Ralph Anzellotti

Sharing the Spirit: Ralph Anzellotti makes house calls to help seniors in need

Original article in the Napa Register.

Ralph Anzellotti retired to Napa five years ago, but he isn’t spending his days basking in the Napa Valley lifestyle like some might expect.

Rather than sipping the latest vintages while taking in wine country views, Anzellotti, 67, spends his free time on his hands and knees fixing leaky toilets, repairing broken drawers and doing whatever else low income seniors in Napa County may need done around the house. It might not be the version of a Napa Valley retirement most people think of, but Anzellotti says he enjoys helping others even if it means getting his hands dirty.

His desire to make a difference in the community led him to Share the Care, a network of volunteers that offers assistance and resources to senior citizens in need.

“All the volunteers at Share the Care have a particular skill set – a specialty – something they really like to do, so when someone calls asking for help, we typically have someone we can send out or we know where to direct them,” Anzellotti said. “When I signed on to help, I became the fix-it guy.”

Share the Care Director Yvonne Baginski said she was excited to have Anzellotti on board.

“We often got calls from people needing small things done around their home, but they just couldn’t afford the services or didn’t have the knowledge of who to hire as a handyman,” Baginski said. “As Share the Care’s home repair handyman, Ralph has helped expand our reach into the community.”

As Share the Care’s resident Mr. Fix It, you’d think Anzellotti has decades of experience in home repair, but he is a self-taught handyman. He retired from a career in sales and marketing – not home maintenance.

Anzellotti owns property in Oregon where he used to live before coming to Napa, and as a landlord, he realized it was easier to learn how to make household repairs on his own rather than hire people to come in and fix every little thing. As the years went on, Anzellotti learned how to take on most basic home repairs by talking to people at hardware stores and watching videos on YouTube.

When Anzellotti and his wife Linda moved to Napa, he spent the first year keeping busy by fixing things around their house, but as he knocked things off his to-do list, he began wondering what to do with his time. His wife suggested getting a part time job at a winery – which he did – but he was still looking for something else to do with his newfound free time.

“I don’t really like to just sit around,” Anzellotti said. “I like to tinker. I like to know how things work. I’m still not sure I consider myself a handyman, but I do enjoy fixing things, and I’m pretty good at it.”

Regardless of what title Anzellotti prefers for himself, Ruth Marsh is a fan of his work.

Marsh, a Napa resident, reached out to Share the Care because she noticed her water bill had gone up unexpectedly, and she was afraid she might have a leaky pipe. Anzellotti was sent out to investigate.

“Ralph is absolutely wonderful,” Marsh said. “He’s fixed both of my toilets. I can’t imagine anyone who would want to spend their retirement going around fixing other people’s toilets, but he sure is nice to have around.”

Anzellotti said he never knows what to expect when he makes visits on behalf of Share the Care, so he brings two toolboxes when he makes house calls. If it turns out he needs a special part, he takes a quick trip to a local hardware store to get what he needs. But not all repairs are that easy.

Anzellotti was sent to help a man who reported his back door lock was broken. Upon inspection, Anzellotti determined the lock was too old and rusted to be repaired, but replacing the lock wasn’t going to be easy.

“The back door was the original that came with the mobile home in the 1960s,” Anzellotti said. “I looked up the lock manufacturer online, but they’d gone out of business. No one made that lock anymore, so I knew I was going to have to get creative.”

It took some detective work, but Anzellotti eventually sought the help of an RV salesman who was able to sell him a lock he could modify to install at the mobile home.

“That was a tough one,” Anzellotti said. “I’ve come across that type of thing at a few of the homes I’ve visited. Sometimes in the older houses, the parts you need to fix what’s in need of repair don’t exist anymore, so I have to figure out a way to jimmy-rig something to make it work.

“In the case with the mobile home, I’m just glad I was able to figure it out because about three weeks later I got a call that the front door lock was broken. That time it only took me about 45 minutes to replace the lock, which was a lot easier than the three hours it took the first time.”

Anzellotti is known as a jack of all trades, but his latest specialty is installing grab bars in showers. When the Area Agency On Aging, serving senior citizens of Napa and Solano counties, folded this summer, the organization’s fall prevention program was suspended and wasn’t adopted by any other service agencies in the area. One of the services offered through the fall prevention program was the free installation of grab bars, which give seniors a handhold to use for stability when getting in and out of the shower.

Share the Care’s Baginski asked Anzellotti if he could learn to install grab bars in an effort to keep the fall prevention program going until a more permanent option could be found.

Anzellotti consulted with the man who used to install the grab bars for Area Agency On Aging and brought the special equipment to drill through tile. He practiced drilling holes in spare tiles he had at home before making his first house call.

“It’s a little nerve wracking,” Anzellotti said. “Drilling a hole in tile, it takes patience and a steady hand. It can take three to five minutes to drill a hole in tile unlike drilling a hole in a wall which takes no time at all. I was nervous the first few times I went out, but I’m getting more confident each time I do it. I’ve probably installed a dozen grab bars in the past four months.”

Anzellotti installed a grab bar at Darlene McDannald’s home in St. Helena, and she said the addition of a grab bar in her shower has been a life saver. McDannald broke a bone in each of her hips when she fell earlier this year. She gets around with a cane these days, but the grab bar allows her to get in and out of the shower without assistance from her husband, who used to have to help her.

