San Martin Neighborhood Alliance brings community together to aid vulnerable

Photo courtesy SMNA From left, Sharon Luna, SMNA secretary; Breseida Perez, daughter of San Martin Cafe owner; Cecelia Ponzini, CEO of the Edward Boss Prado Foundation; Connie Ludewig, San Martin Neighborhood Alliance; and San Martin Cafe owner Eliazar Perez.

By Staff Report

When the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance reached out for greater community participation, one resident replied with a suggestion for a “Pay It Forward” fundraiser.

Since SMNA’s mission statement includes the words “protect, support, and promote,” its members heartily accepted the challenge to do just that. They knew just where to start.

The San Martin Café, a landmark dating back decades, was the choice to host this event. When presented with the idea to help Pay It Forward, owner, Eliazar Perez, and daughter, Breseida, were eager to participate. They made a plan to sell meal certificates and welcome returning guests to their cafe to provide pre-paid delicious cooked-to-order food for people in need.

As plans progressed, a graphic artist volunteered to design and print the certificates and posters. Even restaurants in Morgan Hill and Gilroy allowed posters to advertise this event at another restaurant. But there was still an important piece of the puzzle yet to be placed to ensure an effective and efficient distribution process for the certificates.

SMNA reached out to Cecelia Ponzini, CEO of the Edward Boss Prado Foundation.  She agreed to distribute certificates to vulnerable members in San Martin, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. SMNA set the date for the Pay It Forward Fundraiser Week from May 24 to 28.

Café patrons began buying meal certificates — some even 10 and 20 at a time. Through the generosity and patronage of so many, they supported a local business, and raised awareness to help provide more than 100 hot meals.

“Not only will The Pay It Forward certificates provide a delicious hot meal, but also the gift of the ‘dining-out’ experience, something not to be taken for granted these days” said Sharon Luna, SMNA board secretary.

This collaborative community effort brought new customers and awareness to the San Martin Café. It included the Edward Boss Prado Foundation, whose volunteers work tirelessly to empower people in need with resources that foster dignity and respect. This idea also provided a much needed anonymous donation of $1,212 (the matched amount of certificates sold) to San Martin Neighborhood Alliance by a supporter of the nonprofit’s mission.

“The beauty of this campaign is that it brought together a cadre of supporters under one common goal,” said Liz Paredes Bahnsen, SMNA board director.

SMNA appreciates everyone who participated and who Paid It Forward to help others, said Connie Ludewig, SMNA vice president.

“Our combined efforts help restore confidence in others, give hope to San Martin, Gilroy and Morgan Hill, by helping to reunite our community following months of lockdown,” she said. “This event is a reminder that people do care and want to work together to make a difference.”

Robert Airoldi