The Countdown begins. Celebrate Puente’s 17th birthday by donating to Silicon Valley Gives

Puente is having a moment. Several of them, actually.

This month marks the 17th birthday of Puente, the little nonprofit that could. And to celebrate, Puente is asking donors to contribute to its youth program and other programs through Silicon Valley Gives, a one-day online fundraiser tomorrow, May 5.

All funds donated by tomorrow at midnight, Tuesday May 5th,  will be doubled under a $45,000 challenge grant from two anonymous donors and the Russell-McAdoo Fund. Together, these matching grants represent a huge gift and an enormous opportunity to make a lasting difference in the lives of young people on the South Coast.

If the campaign is successful, it will fill a funding gap in the Puente Youth Leadership Development and Employment Program.

Eight years ago, individual donations made it possible for Puente to hire a handful of local students. Today, youth serve as childcare providers, program managers, tutors, camp counselors, and provide office support to promote job readiness and personal development. Since 2009, Puente has been the largest employer of young people on the South Coast. Each summer, Puente hires and trains dozens of youth – nearly 30% of students in Pescadero Middle and High School.

The Silicon Valley Gives campaign has become an important source of funding for Puente’s youth program. Each year, a grant from the San Mateo County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) helps cover some summer salaries for the youth, as well as some staff support. In 2014, the Sobrato Family Foundation also joined the list of youth program funders.

Yet even these combined sources are not enough to pay the salaries of the 30-40 youth that work at Puente each summer. On average, salaries for each youth range between $3,000 – $4,000 for the summer, for a total of about $120,000.

2014 Summer Youth Participants in Action

The program is a life-changing experience for many young people. Students don’t just earn summer income, they enjoy team-building sessions during orientation and take field trips to tech companies like Google; tour San Francisco and the California State Capitol Building; learn hard skills such as First Aid and CPR; and soft skills such as dressing for work, interviewing for a job, and etiquette. They also receive extensive academic, social and emotional support.

Importantly their work fuels summer programs attended by dozens of South Coast children and youth of all ages.

For Lobel, it has been a moving experience to bear witness to eight cohorts of summer students, now well over 100 youth in total. “The youth leadership and development program changes lives for students, their families, and our community. Their dreams are given support to become reality.”

A birthday worth celebrating

Puente is also celebrating progress on several long-term goals that are now coming to fruition after years of hard work. Seventeen years ago, Puente offered a ministry of ‘bicycles, blankets and beans’ to impoverished newcomers, many Mexican farm and nursery workers as well as others in need.

Now Puente is moving forward with several new and exciting initiatives, including a major investment in transforming early childhood education; a new free weekly medical clinic housed at Puente; and a forthcoming study on local farm worker housing, with the goal of improving the housing options for the region’s low income nursery and agricultural workers.

“I think this is a really special moment in the life of an organization that has struggled and covered a lot of ground for a lot of years. We’re really seeing our efforts move to addressing systemic issues such as early literacy, medical care, food security, economic development and housing,” says Lobel.

None of these initiatives would have been possible without the extraordinary sustaining support of individual donors, who comprise 25% percent of Puente’s annual budget. New, audacious ideas, like the youth leadership development and employment program as well as  Pescadero Grown! Farmers’ Market, came first from the pockets of small donors with vision, who understood the power of unrestricted gifts, affirms Lobel.

“One of the reasons we’ve been able to move forward is that our individual donors have given us the flexibility to do things even before there was money for them,” she says.

Schedule your donation for SVGives now or visit the SVGives website by midnight on May 5 by visiting Every gift will be matched dollar for dollar.

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