The Pescadero Community Church has been awarded a one-year, $8,000 grant from the San Francisco Foundation to support La Sala, a biweekly communal dinner and Puente de la Costa Sur’s longest-running program. The funds will be used to bolster the program’s food and transportation expenses.
Every week, under the church’s picturesque steeple, South Coast farmworkers and other working residents convene for La Sala. Rain or shine, the program has been serving up a hot meal — alongside a heaping portion of stories, laughter and games — to Pescadero’s agricultural community for decades.
“The idea is to have a place where everyone can feel warm, have a warm meal and have that social connection,” said Delma Soult, development director at Puente. “And I know that this space has been used to provide connections and resources for the farmworkers. There’s an aspect of loneliness and depression (for them), because most of them are men that have left their families in Mexico.
“Sometimes Puente has provided additional services or more information for them,” she continued.
Joaquin Jimenez, Puente’s community outreach coordinator, added that La Sala enables farmworkers to engage with the broader South Coast community — and with each other.
“They get to leave the farm and gather in a built community,” he said. “They share different things about their week. And it’s a chance for them to come into town. Some of them don’t have transportation of their own, so they use the public transportation that Puente provides. It gives them a chance to break out of that routine.”
La Sala, and the long-standing partnership between Pescadero Community Church and Puente, is firmly tethered to the nonprofit’s origin story.
In 1998, Rev. Wendy Taylor, the new part-time minister at Pescadero Community Church, started sitting on the front steps and chatting with everyone who came by the little church by the bridge. As she waved to many of the male farmworkers who rode past on their bikes, striking up conversations in Spanish, she learned about the basic necessities they lacked and the loneliness of their lives in Pescadero.
Taylor then proposed a church ministry to feed the workers, provide them with a space to meet, and give them bicycles, bedding and warm clothes. It was a ritual that would become La Sala. Diane Chapman, former longtime treasurer of Pescadero Community Church, said that, originally, the program was made possible through a donation made to the church.
“Rev. Wendy originally was in Puerto Rico, so she would see the men and would just chat,” said Chapman. “From that, it grew to these meetings in the evening.”
“Wendy’s really happy that La Sala is still going,” added Jimenez. “That’s her legacy, and it’s still going 20 years later.”
In La Sala’s early days, Chapman continued, church members and volunteers were instrumental in running the program, from preparing food to providing foreign language assistance. Over the years, as Puente’s staff and operating budget blossomed, the nonprofit slowly began taking over those responsibilities.
“Our church is really small,” said Chapman. “And a lot of people are getting older and they can’t do it as much (anymore). So, actually, Puente has helped a lot with making it happen. Whereas, at this point, we just provide some money through this grant and through another donation that the church will make.”
Jimenez said that while the funding will help offset the program’s expenses, La Sala will continue accepting donations and food from the greater Pescadero community. Beyond that, he continued, the grant money will enable Puente to reimburse some of the volunteers who cook dinner for La Sala.
“A lot of community members appreciate the farmworkers in the area,” he said. “And they know that La Sala is for (them).
For more information on La Sala, visit mypuente.org.