When Rita Mancera thinks of reasons to donate to Puente this holiday season, she thinks of the Mendez family, who live in Pescadero. The low-income family, whose names have been changed for privacy reasons, have three young children, 13, 11 and 3. Both parents work in agriculture, the mother works two jobs, but groceries and rent are still a stretch every month. Christmas presents are out of the question.
Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors, however, the Mendez family will receive four $50 holiday gift cards from Puente – one to buy groceries, and three to buy clothing or toys for their children at a department store.
“Even for people who can’t afford a big gift, giving a little means a lot for someone else. It means they can afford to have something they couldn’t before,” says Mancera, Puente’s Program Director. More than 140 low-income families will similarly benefit from Puente’s holiday outreach this year.
Many will also observe Puente’s Pescadero Community Posada on December 20. Traditionally, the Posadas enact the journey of Joseph and Mary, remembering them as they went door to door in search of lodging and safe haven. Their journey is a reminder of countless other pilgrims that sought safety over the generations and those that refused them shelter. This powerful narrative takes different forms in every faith tradition as as a poignant reminder that we hold a collective responsibility to bring light to others, even in the darkest times.
The live Nativity procession will start at St. Anthony’s Church at 696 North Street at 5:30PM followed by the program at Pescadero Community Church. Participants will then end at the IDES Hall at 30 Stage Road where there will be music, food, raffle, and Santa Claus will be giving out stockings to the children stuffed with socks, hats, school supplies and little toys like Hot Wheels.
Last year more than 250 people came out to enjoy the celebration — the procession and celebration were successful despite a drenching winter storm. This year, Puente anticipates as many as 300.
The gift fairy
The Posada is, by far, Rev. Abby Mohaupt’s favorite time of year. Although her official position is Faith Community Liaison, at holiday time Mohaupt takes on the heavy-lifting role of inventory coordinator, as well as working with her contacts among Bay Area congregations to put their donations to the best possible use.
More than anything else, Mohaupt loves picking out the perfect gift for every person and occasion. In Puente’s case, her pleasure is amplified a hundredfold.
“In pastoral care we talk about having love languages. Mine is definitely gift giving,” she says. “I know I’m caring for someone when I’m giving them gifts, so I really love it – and I love doing it with my colleagues.”
This holiday season will involve the largest gift-giving effort Puente has ever undertaken. New donors and volunteers have stepped in, including a Muslim student at Notre Dame de Namur University who reached out to help pack gifts and volunteer with childcare during the Posada festivities. The student helped forge a new partnership between Puente and Notre Dame de Namur, and Mohaupt hopes it will lead to a similar connection with Peninsula mosques.
Thanks in large part to Mohaupt and a committed team of volunteers, many Puente participants will receive the perfect gifts this year. Puente’s English and Spanish learners will get a Spanish-English dictionary to study at home; women who get sweaty with Zumba will get toiletries; the children in Puente’s weekly Story Time program will get a reading book, toys, a coloring book and crayons.
Puente will supply 75 agricultural workers with flashlights, socks, towels, toiletries, heavy-duty jackets and sleeping bags. The men, who meet twice every week at La Sala, also need hats, socks and toiletries – items Puente donors can purchase by visiting a special wish list on Amazon.
Puente will also host its annual Hanukkah party at Pescadero Elementary School with dreidels and chocolate Hanukkah gelt (coins) for all.
These holiday gifts help meet an urgent practical need, but they also hold a great deal of emotional resonance at the saddest time of year for many people who are far from home. Some locals without papers spend a soggy holiday alone on the coast while their kids, who were born here, go visit their grandparents and extended families and Mexico. Depression can creep in. Under those circumstances, even a hot meal and a winter coat can go a long way, says Mancera.
“It’s a time when families are used to being together, but they can’t be anymore. I think this season is really beautiful. I also think it’s really hard.”
Help fill Christmas stockings with school supplies, toys and personal items for the children and families served by Puente. Donations will be received through December 16.
Our wish lists are here and here. Better yet, go directly to mypuente.org and make a safe and secure online gift. Please give generously! 100% of all gifts benefit Puente’s holiday programs and new and increased gifts will be matched dollar for dollar by the Sobrato Family Foundation.