Why we give to Puente: Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Manuel Santamaria

Manuel Santamaria first visited Puente in 1999

Manuel Santamaria visited Puente de la Costa Sur for the first time in 1999. He had just joined the Peninsula Community Foundation, one of two organizations that later merged to form Silicon Valley Community Foundation. He was there to learn more about this new organization from its founder, Rev. Wendy Taylor.

He wasn’t expecting what he found: “third world” conditions for field workers who had inadequate housing, poor sanitation, and no health care safety net. Many Mexican-American families in the area suffered similar deprivations.

“There was no formal infrastructure there to help people,” says Santamaria, now Director of Grantmaking with Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “Folks didn’t have access to many of the health and human services offered ‘over the hill’ not to mention adult education, like night classes if they were trying to learn English. The men worked in the fields, the women stayed home, and the kids went to school.”

As part of its grantmaking strategy to facilitate immigrant integration, Silicon Valley Community Foundation supports community groups whose emphasis is on opportunity and equality. Santamaria, like Rev. Taylor, saw an important opportunity in Pescadero. That year, the community foundation gave Puente its first major seed grant to establish a strategic plan and an operating budget.

This year, Puente celebrates 15 years of serving as the South Coast’s community resource center. Puente has evolved into a crucial service hub with a $1.7 million budget and a regional reach that extends far beyond Pescadero to La Honda, Loma Mar and San Gregorio.

It would be hard to imagine that reality without the steadfast support of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, says Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel. “They’ve supported us every step of the way,” she says. “Puente was a tiny footbridge before, and now it’s an enormous span. SVCF provided the bricks and mortar on both sides of that bridge.”

Lobel also likens SVCF to a godparent that has stepped in to support and guide Puente during some of its most important milestones. SVCF gave Puente its first flexible ‘safety net’ funding. The community foundation supported an early medical program that helped Puente enroll uninsured adults, and the first mobile health van in Pescadero. It funded one of the first local pre-kindergarten programs. SVCF helped underwrite the costs of Puente’s merger with North Street Community Services in 2007, a move that gave Puente the tools to survive the recession.

The Peninsula Community Foundation (one of SVCF’s parent organizations, along with Community Foundation Silicon Valley) even predated Puente as a primary stakeholder in the development of services on the South Coast. The South Coast Collaborative, a working group of residents, organizations and human service providers, benefited from the support of the Peninsula Community Foundation as early as 1997.

Santamaria estimates that since 2004, Puente (and the South Coast Collaborative) have received more than $1.3 million in grant funds from the community foundation and its donors.

In 2012, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and its donors supported Puente’s programs and services with funds totaling $158,000. Funds from SVCF currently support Puente’s adult education program; a benefits analyst position to help locals enroll in the Cal Fresh (food stamps) discount program; and health care services for local youth. When a large fire displaced several Mexican-American families earlier this year, SVCF donors rallied to help them pay their rent and buy clothes. They even got one student a new computer. Starting next year, Puente will have to look elsewhere for safety net support. But SVCF may support Puente’s expanded immigration and legal services, according to Santamaria.

It’s rare for a nonprofit to benefit from the kind of opportunities SVCF has given Puente, according to Lobel. The community foundation has challenged Puente to build its own capacity during difficult times, but has also supported the organization as it has grown and matured.

“I think we have grown, just as they have grown,” says Lobel. “There’s a feeling they’re in it with Puente for the long haul.”

To donate to Puente, visit https://rally.org/puente. To learn more about volunteering with Puente, contact Abby Mohaupt at amohaupt@mypuente.org or (650) 879-1691.


Why we give to Puente: Liz and Harlan Chapman

Liz and Harlan Chapman

Harlan and Liz Chapman

Liz Chapman has spent some time thinking about the concept of putting down roots. Liz grew up in Santa Cruz, and she’s lived in La Honda for 22 years. She has always felt rooted on the coast.

Liz had Latino friends, but she tapped into a new side of the place she’s called home when she started taking Spanish classes at Puente ten years ago. Those were the days when Rev. Wendy Taylor would invite local agricultural workers to converse with the Spanish students. So that was how Liz got to know the men personally and find out about their backgrounds and their lives back in Mexico.

Liz went on to become one of Puente’s longest-serving board members, an annual donor and a valued volunteer. But she traces the time that Puente broadened her outlook to that period in which she was speaking a whole new language.

“I ride a bike, and I’d see these new friend and wave to them in the field, and they’d wave back,” she recalls. They’d been on the other side of a divide before.”

That was Rev. Wendy Taylor’s vision when she started Puente and it worked beautifully.

Soon enough, Liz found that she had vastly expanded her network of friends and neighbors on the coast to include not just field workers, but immigrant families of all kinds.

