St. Helena, California, January 2019 — Tony was 7 when he and his family moved to Stonebridge, an EAH Housing community in the wine country town of St. Helena, Calif. “When I moved in, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” he says. “I thought it was luxury compared to where we had been living before. It was by far the best decision my parents ever made.”
Back then, Tony’s father was a vineyard worker. It is hard physical work and Tony, now 32, said his father hoped he and his four younger siblings would pursue other careers. Tony led the way.
Now, 25 years later, Tony and his wife, Kelsea, run a thriving five-year-old wine shipping business. In 2017 he even felt successful enough to give back to kids living at Stonebridge. A self-described “sneakerhead,” he bought and donated 30 pairs of athletic shoes to the Stonebridge after-school youth program.
“New shoes always brought joy to me when I was younger,” says Tony. “I knew they would bring joy to these kids as well.”
In 2006, after 13 years growing up at Stonebridge, Tony moved out to live on his own. But he took many friendships with him. “The friends I have now are the ones I have from Stonebridge,” he says. “We built our bonds there. We never thought we were poor, because we never had time to think about the materialistic things in life. We had family and we had friends.”
After high school Tony studied for a year at a local community college before leaving to find a job. He worked at a few grocery stores, at a senior housing apartment community and spent four years as a counselor at the St. Helena Recreation Department helping run an after-school program. He also spent many years there as a volunteer coaching youth sports.
When Tony’s two youngest brothers left home to live with him, he left the recreation department for a higher paying job at a wine shipping company. After it closed a few years later, he decided to start his own wine shipping business, Bodega Shipping Company. Bodega now has six employees and last year sent 33,000 packages to wine clubs and individual buyers across the country.
Family, friends and stable housing during his youth at Stonebridge make up the solid foundation on which Tony has built a successful life. “My family benefited greatly from living in low-income housing,” he says. “I love the fact that there is affordable housing in the Napa Valley. I think there should be more places like Stonebridge where kids can make memories with their friends.”