Some people define themselves by what they achieve or what they earn. From a young age, the way Janet Trusso got to know herself was by serving other people. A devoted Christian since high school, Janet, 63, grew up to be a nurse and a mother. There was barely a time when she wasn’t involved in some community work, or sometimes church-sponsored service work, at home or abroad.
Doing good work is, for her, a practical undertaking – “being God’s hands and feet,” she calls it.
“I cling to that. It defines me. It’s kind of who I am. It’s almost like I’m not in control of it,” she says.
It’s an instinct that, happily, led her to Puente by way of a food distribution drive she did back in 2006, shortly after moving to Butano Canyon.
Handing out the food that day was the first time Janet got to meet some local families face-to-face. Although she didn’t speak any Spanish, the interaction reminded her of the many years she travelled with her former church to Mexicali on mission trips for a week each year. She helped build a church and a school, donated clothing, and socialized with the families there (through an interpreter).
It was a time she treasured. But there was one important difference between working in Mexico and the prospect of working with Puente, Janet realized. In working with Puente, she has had the satisfaction of seeing long-term results. And she could put her efforts to work on behalf of her neighbors.
“It had always been in the back of my mind as we put these trips together and got outside of the U.S. – that we have many opportunities around us every day to help and serve. We don’t have to go far to find people who need a little bit of help,” she says.
Janet left her mission trips behind when she left her Cupertino home and moved to the coast, finding a whole new community in the process (and a new church, Mariners, in Half Moon Bay). Through Puente, she was soon tutoring two high school students: one in math, one in English.
When tax season began, she helped prepare income tax returns for Puente clients – a process she found satisfying because she was able to help them claim the generous tax refunds they were entitled to.
Now Janet is a monthly Puente donor. She also likes to go shopping at Costco around this time of year, and spends her money on towels, socks, jackets, sweatshirts and food – the basic necessities Puente provides single men and families, especially around holiday time.
“I think Puente is such a great resource for the community and I really love what they do. Puente equips students and adult members of our community to build better lives for themselves. To have a little part of it means a lot to me,” she says.
By far, Janet’s favorite times with Puente were the Zumba classes she attended for a couple of years, before her work life got too busy. She loved the laughter and the camaraderie with other women in her dance sessions, mothers she would normally struggle to converse with because of a language barrier. And she noticed that her sciatica disappeared.
It was a classic example of how Puente benefits its donors and volunteers in unexpected ways.
“It was a wonderful group of women. I loved it,” says Janet. “You get in there and you laugh together, you sweat together. There’s no barriers.”