“It’s really helped me a lot,” McDannald said. “The difference is night and day. It makes me feel so much better knowing that I can do this for myself. I was in really bad shape for a while. Ralph, he helped me out and it’s made such a difference.”

Anzellotti said he doesn’t mind filling in as Napa County’s unofficial fall preventions specialist. He said he’s glad he’s learned a new skill he can use to help make people’s lives a little easier.

“Knowing that I’m helping someone gain a sense of independence in their lives is an incredibly rewarding feeling,” Anzellotti said.

KPFA Newscast: Share the Care Shows Holiday Kindness to the Elderly

Many people, especially the elderly, will spend the holidays alone. But a little known program, called Share the Care is changing that. Funded by a private foundation in Napa as a start-up 5 years ago, Share the Care is a program that aims to be responsive to the human needs that people have, where institutions often fail.
KPFA’s Karin Argoud reports.


Ambi: Baginski knocking on door going inside for a visit Jim saying hi and banter between them
Their talking will come up and down through the following:

“Hi Jim – it’s Yvonne. Can I come in? How ya doin’?”

Yvonne Baginski, founder of Share the Care , knocks on the door of 82 year old Jim Robbins. Robbins is dying of a heart aneurysm. Baginski visits Jim in his tiny rundown 45ft 5th wheel trailer at Miller Mobile Home Park in Napa almost every week.

Baginski: I brought you some licorice cuz I know you like it – got that sweet tooth.

Baginski is greeted with a big smile from Robbins who has visibly lost most of his teeth.

Jim: Thank you!
Baginski: You’re very welcome! How you feeling today?
Jim: I’m a little lonesome…
Baginski: We’ve been working on getting you some more help at home.

Robbins is smart, funny and still has all his wits about him. He was a plane mechanic during the Korean war and worked as a carpenter as a younger man. His hardships started when he got sick, without children or family to help him.

Jim: Well I had a stroke about 11 years ago that started all this and every time I have an exam they find something else is wrong with me. And they say I’ve got an aneurysm that I could die any day from – so that’s the story of my life.

Robbin’s aneurysm is the size of an orange next to his heart. The doctor gave him 12 months to live, it’s been 18. He was born in Salt Lake City and was raised by two aunts and uncles. He says he never knew his parents.

Jim: Didn’t want me, I guess.

Robbins says he’s used to being alone and tries not to dwell on those things. His trailer is dark and overcrowded. He passes time watching a lot of YouTube shows like National Geographic, now that he can’t walk so well. And he enjoys a good cigar.

Jim: I was sitting here by myself and thought “Wouldn’t a cigar tastes good?” so i bought some cigars. i have to die of something.

Share the Care first visited Jim when they heard he had no window in his bedroom and had been living for a year or so with a blanket to cover it.

Jim: I’ve forgotten about the window.

Share the Care repaired the window with plastic sheeting.

Baginski: Pretty soon we started visiting more often and gave him rides to the doctor and he started getting a little cadre of people around him and pretty soon life got a little better. He told me that life got a little better

Jim: I have a lot of people around making my life really pleasant. Almost everyone has been really kind to me – didn’t know there was this much good will around. So this is a new experience for me at 82 years old, I didn’t know there was people like this around.

Before she started Share the Care-Baginski was the Publisher of Born To Age, A Directory of Resources for Older Adults for 18 years. Published in 5 Bay Area Counties. Baginski says many of the current programs operating for older adults focus on medical and nutritional needs. Volunteers drop off meals… and merely say hi and leave. They are not trained to see what is actually going on, how people are getting by day-to-day or ask many questions. They don’t focus on what people needed most — kindness and connection.

Baginski: One of the things Jim and I talk about a lot is loneliness because it’s not being home alone all day that makes you lonely, it’s the inability to really connect with people.

Baginski says Share the Care has developed into a program that meets people where they’re at. She says they know the people they care for and the people know that they care. Like Jim Robbins. The program has changed her life into a life of service. She says every day is different, and she never knows what to expect.

Baginski: We have really connected in our conversations. There was one time when he was playing a beautiful song on the computer, that Edie gourmet song was just so beautiful.

(Song starts to play in background)

Share the Care is a portal into the reality of life that is rarely seen in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, those moments when you can lift the spirits of someone who is suffering or lonely or dying, like Jim. With a simple act of kindness.

(Jim singing in Spanish.)

“For Pacifica radio KPFA, I’m Karin Argoud.”

Buck Institute Logo

Biologist Speaks at July Alliance Meeting

Biologist, Kenny Wilson, a scientist from the Buck Institute on Aging, will be speaking on “Dietary Restriction and Longevity” at the next Napa Valley Alliance on Aging meeting – Tuesday, July 10th from Noon – 1pm at 3448 Villa Lane.

The Napa Valley Alliance on Aging is a networking organization of business/services and agencies working in service to older adults. The Alliance meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month.

For more information call: (707) 226-7127.

Supplies on the PORCH

The FRONT PORCH @ 3205 Montclair Ave.

Let’s keep home health supplies and medical equipment out of landfill. Up-cycle, Exchange, and Reuse! Items can be dropped off at 3205 Montclair Ave. in Napa.
Current list of front porch items: