Cecelia Ponzini honored by Robert Rivas for her contributions via Edward Boss Prado Foundation

By Staff Report

Cecelia Ponzini

South Valley philanthropist Cecelia Ponzini was named the 2020 Woman of the Year for Assembly District 30 by Robert Rivas (D-Hollister). The award ceremony at the Capitol in Sacramento was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic so Rivas presented the official plaque to Ponzini at her home June 27.

Ponzini exemplifies the best of Assembly District 30, with her hard work, tenacious spirit, and compassion, Rivas said.

“Cecelia is a special part of this community, contributing so much of her time and energy to the needs of others,” he said. “I had wanted to wait and present this award at the Capitol celebration that we typically hold. But, as I see her continuing to help so many families during this pandemic — and with the uncertainties around when we might be able to hold large events again — I didn’t want to wait any longer.”

Ponzini spent parts of her childhood in foster care in Southern California, before landing in Morgan Hill as a teenager. At the age of 15, she dropped out of high school and married. By 19, she had four children. She worked hard to escape that life, later marrying Gary Ponzini, owner of Community Towing in Morgan Hill for many years.

In 2003, tragedy struck their family when Cecelia’s son Edward Boss Prado died at the age of 29. As a child, the young man was a good neighbor — sensitive to the needs of others and quick to offer help. Cecelia and Gary started the Edward Boss Prado Foundation in her son’s honor, and built it upon his values.

Many families in Assembly District 30 still struggle with the issues of poverty and homelessness, which Cecelia also faced in her youth. As a result, she created the philanthropic foundation dedicated to serving children and families in need. She started with one organized charity, and her efforts continue to grow.  In the past five years, the foundation has served more than 10,000 families.

It now manages more than 15 programs that serve the residents of several cities within the assembly district and beyond, including Hollister, Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill, and recently expanding to San Jose and to victims of fires throughout the state. The programs focus on providing dignity to adults and children in need, and many of the programs require no proof of income.

For example, Cecelia’s Closet and Food Pantry provides career clothes for interviews and clothes for all ages; Toys 4 Our Own conducts annual holiday toy drives; and Prado-on-the-go Meals feeds people who are homeless.

One new program is collecting items for farmworkers and their families. The foundation also provides financial contributions and other support to outside nonprofits and organizations, such as the Learning and Loving Education Center, Community Solutions, Magical Bridge Playground in Morgan Hill, and Rebekah’s Children’s Services.

During the pandemic, Cecelia has continued to collect and provide food and essential supplies for countless families in need through the Gate-to-Gate and the Heart-to-Heart COVID-19 food relief programs. She facilitates a simple, safe process for residents to donate and to receive food during this challenging time, expanding her role as the philanthropic heart of Assembly District 30.

Robert Airoldi