Lori McMillan is a doting grandmother, and there is nothing she loves more than spending time with her young granddaughter, Jordy. So it’s no surprise that Puente’s childhood programs are one of her main reasons for donating. “Where you’re born and what life you have – it’s just because of luck,” says McMillan, noting that not all children born on the South Coast are equally lucky. “I really believe all children deserve the right to a good education and good food.”
From their first days in school to their last days of university, Puente supports local youth with reading and language programs, healthy cooking classes, school supplies, homework help, paid summer internships, pre-college tutoring and continuing mentorship support all the way though college graduation.
McMillan and her husband Bill have been avid supporters of Puente since 2013, when she saw a notice about Puente’s back-to-school backpack drive with a call for donations. The La Honda couple went shopping, and when McMillan dropped off what she’d purchased and saw all the boxes of supplies the community had come together to donate, “it was just miraculous.”
“There a lot of organizations that you give money to and you’re not really sure how much is going to administrative overhead,” adds McMillan. “With Puente, you’re seeing the donations in action.”
That was never truer than this past winter, when Puente donors bought dozens of blankets and sleeping bags to help farm workers get through a record cold snap – a campaign McMillan helped support. She also likes to shop for local families at Christmas.
Puente is small enough to focus on each family’s needs, but big enough to create systemic change. “Look at the successes of children who are coming out of high school and going on to college,” McMillan says. “You don’t hear such things about children of farm workers.”
More recently, she also loved getting a personal visit from Puente’s Ben Ranz. He was going door-to-door in La Honda, getting input for the South Coast’s first-ever health care survey. McMillan, a former accountant, and her husband both have medical insurance. But she liked that Ranz wanted to make sure everyone was included. “It told me that Puente’s going past appearances. They genuinely want to know how people are doing.”
When asked about her personal reasons for giving to Puente, McMillan became emotional and spoke from the heart. She is a cancer survivor, and going through treatment changed her life. “Getting ill really opened up my eyes to the importance of others. People become so cynical and say there’s nothing we can do.”
But that’s not true, she says, and Puente’s work is proof enough of that. “I want to encourage people to shake some money out of their pockets. If we can help one person then we can smile knowing we brought some good to the world.”
To donate to Puente, please visit https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/puente.