Why I support Puente: Wendy Wardwell

Puente Board Member Wendy Wardwell is a giver. She worked as a mental health nurse at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, serving many poor and indigent patients. And when she moved to Pescadero in 2001, she unexpectedly discovered a new group of people who needed her help: newly arrived immigrant farm laborers.

Puente founder Rev. Wendy Taylor introduced Wardwell to these workers, known as “The Men Alone,” shortly after Wardwell first joined the congregation of Pescadero Community Church.

“Rev. Wendy walked up to me in the back row and asked if I would be interested in helping put together the ‘welcome bags’ we gave to newly arrived farm workers,” she recalls.

(From left to right) Gabriel Echeverria, Wendy Taylor, Wendy Wardwell, and Gabriel Gutierrez)

Wardwell spent the next 8 years assembling Puente’s welcome bags in her basement. The bags always included a prepaid calling card for the men to be able to contact their families back home, ample toiletries, socks, and other crucial items.

(Puente still presents the welcome bags to new arrivals and urgently needs your donations. Please click here for more information.)

Not long after that, Rev. Taylor took Wardwell on one of her “reality tours” – a driving tour of the major farm worker housing encampments on the South Coast. Wardwell found the experience “heartbreaking.”

“I don’t think it’s very fair to expect people to come to this country and feed us without expecting that they also be fed, and have decent housing like the rest of us,” she says.

Wardwell joined Puente Ministry’s earliest Board and started taking Spanish classes. Today she is a valued donor and a longstanding member of Puente’s Board of Directors. She also sits on Puente’s Development Committee, where she works on fundraising strategies.

As Puente celebrates its 15-year anniversary, Wardwell is too modest to admit that she has been instrumental the organization’s growth, but does confess that she is still astounded by it. “When I got involved, it was just Wendy on her front porch,” she says.


Some of her favorite programs over the years include Zumba fitness classes and Puente’s Edible After School program, which grew out of Puente’s first nutrition course for local mothers.

The best part of being involved with Puente, however, is “getting to know the Mexican American community more,” says Wardwell.

“Being with people from Mexico was impossible for me before. But once I get to know someone, the more comfortable I am sitting and trying to talk with men and women that I would never have talked to before.”


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 support Puente: Margaret Cross


The roots for Puente Ministry, today simply known as Puente, were planted during a series of coffee conversations between Margaret Cross and her former pastor, Rev. Wendy Taylor.

Rev. Taylor had left her post as pastor of Congregational Church of Belmont to minister to members of the Pescadero Community Church. Since settling in Pescadero with her partner, Rev. Taylor had spent months reaching out to field and nursery workers. She learned about the very difficult lifestyle they had and resolved to do something about it.

“She’d be full of stories of what was happening in Pescadero. It wasn’t long before I began to see that there was something more that needed to be done,” recalls Cross, are retired computer software instructor who lives in Belmont.

Together, the women hatched the bike program in 1998 – the first large-scale initiative of Puente Ministry.

“Wendy was telling me about how the men walked on the highways at dawn or dusk because they had no car, no bus to take them home or to their work. It was pretty obvious that this was dangerous. We looked at each other and said, ‘Why not get reflectors, so that they can wear them on their arms and legs and at least be seen?”

After Rev. Taylor purchased and distributed the bike reflectors, she realized it would be far more helpful for the men to have actual bikes. So she launched the bicycle donation program. Within a few short months, Puente Ministry had obtained dozens of donated bikes and refurbished them with the help of volunteers.

Before long, Puente Ministry also drew donations. Cross had an office in San Mateo, which she converted into Puente’s first improvised office. She also assumed the role of organizing Puente’s finances. Before long, the organization had its first budget, comprised mainly of seed money provided by an anonymous donor and the San Francisco Foundation.

That first budget was less than $15,000, says Cross. She has watched with joy as Puente has expanded to serve the entire South Coast with a budget of $1.56 million and a staff of 30.

“We didn’t even think of it becoming a nonprofit in the first few years. Neither Wendy nor I would have dreamed that it would bloom and grow and blossom as it did,” she enthuses.

Today, Cross is regular Puente donor who sees great value in initiatives like the Puente Youth Program, which gives young people diverse employment and sends them off to college with a scholarship.

“The strengthening of ties within our communities is the most powerful kind of movement that we can participate it. It is, in many ways, living out our Christian faith,” she 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 We Give to Puente: Carol Young-Holt and David Sandage

Carol Young-Holt and David Sandage in Ireland

If Rev. Wendy Taylor is the spiritual mother who gave birth to Puente, Carol Young-Holt and David Sandage are its fairy godparents.

The couple moved to La Honda in 1989 without suspecting that they would eventually help form the nucleus of social services on the South Coast. At least until they started volunteering with Puente – and saw how their Mexican neighbors lived.

“I was absolutely appalled by the lack of basic services that I took for granted, coming from Palo Alto – the lack of health care and transportation, among other things,” says Young-Holt.

In 1997, Young-Holt, with her husband’s support, was among a small group of locals who met to figure out how they could solve the most intractable problems on the South Coast. Their goal was to leverage county services and private funds to address the needs of Pescadero’s least fortunate residents. Eventually, the group became known as the South Coast Collaborative.

The newly funded services included mental health for the local schools; safety net services; English Language Learning classes; expanded and new preschool services at Pescadero Elementary and La Honda Elementary Schools; a new south coast transportation system, SamCoast;  and bringing the County’s mobile health van to La Honda. All of these services were provided under the auspices of a spinoff called North Street Community Resource Center, which formally merged with Puente on April 1, 2007.

Today, Sandage and Young-Holt are monthly sustaining Puente donors. Young-Holt is Vice Chair of the Puente Board of Directors. Sandage serves weekly meals at La Sala, where he enjoys chatting in Spanish with the farm workers who come for a hot meal – a role he has played since La Sala began.

“They’re some of the most honorable people I know,” Sandage says. “They work really hard and they’re always careful to consider your feelings.”

Both are longtime parishioners of Pescadero Community Church, the home base of La Sala and the locus of the original Puente Ministry, founded in 1998 by Rev. Wendy Taylor.

Of all the work they’ve done on behalf of South Coast neighbors – the meals they’ve served, the money they’ve raised, the classes they’ve taught – Carol Young-Holt and David Sandage say the most rewarding by far experience has been watching Puente transform people’s lives.

For example, Sandage really values his role as a volunteer mentor in Puente’s citizenship education program, which involves basic English instruction as well as helping people pass their U.S. citizenship test.

“That’s really enjoyable because it’s a one-on-one relationship. You really make a friend.”

Sandage credits Puente’s Zumba dance classes with uniting locals from white and Latino backgrounds in the name of fun and fitness.

“When we first got here that never could have happened, because everybody was afraid to come out of their homes,” he says.

Young-Holt praises Puente’s youth program, which was founded back in 2007, for “giving the kids some real purpose. I’m watching more and more kids go off to college who might not have gone off to college before.”

Because of Young-Holt’s vision, South Coast neighbors contribute funds each year to Puente’s Youth Bridges Awards – scholarships that are provided to each and every youth that has worked at Puente high school years.

As the South Coast continues to change – culturally, economically and demographically – Puente’s ability to adapt and respond to the needs of residents owes much to the powerful support of its original fairy godparents.


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