The roots for Puente Ministry, today simply known as Puente, were planted during a series of coffee conversations between Margaret Cross and her former pastor, Rev. Wendy Taylor.
Rev. Taylor had left her post as pastor of Congregational Church of Belmont to minister to members of the Pescadero Community Church. Since settling in Pescadero with her partner, Rev. Taylor had spent months reaching out to field and nursery workers. She learned about the very difficult lifestyle they had and resolved to do something about it.
“She’d be full of stories of what was happening in Pescadero. It wasn’t long before I began to see that there was something more that needed to be done,” recalls Cross, are retired computer software instructor who lives in Belmont.
Together, the women hatched the bike program in 1998 – the first large-scale initiative of Puente Ministry.
“Wendy was telling me about how the men walked on the highways at dawn or dusk because they had no car, no bus to take them home or to their work. It was pretty obvious that this was dangerous. We looked at each other and said, ‘Why not get reflectors, so that they can wear them on their arms and legs and at least be seen?”
After Rev. Taylor purchased and distributed the bike reflectors, she realized it would be far more helpful for the men to have actual bikes. So she launched the bicycle donation program. Within a few short months, Puente Ministry had obtained dozens of donated bikes and refurbished them with the help of volunteers.
Before long, Puente Ministry also drew donations. Cross had an office in San Mateo, which she converted into Puente’s first improvised office. She also assumed the role of organizing Puente’s finances. Before long, the organization had its first budget, comprised mainly of seed money provided by an anonymous donor and the San Francisco Foundation.
That first budget was less than $15,000, says Cross. She has watched with joy as Puente has expanded to serve the entire South Coast with a budget of $1.56 million and a staff of 30.
“We didn’t even think of it becoming a nonprofit in the first few years. Neither Wendy nor I would have dreamed that it would bloom and grow and blossom as it did,” she enthuses.
Today, Cross is regular Puente donor who sees great value in initiatives like the Puente Youth Program, which gives young people diverse employment and sends them off to college with a scholarship.
“The strengthening of ties within our communities is the most powerful kind of movement that we can participate it. It is, in many ways, living out our Christian faith,” she says.