Megan Dominici - A Heart for Service
by Kathleen Reynolds
Sophie Dominici was in fifth grade when she saw someone on television talking about throwing birthday parties for homeless children.
“That’s cool; we should do that,” Sophia told her mother.
Most harried moms would probably smile and say something non-committal. But Sophia’s mother is Megan Dominici. Professionally, Megan is the Director of Outreach for Justin-Siena High School. Her life is devoted to helping others.
“Service has always been a part of our lives,” says Megan of her family: her husband, Jason and children Nick and Sophia. “Our family likes to be of service, especially to kids. Acting on Sophia’s suggestion, I reached out to someone at what was then called the Samaritan House that sheltered families experiencing homelessness. I asked if they’d be interested in us organizing birthday parties for the children there. They said yes and so we started.”
The “we” Megan refers to is the nonprofit organization she founded in 2015, the GIGG (the God is Good Group). The GIGG has as its mission, “To inspire and empower community through active leadership & service to others.” She is the Executive Director.
“For years, I ran a youth group who loved to serve the community. Through them, it was easy to get people interested in hosting and decorating the birthday parties. We go to different locations and set everything up, decorate and sneak out. We’d leave the wrapped gifts, which allowed the parents to throw them a party. We coordinate with Abode Services, Napa County and Catholic Charities to let us know the particulars of each child. With the continued support of our Youth Ministry friends, their families, and so many new connections, we continue to host these birthday parties today.”
The group doesn’t keep track of how many parties it has facilitated, but Megan believes it’s in the hundreds. Sophia is now a Junior at Justin-Siena and continues to take the lead.
“We’ve done parties for kids from one-year-old to 18. For the older kids, it was usually a dinner somewhere. Initially, COVID halted that, but we knew that homeless kids still had birthdays, so we literally put everything in a bag and dropped it off.”
The Savage (Megan’s maiden name) family’s community involvement spans decades. In 2004, Megan’s 22-year-old brother, Patrick Savage, died in an alcohol related car accident. He was the only boy in a family of six girls. His family set up the Patrick Savage Memorial Corporation to bring awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving and to keep his memory alive.
Patrick had been the student body president at Justin Siena in 2000 and was active in the Leadership Club. The Memorial Corporation keeps Patrick’s commitment to leadership and love for service at the center of what it does, along with continuing to educate on the dangers of drinking and driving.
Megan explained that the idea of the GIGG came up to grow and develop a service group as part of the Memorial Corporation. She reached out to some of her former Youth Ministry Alumni and had a positive response of interest and excitement. The group continues to grow with people of all ages throughout the community looking to be of service and to learn leadership skills.
To that end, the GIGG developed a leadership development group. Her son, Nick’s interest in young leaders inspired the Youth Leadership Academy of Napa. It focuses on growing leaders in our community through service for Napa County School students in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. It helps students to boost their self-esteem, improve communication skills, identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop organizational skills while teaching them to work with others.
The service work of Megan and her teams of volunteers doesn’t stop at birthday parties. The GIGG organization has also helped to start the Better Together Prom for students with special needs, helps annually with Napa Grad Night and organizes a local Relay for Life. They respond regularly to various service organizations in town that need volunteers and support.
“For the last couple of years, we have hosted Relay for Life at Justin-Siena in partnership with our other local high schools,” says Megan. “This last year it was Napa High, Vintage and Justin-Siena, three schools working together for one cause. We walked for a Napa High graduate who is battling cancer. I love it when the high schools come together—it’s my favorite thing.”
The Patrick Savage Memorial Corporation also creates scholarships. For years, the Savage Family has held an annual Memorial Card Tournament fundraiser to support the scholarships and various projects.
“We play a game my family played, called 99. Most people don’t know anything about it their first time, so we explain the rules of the game and how it’s played. We have regulars who participate, like City Manager Steve Potter, and several council members. Over the years, we have benefitted from the sponsorship of our local law enforcement: the Napa Police Officers Association, the Napa Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol, as well as our Napa Fire Department. It’s a lot of fun and has gotten quite competitive. The Tournament is always held the first Saturday after New Year. It’s a sober event, with no alcohol served. It’s a blast.”
Last year, some of the funds went to support the “Every 15 Minutes” Mock Drinking and Driving Car Accident that Justin-Siena hosted with the CHP.
The Dominici family suffered another tragedy in 2019, the loss of their six-year-old child, Addie, who died when a stack of heavy chairs fell on her.
Megan explains how the family survived the unimaginable heartbreak.
“We were so loved upon after the accident by friends, neighbors and community members we did not even know. I found myself saying that God must have known how weak I was, so He made sure to smother me with love. Addie was in the middle of all that we did, from service to leadership. I think her memory in it all helps us to keep doing what we do.”
“Giving back to the community that gave so much to us was natural.”
“My advice to anyone who wants to start something new is to talk to people. It’s all about making connections. Don’t be afraid to pull people together because we are truly ‘Better Together.’”
“There’s a need for service in this world and I just love it when we can all come together to do it. When we serve others, we most certainly feel better about ourselves.”
To volunteer or learn more about the GIGG, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org.