Puente board member Wendy Wardwell is a giver. She worked as a mental health nurse at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, serving many poor and indigent patients. And when she moved to Pescadero in 2001, she unexpectedly discovered a new group of people who needed her help: newly arrived immigrant farm laborers.
Puente founder Rev. Wendy Taylor introduced Wardwell to these workers, known as “The Men Alone,” shortly after Wardwell first joined the congregation of Pescadero Community Church.
“Rev. Wendy walked up to me in the back row and asked if I would be interested in helping put together the ‘welcome bags’ we gave to newly arrived farm workers,” she recalls.
Wardwell spent the next 8 years assembling Puente’s welcome bags in her basement. The bags always included a prepaid calling card for the men to be able to contact their families back home, ample toiletries, socks, and other crucial items.
(Puente still presents the welcome bags to new arrivals and urgently needs your donations. PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION).
Not long after that, Rev. Taylor took Wardwell on one of her “realty tours” – a driving tour of the major farm worker housing encampments on the South Coast. Wardwell found the experience “heartbreaking.”
“I don’t think it’s very fair to expect people to come to this country and feed us without expecting that they also be fed, and have decent housing like the rest of us,” she says.
Wardwell joined Puente Ministry’s earliest board and started taking Spanish classes. Today she is a valued donor and a longstanding member of Puente’s Board of Directors. She also sits on Puente’s Development Committee, where she works on fundraising strategies.
As Puente celebrates its 15-year anniversary, Wardwell is too modest to admit that she has been instrumental the organization’s growth but does confess that she is still astounded by it. “When I got involved, it was just Wendy on her front porch,” she says.
Some of her favorite programs over the years include Zumba fitness classes and Puente’s Edible After School program, which grew out of Puente’s first nutrition course for local mothers.
The best part of being involved with Puente, however, is “getting to know the Mexican American community more,” says Wardwell.
“Being with people from Mexico was impossible for me before. But once I get to know someone, the more comfortable I am sitting and trying to talk with men and women that I would never have talked to before.”