The pastel yellow house with the pink doors at 636 Purissima St. in Half Moon Bay stands out for its unique look as well as its use. The building is the new home to the nonprofit Ayudando Latinos A Soñar. And it was given to ALAS as a gift: free and a complete surprise.
At a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, ALAS Executive Director Belinda Hernadez-Arriaga recalled the organization’s beginnings before a sparse and distanced crowd of staff, volunteers and local officials. The organization started as a cultural arts program in 2011 and grew to encompass mental health services and social justice advocacy. In that time, it went from operating out of a local church to tutoring in trucks to teaching ballet folklorico classes in parking lots. ALAS turned community spaces into its roving offices.
“We’re still true to that because we believe in being out in the community,” Hernandez-Arriaga said. “But we always wished for a home.”
The new home was donated by a group represented by Leagrey Dimond, a San Francisco-based philanthropist. Dimond was motivated to act after seeing ALAS’ work on the Coastside at a time when President Donald Trump started campaigning against Latino immigrants, she said.
“This is the kind of organization you want to support because you can see what they’re doing,” Diamond said. “It was an honor.”
Juana Ruano first got involved with ALAS through her son, who was 7 at the time he started dancing ballet folklorico. Now her son is 14. In that time, she assisted with food delivery and is now the organization's COVID-19 sanitation specialist.
“I’m very happy,” said Ruano, smiling through watery eyes. “People say COVID is bad. It’s not bad because it is bringing families together, bringing groups together like this. Maybe, then, it’s OK.”
The new home for the nonprofit continues a legacy of generous donors, like benefactors Joe Cotchett and Sharlene Cardoni, who helped ensure ALAS had a place to operate. Through them, ALAS secured its previous office at La Piazza on Main Street and counseling offices on Miramotes Street.
However, the organization’s need for space has grown as the pandemic created a demand for ALAS services. At Purissima Street, the supplies currently crammed in the Main Street office can be stored in the barn at the back of the property, leaving plenty of space for offices and meeting rooms.
Much about the building makes it feel like a home. Outside there are lime and orange trees. The living room has two sofas and several framed photographs of ALAS’ youth. The space immediately outside the director’s office is a children’s nook, complete with toys. Washer and dryer machines will be added soon for people who need to clean their clothes.
Stella Dominguez, ALAS board member, looked down the long, wide driveway next to the yellow house and imagined children dancing and afterschool programs. She admits because the surprise came in October, ALAS staff haven’t thought much about how to maximize the space.
“We’re just processing this house, let alone talking about all the things we’ll be able to do,” she said.
Dominguez used to work with Hernandez-Arriaga at Santa Clara County juvenile hall 20 years ago. She remembered how Hernandez-Arriaga used to dream of a community center that served as a one-stop shop for all social services as well as music, art and dance.
“When you hear those dreams you go, ‘Maybe one day,’” she said. “Then to see it come to fruition and for it to be donated—it’s just incredible."