At first glance, entire worlds seem to separate George Collyer and Patrick Letellier from the community of Latino farmworkers and working mothers who form a large portion of participants in Puente’s programs. They’re a gay couple residing in a gated enclave in outer Pescadero.
And yet, both men have their own reasons for giving to Puente – reasons both deeply personal and political, which connect them to the wider community. They give as a couple, making regular monthly donations and chipping in extra when Puente has a unique need, such as blankets for farm workers or back-to-school supplies for local children.
Letellier, a writer, grew up in Connecticut with a single mom and four other siblings. Money was often tight, so the family used donations from the local food bank to get by, and sometimes the local church. That formative experience prompted him to volunteer to distribute food through the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Pescadero. It also compelled him to start giving to Puente. But it wasn’t until Puente founded its Pescadero Grown! Farmers’ Market and launched its Tokens program, which boosts the spending power of low-income shoppers, that Letellier felt compelled to make a monthly commitment to Puente.
“That Puente was not only running a farmers’ market but that they were going to help people to buy more – that just really moved me,” says Letellier.
For his part, Collyer not only speaks Spanish, he’s from Chile. Spanish is his first language. He has a middle-class background, far different from local immigrants who started here with nothing. Yet “I’ve felt some simpatico with them,” Collyer says. “Having grown up in Latin America, I have a lot of respect and admiration for the undocumented workers who support the economy.”
Collyer, a psychiatrist, also knows Puente well, after seeing participants in Puente’s behavioral health programs. He also spoke at Puente’s annual Career Night, a forum for local students to hear from professionals who were the first in their families to go to college.
So their reasons for giving to Puente are personal, but also political. “We eat tons of vegetables that are grown by people locally – the people who are reviled in the media,” says Letellier, referring to pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric. “I feel like in a really small way we’re part of the other side, which is to support and provide services to people who are helping drive the economy.”
Puente itself takes no political stance on national issues. But by giving children and adults the ability to obtain legal status, education, counseling, vocational training, and healthy food, Puente makes a statement on behalf of every person’s right to improve the conditions of one’s life, regardless of their income or legal status.
“Puente provides those vital resources for people to progress, particularly children,” says Collyer. “By being donors, we’re the lucky ones – we get to help. That’s an incredibly fortunate position to be in. Puente provides us the vehicle for us to be able to help.”
To donate to Puente, please visit https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/puente.