VWS launches soccer league
THE GOALIE FOR St. Francis Vineyards makes a save during Sunday's game between St. Francis, in red, and Enterprise Vineyards, in yellow.
Vineyard Workers Services has searched for ways to better integrate the workers into the Sonoma community - especially during the off-season. They found an answer in a few soccer balls and the playing field at Flowery Elementary School.
At the beginning of March, the organization launched "La Copa César Chavez" (The César Chavez Cup), a month-long soccer tournament. Four teams were created, each sponsored by a different winery or vineyard management firm, which include St. Francis Vineyards, Carneros Vineyards, Enterprise Vineyards and Enrique Vineyards Management. The sponsors provide uniforms and support, while the crew at La Luz and Vineyard Workers Services arranged the teams, organize practices and planned the game schedule.
"We're very excited about this," said Mario Castillo, outreach coordinator for La Luz/VWS, who organized the tournament. "The main focus of Vineyard Workers Services has been the (migrant laborer) camps, but what about those workers who are here year-round?"
For many years, Vineyard Workers Services existed to help provide the basic necessities of shelter and food to migrant laborers in the Valley. More recently, the organization has looked for ways to better incorporate the workers, the vast majority of whom have migrated from Mexico, into the larger community of Sonoma. The hope is that the workers will feel less isolated and become more confident in interacting with their new country.
"It's been hard to get them to get involved, even with each other," Castillo said. "The only time you can get them together is to drink, to dance or to play soccer."
Soccer was not only a good way to get the men involved, it also ties into La Luz's healthy lifestyle campaign. The organization is putting specific emphasis on helping clients avoid diabetes and other health concerns by eating better and maintaining a more active lifestyle.
"Through this event, Vineyard Workers Services wants to acknowledge both the contributions vineyard workers make to Sonoma Valley and the importance of maintaining good health," Castillo said. "Healthy workers ... make healthy wines."
During the month-long tournament, two games take place every Sunday at Flowery, allowing each team to play every week. Games are set at 10 a.m. and noon and are open to the public.
Unlike most, this is a non-elimination tournament, meaning the team that scores the most goals overall will be declared the winner and take home the trophy.
Following the final match on Sunday, March 27, the men of all of the teams will celebrate with a reception at La Luz from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The reception will honor the winners of the recent Sonoma Valley Pruning Contest, hosted by the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance.
The event will also recognize the inaugural graduating class of "Tu Corazón, Tu Vida" (Your heart, Your life), a heart healthy cooking class offered at La Luz.
"They'll be doing all the cooking for the party," Castillo said.
Castillo is hoping this soccer tournament will continue to grow, with more wineries and vineyards stepping up to sponsor teams. He sees recreational outreach programs such as this as an important avenue for breaking down the barriers between those who pick winegrapes and those who make wines.
"This is very new in the Valley. This is something that is theirs (the workers) that they can be proud of and work for," Castillo said. "The hope is that this will grow and be even bigger next year."
For more details about La Luz programs or "La Copa César Chavez," call 938-5131.