Three new Community Health Promoters in Puente’s ranks will be focused on serving the English-speaking communities of La Honda, Loma Mar, San Gregorio and Pescadero. Samantha Warner, Betsy Maldonado and Dan Newitt all joined Puente this summer as community health workers, also known as Promotores de Salud. You may see them at farms and nurseries, attending community festivals and events, and in your neighborhoods talking with people about health care services at Puente. This is their primary work—out in the world engaging with people and promoting health. In addition to this outreach in the community, they will also be available three days a week (Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays) at Puente’s La Honda office, at 8865 La Honda Road.
A big part of the work right now is finding out what kinds of services people want and need. Some examples: help applying for affordable health insurance; finding a doctor or getting a ride to an appointment; information on nutrition and exercise, tailored to address issues like diabetes and hypertension; healthy cooking classes; and counseling. It’s all potentially available, depending on what services folks request.
“I really believe the additional health promoters will be able to offer something for everyone who lives on the South Coast. Our first job is to start getting out there to ask what the community is interested in having, and then finding local people, other local resources and organizations, and staff at Puente who are trained for that,” says Betsy Maldonado, who moved to La Honda in 2015. She is training to be a professional health coach, and she applied for the health promoter position at Puente after having a ‘wow’ moment on Puente’s website.
“I saw the huge range of services Puente offers—everything from Zumba classes to helping someone get food. And dental care, rides to doctors, food stamps, Spanish classes. I thought to myself, I can’t believe it—they offer everything here!”
Samantha Warner felt the same way when she learned about Puente. Like Maldonado, she moved to La Honda last year and loves the tight-knit community vibe. Now she wants to help children and families get the services and attention they deserve. “Wherever l live, I need to get involved in my community. I’m just that kind of person. I try to be helpful. And to get paid to do it as a health promoter is just the icing on the cake!” she says.
Dan Newitt, the third new health promoter, is a respected La Hondan and a popular artist and musician. His bands frequently gig at places like the San Gregorio General Store.
Wolfes hopes to repeat the runaway success of Puente’s current Promotores program, which began in August 2015. To date, Puente’s Spanish-speaking outreach workers have made 970 individual connections with locals and connected 2,000 times overall. Dozens of people have signed up for health coverage as a result. Many now visit Puente’s county medical clinic, or receive discounted farmworker dental services.
Puente’s new health outreach team will adapt their approach to the diversified communities of La Honda, San Gregorio, Loma Mar and Pescadero.
The new health outreach effort coincides with an overall renaissance at Puente’s La Honda office, which has existed for several years. With this new program, Puente plans to have a stronger presence in the La Honda office by staffing it three days a week and offering more services. “This has already spawned more energy in our La Honda office. Every time we have our meetings and the door is open, someone walks in and says, ‘Good! You’re here!’” says Wolfes.
Services in the La Honda office will steadily expand from now on. A county health nurse recently offered mindfulness classes there. On Thursday afternoons, staff is on hand to assist community members with health care enrollments, notary services, tax preparation and other financial assistance programs such as CalFresh benefits. And Spanish classes will begin again in the fall.
Puente is also talking about bringing in some computers for people to use on a drop-in basis, as well as a copier and fax machine. Like so much in La Honda, those services are a long drive away. Though La Honda has a terrific Country Market store, there is no nearby gas station or laundromat.
A survey of 135 people at the La Honda Fair & Music Festival in July showed overwhelmingly support for healthy cooking and exercise classes in town. Locals are also seeking mental health support and help managing chronic diseases, like Lyme’s and diabetes. A majority of respondents mentioned they struggle with a variety of illnesses and conditions, especially obesity, high blood pressure, depression and asthma, or that they have a family member who does.
The results of the survey will shape Puente’s priorities in the months ahead. “There’s definitely a need and a desire in the community,” says Wolfes. “We want to increase Puente’s services to the entire South Coast region.”
Puente’s La Honda office, at 8865 La Honda Road, is now open on Monday from 3-7 p.m., Friday from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For details about health services, contact Molly Wolfes at (650) 262-5989 or email@example.com.
To learn more about Puente, visit www.mypuente.org.
To make a donation—and help support Puente’s services in La Honda—click here.