More than 500 visit Cecelia’s Closet
Published in the November 8 – 21, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
The generosity of South Valley residents was on full display Oct. 28 when hundreds of families from Morgan Hill and Gilroy received clothes, food and other items at Cecelia’s Closet’s fourth annual Oktoberfest celebration of the fall-time community abundance.
People were lining up around 7:30 a.m. along Peebles Avenue in the Madrone district of Morgan Hill to wait for the four-hour event to start at 10 a.m., said Cecelia Ponzini, founder of the nonprofit The Edward Boss Prado Foundation. It runs Cecelia’s Closet and Food Pantry to help families in need. Open to all without questions asked, the event provided people with gently-used and brand-new clothing items, hygiene products, Halloween costumes, haircuts, flu shots and a bag of produce for their family meals.
“This place has been packed all morning,” Ponzini said. “We do the Fit for Fall event for back-to-school clothing for students, but Oktoberfest is for anyone. This is open for the whole communities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy.”
Many leaders of the community helped out with the Oktoberfest including Morgan Hill City Council Members Caitlin Jachimowicz and Rene Spring, Police Chief David Swing, Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando and many others. The event was festive with members of the Morgan Hill Kiwanis Club serving hot dogs and chips for lunch and a clown making balloon animals for the kids to keep them entertained.
“We have a lot going on. I bet you 500 people came today,” Ponzini said. “The line at 7:45 a.m. was a mile long down the road with cars. I told them it started at 10 a.m. but they said they wanted to wait.”
The day before the event, more than 60 volunteers helped set up the tables and pop-up tents and other chores to prepare for the families to find their clothes in an organized style. Local businesses that participated by providing volunteers included Guild Mortgage, Bank of America, and Commonwealth Credit Union.
The Prado Foundation is involved in many activities through the end of the year to help local families. Starting Nov. 1, containers in businesses and other sites will collect from the community toys that will be distributed to Morgan Hill and Gilroy school children during the holidays. The foundation also has a Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway event scheduled for Nov. 22.
“Everyone will come here to get their turkeys and aluminum pan and all the stuffing and all that stuff,” Ponzini said.
If someone might wish to donate to that cause, they can write a check to the Prado Foundation and put “turkey” on the memo line. The foundation prefers not to have frozen turkeys donated because it is difficult to store hundreds of the birds prior to Thanksgiving.
“If they give me frozen turkeys, I might not have a place for them,” Ponzini said. “I have to coordinate with the stores when I’m going to pick them up. And Mama Mia’s (restaurant) will hold my turkeys for me if I need it.”
The foundation was started in 2013 in honor of Ponzini’s son Edward Boss Prado who died at the age of 29. As a child, Edward was sensitive to the needs of other school children and was always quick to offer help. For example, as a child he noticed that a young boy often came to school hungry and without a lunch, so he asked Ponzini to prepare an extra lunch bag for this youngster. Thus, the Edward Boss Prado Foundation is built on Edward’s values of generosity, sensitivity, and of good neighbors. Its mission is “to work with relentless passion to empower people who are in need with resources that foster dignity and respect.”
The Morgan Hill Unified School District reports that 40 percent of all students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of very low income. Many more families earn slightly more and may not be eligible for free lunch but are still low income and struggle day to day. Currently, the MHUSD is the foundation’s largest referral partner, sending families in need to many of our programs. Community Solutions, the South County’s largest social service organization is also a referral partner.
“This is what we do,” Ponzini said.