Feiro, the team's firing party commander.

Feiro, who founded the group, said they've offered military honors at 490 funerals since May 2001, the year they started. A retired Air Force man, Feiro formed the group because he wanted to see veterans receive an honorable and proper military ceremony when they are laid to rest.

The team currently has 24 members, mostly retired vets, including four buglers, a chaplain, numerous riflemen and Feiro. The team is certified by the Department of Defense.

It costs the team about $5,000 a year to travel to do its solemn work, said Feiro. Demand is growing; this past month, they had 13 funerals, which is well above the average. Most are World War II vets, who reportedly are dying at a rate of 1,000 each day across the United States.

When a veteran dies, funeral homes ask the families if they want a military funeral. If they do, the funeral homes call Feiro, who then swings into action, scheduling the team and making contact with the branch of the military to which the vet belonged. That branch then sends an active duty member to the funeral.

The team performs a three-volley salute at the funerals, the symbolism of which is part of a long military tradition going back to Roman funeral rites, he said. In more recent wars, when truces were called for the purpose of burying the dead, volleys signified the work of burials was done. Since the Civil War, the playing of “Taps” has been a party of military funerals as well.

For each funeral, Feiro estimates he spends at least two hours doing paperwork and making arrangements, including sending off the veterans' information to the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense, who track veterans' death.

The riflemaster, he added, spends at least an hour per funeral cleaning and doing any needed repairs on the group's seven 1903-era Springfield rifles, which the government gave the team for free.

Feiro said the funds the group receives will be used for everything from repairs on the team's bus, to meeting rising gas prices, replacing uniforms and repairing the rifles which, because of their age, require expensive parts and repair.

The group accepts private donations and is seeking more grants like that from the Wine Auction to keep up their work, said Feiro. Donations may be made to the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team at P.O. Box 1365, Kelseyville, CA 95451.

“Every penny helps,” he said.

An important opportunity for children, horses

Susie Wiloth of Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center said she was excited by the news of receiving a grant from the Wine Auction. She said she was guaranteed to receive at least $2,500 from the benefit. This is the first year she's applied.

The school, operating since May 1, 2006, is located in Lower Lake in the Noble Ranch Estates.

Wiloth's school provides about half of its riding sessions to the mainstream public, with the other half devoted to therapeutic sessions with special needs children around the county. Her school is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and can be found online at

Wiloth said she will take the funds from the Wine Auction and match them to provide more free therapeutic sessions for children.

She works with all seven school districts to provide – at no charge – the therapeutic sessions to children who need them, either at her main facility or at a rented arena space in Kelseyville. Her mainstream business helps support the therapeutic side, Wiloth explained, as do weekend fundraiser rides.

In addition to helping children, the school helps horses. Many of the horses taking part in the therapy work have been rescued and themselves rehabilitated, an effort Wiloth plans to increase in order to have more horses for her school.

Caring for Alzheimer's patients, families

Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake is a multi-year recipient of funds from the Wine Auction, having received awards in previous years, including last year, said Director Eva Johnson.

The program offers day care for Alzheimer's patients, including classes and activities, said Johnson. It also benefits families by giving them some time away from caregiving.

Johnson knows firsthand the struggle to care for an Alzheimer's patient. Her husband was diagnosed in 1984 with Alzheimer's, a disease which wracked his family, including most of his siblings. He fought a losing, 13-year battle with the disease, dying in 1997.

“The year he died was the year I started the program up in Clearlake,” she said.

The program offers two days of care in Clearlake, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at St. John's Lutheran Church. It's affiliated program in Lucerne offers a day of care on Thursdays, also at the Lutheran Church.

They have activities for clients, including projects like flower arranging, said Johnson.

She said of the clients, “We have them for a short time, but it allows them to have a place where they can have a special time.”

Johnson is also concerned about the increase in Alzheimer's cases that may result from the large baby boomer generation.

The day care and respite program is under the umbrella of the Senior Support Services program based at the Upper Lake Senior Center, located in the old courthouse on Mendenhall and First, Johnson said.

Johnson said the program is mostly volunteer, and more volunteers are needed. She also has a few paid staffers.

She said gets calls all the time from people seeking help, although she said she's troubled that most families still don't know about the services available to help them.

“It is a wonderful program and I'm very proud of it and how it's developed,” she said.

Many other worthy groups included

Other projects named as beneficiaries of this year's event include:

The Arts: Kids 4 Broadway will provide tuition scholarships for children ages 6-14 to participate in productions and learn the discipline of working in the theater; fine arts and performing arts programs at Clear Lake High School, Kelseyville High School, Lower Lake High School, Middletown High School, and Upper Lake High School.

Health: Lake County Special Olympics will use its funding to purchase sports equipment, uniforms and training supplies, and provide transportation to out-of-county competitions. Hospice Services of Lake County will continue its high quality, end-of-life care for all who need its assistance.

Community: Church Women United continues to provide shoes for school-age children in need. Operation Tango Mike prepares and ships care packages to Lake County residents deployed in military combat zones. The Lake Family Resource Center will operate separate summer camps for young men and women ages 12 through 17. The Lake County Literacy Coalition will train more tutors to serve adults needing help with reading and writing English.

The Lake County Wine Alliance is a nonprofit organization of wineries, winegrape growers and community members founded in 2000, according to a group statement. The all-volunteer group raises funds to benefit “the arts, health and community” of Lake County while promoting Lake County’s fine wines and its premier grape growing region.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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