A Beacon of Hope and Strength in Pescadero
by: Aly Quiroz-Perez, Program Associate
It was a cloudy morning when Bill and I left Oakland for Pescadero. It was my first time visiting San Mateo County’s South Coast and I was impressed by the tiny towns and farms we passed as well as the green valleys and beautiful coastline.
We were on our way to visit Puente de la Costa Sur, which is the only community resource center in the region serving La Honda, Pescadero, Loma Mar, and San Gregorio. Rita Mancera welcomed us with such warmth and enthusiasm. She was excited to talk about the center’s work. Rita was Puente’s Program Director for five years before being promoted to her current position as Executive Director. She led us on a short tour of the facilities while talking about Puente’s significance in Pescadero and its surrounding communities.
We learned that Puente is a vital resource for many low-income families. This is the place where community members can access information and support that will not only help them to rise above their own personal challenges, but also become strong advocates for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. Puente is transforming lives with various programs addressing the areas of health, education, economic security, and advocacy.
In some Latino communities, any mental health problems are met with stigma and shame, which often makes it difficult for people to seek help.
Rita led us to a small bungalow that serves as the community’s clinic. Here, families are able to access basic health services including mental health. I was surprised when Rita mentioned that she has seen an increase in men seeking mental health services, especially among Latino men. In some Latino communities, any mental health problems are met with stigma and shame, which often makes it difficult for people to seek help. I was glad to hear that these attitudes were changing.
We left the clinic and made our way past a small playground and finally settled in a classroom inside another bungalow. At this point we were joined by Patrick Letellier, Puente’s Development Director. The four of us further discussed the center’s other great programs such as adult education and workshops on financial literacy to support women who want to start their own businesses.
The discussion soon moved to ideas about where to seek additional funding to support Puente’s youth program, which serves 30-40 students. Rita and her team are researching foundations and grant programs that will help them to create a college fund for rural students. Their goal is to help youth access higher education by paying for expenses like tuition, books, and housing. Puente wants to encourage young adults to dream big and envision a life beyond Pescadero where there is no shortage of jobs, but plenty of low-paying ones.
PVF decided to help jumpstart this college fund with a grant. We are honored to lend support to Rita and her team as they continue to work hard to build strong and healthy communities in San Mateo County’s South Coast.
Be sure to check out Puente’s website to learn more about its dedicated team and work in San Mateo County.