Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how much your neighbors need your help until you get to know them. So it was for both Jim Brigham and Michael Scott, two longtime Puente volunteers who have spent years giving their own community members a leg up on the South Coast.
For Jim Brigham, a retired clinical social worker, the first defining moments of his work with Puente began when he moved into a home with his wife, Gen, in the Butano redwoods in 2004. It wasn’t long before he met the Rev. Wendy Taylor, founder of Puente, and Carol Young-Holt, Puente’s earliest backer and volunteer. Brigham started volunteering to host La Sala, Puente’s biweekly social event for farm workers, and then began helping with food distribution.
He saw first-hand how difficult it was for farm workers to avail themselves of even the most basic medical services, so he stepped in to drive them to doctor’s appointments in Redwood City.
“Puente is the model of bringing social services to a place where there are none. It couldn’t be done any better,” says Brigham, who now lives in Half Moon Bay. He was a founding board member with Puente in 2005, and he stepped down in 2009.
Today, Brigham is a sustaining donor and plays Santa Claus in Puente’s annual Christmas celebration. A few years ago he donated his Jeep to Puente. It has since become known as the “PuenteMobile.”
“Puente connects the two sides – Spanish and Anglo – so both become visible to the other in a positive way, and increases the chance of respect and understanding,” he says.
Michael Scott connected with Puente ten years ago when a friend told him about the plight of farm workers who slept in improvised shacks, without enough food or basic supplies. Scott had already founded Coastside Hospitality, which distributes funds, clothing and food to poor and homeless Coastsiders via local nonprofit services.
Scott delivered food to farms on the South Coast, and Christmas gifts in December. He bought supplies for student backpacks at the start of the school year.
“I think all of us have a responsibility to share their experience, their resources, and to help people in their community,” says Scott. “My community is the coast.”
Scott retired from a lucrative career as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist in 2003 and used part of his earnings to bankroll a variety of basic safety net services, like a rent subsidy program and an emergency subsidy program for less fortunate neighbors. Volunteers at Catholic Worker House in Half Moon Bay, an organization supported by Scott, feed as many as 400 locals every week.
In Pescadero, Scott made a sizeable gift to renovate the local Catholic Church. And he still goes on a major Christmas shopping spree every year on behalf of hundreds of Puente program participants.
“I have a lot of time and a lot or resources so that’s what I do,” he says.
Puente needs volunteers! To learn how you can help (or donate), contact Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 879-1691 x144.