Loan From Napa Vintner Reopens Day-Care Center

Times Staff Writer

A Napa County day-care center that closed last week because of the state's budget impasse opened again Tuesday after a local vintner extended an $80,000 no-interest loan to keep it afloat a few weeks longer.

Children, parents and employees streamed back to the Los Ninos center, happy but still somewhat in disbelief over the bailout. The center cares for 108 mostly low-income infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Their angel of mercy was Leslie Rudd, a 60-year-old Wichita, Kan., native who moved to the Napa Valley seven years ago to follow a long-held dream of producing wines. He established a philanthropic foundation and decided to help Los Ninos after learning of its plight. Father of a 15-year-old daughter, Rudd said he empathized with the families.

"I just didn't think the children ought to have uncertainty in these uncertain economic times," he said with a modesty that friends called characteristic.

Kevin Block, an attorney and Napa councilman who brokered the loan, said Rudd, a client, had originally wanted to remain anonymous. But Block received permission to release Rudd's name.

"He has a heart as big as the Napa Valley but do not expect to see him on the society pages," said Block. "He's a very soft-spoken, good individual."

Artemisa Medina, administrative assistant at Los Ninos, said the funds would normally keep the center in operation for a month but the center hopes to make it stretch longer through cost-cutting measures.

She and the 23 other employees were busy Tuesday restocking bare cupboards with baby wipes, juices, cereal and other necessities to care for their charges. Parents will be asked to help out with crayons, paper and other classroom supplies.

"I can't even explain the feeling I had, it was so emotional," said Medina on learning that the center would reopen. "It's just great to think that there is someone in the community that is wealthy and is kind and thinking of others. It's great that there are people who are so considerate."

The state's child-care providers normally would have received $380 million in quarterly payments by last week to keep operating. But the state money is being held up until a budget deal is reached, and many centers have said they might be forced to close when their reserves are exhausted. Los Ninos officials said they had no reserve.

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