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Spring /Summer 2009

Kick Back-and Give Back

Support local and international charities while relaxing at a Wine Country retreat

By Michaela Jarvis

At the end of last year, Carolyn Manzi had plans to fly to Colima, Mexico, to work at Project Amigo, a program designed to help destitute children and families. As the date of the trip approached, the 47-year-old Sonoma resident felt some regret, and even dread, that she would be leaving her home and her husband the day after Christmas.

After a strenuous journey to a remote village, Manzi immediately was put to work sorting out clothing that had been donated to the project, as well as meeting with kids, washing them, and even shaving off their hair, which was lice-infested. Within an hour or so, exhausted and shocked at the living conditions she encountered, she realized she was hooked. She would return to Colima, Manzi vowed. And she would establish her own program to help finance Project Amigo.

Which is how her Giving Tree Vacation Rental concept was born. No, you don't have to travel to a remote village and work. Just book a stay at Manzi's vacation home in Glen Ellen, and 10 percent of what you pay will go to Project Amigo or another local or international charity on the Giving Tree list. Now is a great time to go, as rates have been discounted because of the economic downturn.

Stay a weekend: soak in the hot tub, lounge in a chaise amid espaliered grape vines and fruit trees, relax in front of the fire. You can arrange for an in-house massage, facial, or meditation class, or have a private chef cook your dinner. By the time your weekend is over, you could be sponsoring a child's education for a year.

"The time has come for us to get creative about helping others," Manzi says. "This is a way for people to enjoy themselves and to do something really great while they're at it."

For rates, information, and a list of participating charities, go to

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