Why we give to Puente: Two faith groups speak out
So many of the needs of participants in Puente programs are deeply practical: Blankets. Sweaters. School supplies. Toiletries. Two Puente donor groups, Knitzvah and the Metropolitan Community Church of San Mateo, understand this better than anyone and have brought their communities into the act of giving to Puente – sometimes in surprising ways.
Knitzvah gives Puente quilts, sweaters, hats and other items that members knit or crochet themselves. Loosely affiliated with Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, Knitzvah’s volunteers are constantly in “gift mode,” churning out baby booties, winter scarves, and even little knitted dolls for children whose parents can’t afford such a small luxury.
Since their first delivery of hand-crafted gifts to Puente in 2010, Knitzvah members have given 1,076 items to Puente clients, according to Barbara Berlant, founder of Knitzvah.
“People want to do good deeds, and they are thrilled to be able to make something to benefit someone else – especially Puente,” says Berlant. “They have huge hearts. And you could not buy the joy that if gives them to do this.”
Knitzvah crafts gifts for more than 15 hospitals, shelters and nonprofits around the Bay Area. Thanks to a meeting with Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel, members were deeply moved by Puente’s story.
“It’s not a job for Kerry, it’s a passion. Our group felt that passion. It is our pleasure to help them,” adds Berlant.
See Puente’s wish list here.
The close-knit congregation of San Mateo’s Metropolitan Community Church has made Puente a priority since 2005; back when Puente’s unofficial motto was “Bicycles, Blankets and Beans.” The Rev. Terri Echelbarger, a longtime Puente volunteer, asks her congregation to gather school supplies for South Coast children. Every year, local students count on their generosity.
“In this part of the Bay Area, Pescadero is the area of greatest need. You can’t load up and walk to a Wal-Mart or anything like that,” says Echelbarger.
The church congregation, which numbers around 50, also prepares a Christmas stocking for both kids and adult farm workers living near Pescadero. The men get toiletries and clean socks. The kids get school supplies and small toys.
Another year, Echelbarger distributed empty Chinese take-out food containers and asked people to fill them up with loose change. They raised nearly $500 for Puente.
Echelbarger knows Puente well – she recently took a personal sabbatical to volunteer with Puente and help where she was needed.
“Puente is a very professionally-run, effective service on the South Coast. It’s a wonderful investment of our resources. We know that every penny is used in a responsible way that makes a real difference,” she says.