Puente’s annual Fall Harvest Appreciation has always been about recognizing the donors and volunteers who make it possible for Puente to support all its participants, from toddlers to those well beyond retirement age.
All of our volunteers are wonderful, and do so much for our community. There are always a handful of volunteers who impress everyone at Puente with their passion, their enthusiasm, and their unrelenting commitment. They “show up” in ways that galvanize and inspire everyone. This year, Puente has chosen to honor three individuals with its Outstanding Volunteers award, which will be presented to each of them on Sunday, September 24 during the Fall Harvest Appreciation event.
They are Linnea Hoffman, Yadira Jimenez and David Pasternak.
Two mothers, eight children, one co-op
Puente’s new parent-run childcare co-op has become such a success, that is less than a year after its founding, it has already expanded from half-day to full-day and needs a larger space to move into. Volunteers are the heart and soul of this initiative.
Much of the credit for this goes to two early parent-volunteers, Linnea Hoffman and Yadira Jimenez. A central premise of the co-op, which is free to attend, is that each parent must volunteer their time one day a week to assist the teachers in the classroom. In the early days of the co-op, however, parents were not in sync with the co-op schedule and had trouble fulfilling their commitments. Hoffman and Jimenez stepped in for all of them. They changed diapers, served lunch, cleaned up and played with the children.
“Because we were learning this co-op model, it was incredibly helpful to have both Yadira and Linnea step up and say, ‘We can do this’ – without being asked,” recalls Arlae Alston, Family Engagement Project Manager for Puente. “They cleaned up, they did everything. Linnea cooked all the meals for the children for the first three months. Every single meal!”
Hoffman did not just prep all those meals each day. She also took it upon herself to build a sandbox outdoors for the children in the co-op to play in. She found some reclaimed redwood and had the sand donated. Her husband built the sandbox himself.
“Seeing new kids in the sandbox makes me happy,” says Hoffman, who jokingly calls it her “greatest accomplishment.”
Hoffman’s son Grant is the oldest toddler in the co-op and will soon graduate to preschool. She loves volunteering at the co-op so much right now that she might follow Grant over to his preschool and lend a hand there, too.
“I can do this because my family supports me so much,” she adds. “The reason I can volunteer so much is I don’t have to make money while I’m there. And that’s a position of privilege. So I felt pleased I could offer that.”
Jimenez says her time at the co-op transformed her son’s life and their life together.
“What I enjoyed the most was supporting the activities of the children, because they also gave me ideas for activities to do at home,” she says. Her son Giovani now craves his favorite books, which he ‘reads’ at the co-op. He has learned to clean up after himself at home as well as at school. And he and his mom get along better than ever, because Jimenez has learned new ways to communicate.
“I really wanted to be a better mom for him. And being in the co-op, it was wonderful not only to be there for my son, but to be there to witness the growth of all the children in the co-op,” she explains.
Alston says Jimenez is too modest about her accomplishments at the co-op, and her own evolution as a parent.
“When I met Yadira, she was very shy and cautious. And she seems happier to me, and more outgoing. She is talking a lot about her son growing, but I know she has done a lot of growing herself. It’s been an honor to be part of that journey,” says Alston.
Standing up for immigration rights
Dave Pasternak stays out of the spotlight, but his good work speaks for itself. The Coastside resident is an immigration attorney who uses his skills to keep local families safe that are facing deportation. He represents Puente clients pro bono and never says no to a request for help.
“He’s helped families to stay here. He has represented them in court. Every time I call him, he picks up. He presents publicly on every panel on immigration we have,” says Rita Mancera, Executive Director of Puente.
Mancera herself is indebted to Pasternak for helping her sort out her immigration process when she first moved to Pescadero 11 years ago. Mancera was applying for her green card at the time. (She is now a U.S. citizen). North Street Community Resource Center Interim Director at the time, Eileen Hansen, referred her to David. That is how they first met. “He helped me then and since, I’ve always come to him with immigration questions and I can count on him,” she says.
Speaking of immigration rights, Puente is proud to honor Luis A. Alejo with its Civic Leadership award this year. Alejo serves on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. He previously served in the State Assembly. While he was there, he authored AB60, a landmark bill to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a California driver’s license.
Because of Alejo’s bill, dozens of Puente participants have been able to become licensed drivers. They no longer have to live in fear of being pulled over in a traffic stop, which could lead to arrest or deportation.
Other honorees include Bill Somerville and the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, one of Puente’s earliest and most consistent funders. Bill and the Foundation have long supported innovative ideas and emerging organizations. The foundation has helped sustain Puente’s Adult Education and Economic Security Programs, Youth Leadership Development and Employment Program, and has also made it possible for local college students to pay for books and school supplies, among many other crucial areas of support. Long before disaster preparedness was on the national radar, Philanthropic Ventures provided a commitment of support that gave Puente the flexibility to meet disasters caused by flooding, fire, company closures and more.
Puente has much to be grateful for this year. Please join us for an afternoon of local food to celebrate you and honor our South Coast Community. Click here to attend the 2017 Fall Harvest Appreciation event at Root Down Farm in Pescadero. The event will feature live music and a performance by Puente’s Ballet Folklórico, and a delicious farm feast catered by local chef Tim Edmonds.