“It has enriched my view of who I’m connected to on the coast, and who we all are together,” she says.

Liz and her husband, Harlan, have donated generously to Puente for years. Liz joined Puente’s Board of Directors at Rev. Taylor’s urging. As Board President, she oversaw the merger between Puente and its sister nonprofit, North Street Community Services, in 2007.

Bike booth at farmers market

Puente’s bicycle program has now extended to a bike booth at the weekly PescaderoGrown! market

Liz was instrumental in keeping Puente’s bike program going after Rev. Taylor retired. She got bikes donated for local field workers and found mechanics to fix them up. (Since then, the bike program has expanded to include a ‘bike booth’ at the Pescadero Grown! Farmers’ Market, where anyone can bring their bike in to be fixed for free).

Liz stepped down from the Board of Directors recently when her term ended, but she still spends about 10 hours a week with Puente at La Sala and the bike booth, and as a tutor. She has also helped teach ESL classes in La Honda.

Liz marvels at Puente’s ability to serve so many local populations at once – mothers, students, adult learners, ag workers, adults with health care and other needs. She sees that spirit personified in the diversity of interests represented by board members – field workers, ranchers, educators, entrepreneurs and others, both Latino and Anglo.

“Puente knows the value of involving everyone who has an interest in this community as much as possible, those who are already rooted here or who are putting roots down,” Liz says.

To donate to Puente, visit https://rally.org/puente. To learn more about volunteering with Puente, contact Abby Mohaupt at amohaupt@mypuente.org or (650) 879-1691.

Why I give to Puente: Dr. Gabe Garcia

To Dr. Gabe Garcia, rural living is what divides the “haves” from the “have nots” where good health care is concerned. As Professor of Medicine who also serves as Associate Dean of Medical School Admissions at Stanford University, Dr. Garcia has spent an entire career researching and teaching his students about the difference.

Dr. Gabe Garcia

Dr. Gabe Garcia

Dr. Garcia is Puente’s key partner at Stanford who will help oversee (and find staff for) the new South Coast mobile health clinic, which launches in early 2014.

Not only will his volunteer efforts with Puente result in health care services in La Honda and Pescadero, Dr. Garcia supports Puente’s mission as a dollar donor.

“How could you not fund this amazing organization?” He exclaims. “Puente is the social services agency of this community. There is no other. And the fact is that they are multi-dimensional. They really work at root causes of problems.”

Dr. Garcia welcomes this “root causes” approach; he believes that health care problems on South Coast exemplify the dichotomy between First World and Third World medical care he has observed elsewhere in the U.S.

Even in the bosom of Silicon Valley, a place of great wealth, thousands of locals lack regular access to a doctor. The problem is especially pronounced within Latino and farm worker populations, where unhealthy lifestyles themselves preclude access to healthy food, good water, and regular exercise

“There are things that someone who has lived in Latin America can easily see in the Latino parts of the United States,” says Dr. Garcia.

Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Dr. Garcia was the first in his family to graduate from college. His family stayed healthy by making a point of eating healthful meals, drinking clean water and making regular visits to the doctor’s office. But he grew up seeing how disenfranchised people became when their social conditions prevented them from making a similar effort.

That’s how Dr. Garcia came to realize that to be truly effective, physicians need to “look upstream” for the myriad causes of chronic health problems in underserved communities – and seek to change those conditions when they can.

“I believe that physicians have a social responsibility, and they’re in a unique position to indentify systemic problems in the health care system. They’re sometimes in positions of authority in which their voices can be loud,” he says.

Dr. Garcia, with Ann Banchoff of the Office of Community Health, co-founded the Stanford Patient Advocacy Program, which places Stanford medical students as volunteers in local health clinics. He teaches his medical students that it is not only appropriate, but sometimes imperative for a physician to write op-eds; or to press local legislators for better health care for rural patients, just has he has done on behalf of South Coast residents.

Rural communities are in particular need of a champion. In addition to being isolated from county services like health care, rural residents generally have a less healthy lifestyle and are more likely to be obese than their urban counterparts.

This summer, Dr. Garcia is leading a service learning class in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he and his Stanford students look at issues of migration and health. Their ongoing work is helping to illuminate the kinds of health and healthcare issues that arise when Oaxacan migrants cross the border to work in the U.S. or leave to seek work in Mexico. Pescadero has its fair share of Oaxacan migrant workers, as well.

“I believe the logical extension of a classroom-based approach is to have action at the end,” says Dr. Garcia. “With Puente, it’s nice to find an organization whose values you share.”


To donate to Puente, visit https://rally.org/puente. To learn more about volunteering with Puente, contact Abby Mohaupt at amohaupt@mypuente.org or (650) 879-1691.