18-year-old with preemie challenged but optimistic about the future

Morgan Hill Rotarians set up a brunch for people who live temporarily at the Safe Car Park located in the back of the Morgan Hill Bible Church. Photo by Marty Cheek


By Marty Cheek

A spirit of compassion and community filled the air on a crisp Jan. 13 morning at the Morgan Hill Bible Church. Local Rotarians and friends arrived to serve a hearty breakfast to guests sheltered at the Safe Car Park in the back area.

For the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill over the past four years, the annual “holiday brunch” meal has become a cherished tradition to help those in society who are financially unfortunate and need a place to keep warm and safe at night. It’s one club member John McKay founded and continues organizing. Chatting with the residents’ and treating them with human dignity is a vital part of the brunch, the former Morgan Hill City Councilmember said.

“It might be only a few moments that we’re there to help them, but we talk to the guests and listen to their stories,” he said. “That is what I found out is extremely powerful, because it really has affected me. They tell their story and we see them as fellow human beings and recognize that they’re out there.”

The breakfast event offered sustenance for body and soul alike. Club members provided essential supplies like blankets, towels, socks and underwear as well as $800 in gift cards for groceries and fuel to the car park’s residents. On a side project, the Rotarians will later install an eight-foot storage shed on the site for the residents to keep their belongings safe.

The Rotarians heard the guests’ first-hand stories of their struggles on the streets. The goal, McKay said is simply “to make the people feel as comfortable as possible in the conditions they’re in without a home.”

The safe car park site is managed by the South Valley Compassion Center based in Gilroy, which assisted the Rotarians on putting on the annual event.

The Rotarians and a few of their friends prepared a breakfast for 10 adults and six children. Included in the meal was an egg-based item from Laura Guido, pastries and muffins from Janet Crosier, donuts from former mayor Steve Tate, fruit from Arlene Noodleman, breakfast sausage/bacon/ham from Lisa Bjarke, hash browns/country potatoes from Judy Henry, bagels from Beth Adames, and coffee from Terry Moriyama. The group made sure there was plenty for leftovers later in the day.

Among the grateful recipients of the brunch was Destiny Mauricio and her fiancé Alex. The two stayed in a camper set in the Safe Car Park, and Mauricio served as the site manager. The 18-year-old had on Dec. 12 given birth to a two-month-early boy they had named Alex, Jr. The preemie is kept in a hospital’s incubator. An immigrant from Mexico, his father Alex Sr. is going through a process with the help of the Compassion Center to find a job.

Mauricio and Alex greeted local Rotarians with warm smiles as they arrived at the safe car park and set up the brunch and gifts on tables under a canopy.

For the two, the brunch and gifts could not have come at a better time during a midwinter morning. “It does get a little chilly in there, but it’s better than staying in the car,” Mauricio said, referencing the shelter they temporarily occupy onsite. “The Compassion Center helped us get into these things.”

She has seen the impact on individuals and families who find it hard to afford homes in the Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places in the world. And the inflation of recent times is severely impacting people’s lives, making it hard for them to buy basic necessities, she said.

Mauricio graduated in January 2023. After she got pregnant, she was forced to leave her home. Her challenges are numerous for someone so young — she’s balancing college courses, job searches, securing housing, and caring for little Alex Jr. in the hospital. But she’s also brimming with optimism thanks to support from groups like the Rotary Club and the Compassion Center staff.

That sense of community is uplifting Mauricio as she pursues her dreams of working in the medical field. “I have a variety of things I want to check out,” said the Gavilan College freshman.

Inspired by memories of caring for sick family and friends growing up, she’s studying medical coding but also considering becoming a nurse or doctor someday.

Though life’s challenges persist, Mauricio focuses on staying disciplined and setting an example for others facing the struggles of not having a home and knowing that constructive help exists.

“I’m very appreciative,” she said. “I hope that one day I can be in (the Rotary Club members’) position and be helpful to other people.”

Rotary is a service organization whose members unite to bring compassionate acts of kindness to those in the local community as well as in other nations, McKay said.

“We’re always looking for people in need and helping them get through their need, in this case economically and when it comes to shelter,” he said. “Sometimes, we’re uncomfortable with seeing something that can be our future. We might think, ‘Oh my God, I can be that person.’ . . .  This reminds us that we can do better in society. We’re all vulnerable and can wind up homeless.”

Enjoying a plate full of eggs, fruit and sausages, Mauricio beamed with delight asked how she liked the Rotarians’ special home-cook meal.

“Seeing it all being laid out, honestly it brought warmth to my heart,” she said, and laughed. “It feels wonderful to be a part of it. It makes me very happy to know there are people out there who will help out not because they want to get something but because they feel good helping out as well.”