Fall Harvest 2015
Fans know there’s nothing quite like Puente’s Fall Harvest Fundraiser, a countrified community event that brings together Puente donors, volunteers, participants, farmworkers, local parents and youth around a food-laden farm table.
You never know what will happen at the annual fundraiser, held this year on Sunday, September 25 from 4-6 p.m. at Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero. Last year, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) showed up, took the stage, and personally gave out certificates and awards of recognition to Puente volunteers and youth. It was a sun-filled afternoon, capped by touching tributes, adorable frolicking goats, gourmet farm food and Puente’s trademark heart-filled moments of connection.
“It’s our chance to thank the people who support us,” says Puente Executive Director, Rita Mancera.
It’s also a chance for Puente to acknowledge its most valued volunteers and recognize the funders who make it possible for Puente to improve the lives of hundreds of participants each year. “Many people support Puente and they do so in lots of different ways. We have volunteers sharing their professional expertise pro bono, while others decide to make a difference by tutoring young people. Many support us financially and there are some that do it all and more. It is truly incredible!” says Mancera.
This year, Puente will honor Mary Gregory and the Bella Vista Foundation with its Outstanding Advocate Award. And Puente will present its Outstanding Volunteer Award to Saul Armenta and Elizabeth Gatt, two people who have shown extraordinary dedication to their community through Puente’s programs in the past year.
Armenta is a farm worker in his twenties who believes so strongly in learning English that he has gone out of his way promote Puente’s adult ESL program to his fellow farm workers. He always comes early to class to help set up, and stays afterwards to break everything down.
Gatt is a local resident who started volunteering as an English-language conversation partner in Puente’s Cafecito program this year and hasn’t missed a single session. She also volunteers for Station Night, where Puente uses creative role-playing scenarios to test ESL students’ real-world English abilities. She donates to Puente’s annual Back to School Supplies Drive. And she volunteers at Puente’s farmers’ market twice a month, leading children’s activities while their parents shop.
“They are both exceptional people. It’s really special when we have volunteers from our community, for our community,” says Mancera.
Puente’s roots go deep with the San Francisco-based Bella Vista Foundation. The foundation has supported Puente’s efforts since 2005. The collaboration has resulted in many important initiatives over the years, including home visiting to families with children 0-5 years old and two major programs that use traditional Mexican holidays and festivals to reduce maternal depression. The first is the Madres Project, which stages Latino-relevant holiday events like Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Christmas Posada to bring people together in community rituals that foster a sense of connection at a difficult time of year. The second is Zumba, which is among the most popular programs Puente offers on a weekly basis.
Both programs have succeeded to such an extent that they have launched a cohort of female leaders, who founded a daily walking group. The women have also become leaders in planning several community events, such as the Posada. “It has empowered women, and also made a difference for their families. It’s gone way beyond what we expected,” enthuses Mancera.
The Bella Vista Foundation supports programs that help parents and primary caregivers nurture young children by helping them overcome stress and depression that can prevent bonding. Back in 2005, there was only one nonprofit in San Mateo County addressing those needs for low-income parents: Puente.
“Here was an organization in an under-funded part of San Mateo County, and the only one even attempting to do this work with families,” recalls Mary Gregory, Executive Director of the Bella Vista Foundation. “Since then, to be able to see the growth of knowledge and programs at Puente is really fun for us.”
Mancera says Bella Vista has made Puente a better nonprofit. “They always push us to do better. They challenge us. They have helped us grow into a more efficient, more thoughtful organization.”
Many of the local women who have benefited from these programs will attend the Fall Harvest Fundraiser. Over the years, the event has gained quite a reputation for delicious food, catered by Harley Farms, which provides fresh, locally sourced hors d’oeuvres on a long farm table in a barn. Many of the dishes feature Harley Farms’ signature cheeses, topped with edible flowers. This year, celebrated local DJ (and Puente Board member) Larry Trujillo will entertain the guests.
Puente has a fundraising goal of $70,000 this year, $21,000 of which it has already raised from generous lead sponsors such as Kaiser Permanente, New Leaf Community Market and the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). The funding is critical for Puente’s new Childcare Parent Coop, its flagship youth program and safety net services to serve our local community when they need it the most.
The third annual Puente Fall Harvest Fundraiser is on Sunday, September 25 from 4 to 6 p.m.
at Harley Farms Goat Dairy, 205 North Street in Pescadero. Tickets are $100.