Even though Cecelia’s Closet and Food Pantry has temporarily closed its office and distribution facility in north Morgan Hill due to the Covid-19 public health crisis, the nonprofit’s leader continues to help families in need from her home with the help of volunteers and generous donors.
Cecelia Ponzini, executive director of the nonprofit Edward Boss Prado Foundation—which runs the closet and food pantry—has remained busy collecting donated food, clothing and other necessities at her residence since statewide shelter-at-home orders went into effect March 17. Her home, garage, guesthouse and storage building are now filled with donated items, much of it organized into grocery bags full of non-perishable food.
Clients who would normally stop by Cecelia’s Closet on Peebles Avenue now frequently visit Ponzini’s home to pick up donated groceries—with accommodations made for social distancing, Ponzini explained earlier this week. “Every day, people come by to pick up,” she said.
Ponzini and the foundation’s board of directors, along with a group of volunteers, even conducted a drive-through grocery pickup at her southwest Morgan Hill home in April, with a repeat planned for later this month. During the “Gate to Gate Giveaway”—so named because the drive-through route takes vehicles past two gates on the fence surrounding Ponzini’s property—more than 150 cars lined up to receive groceries as Morgan Hill Police helped direct traffic.
As in normal times, families in need are referred to Cecelia’s Closet from numerous area nonprofits and agencies, including Community Solutions, Rebekah’s Children Services and public school districts. But the need has clearly grown due to the pandemic and shelter-at-home orders that limit residents’ ability to work. During the April Gate to Gate event, Ponzini served several new clients who were drawn to the giveaway by the long line of cars.
“We don’t get any state or federal grants. We depend on our surrounding communities to support us,” said Ponzini, whose foundation also works with families in Gilroy and beyond.
The next Gate to Gate Giveaway at Ponzini’s home is scheduled for May 21. Included in the next giveaway will be homemade face masks, of which Ponzini has boxes stacked up in her dining room.
The Prado Foundation relies heavily on donations from local residents, businesses and other nonprofit organizations. One of those donors is the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill. Rotary President Lorena Tuohey said the local club’s members and directors collectively decide which local organizations to donate funds to on a regular basis, and they have donated to many.
“We felt that the Edward Boss Prado Foundation was doing a terrific job in helping to find needs and meet the challenge to feed Morgan Hill during the shelter-in-place,” Tuohey said. “The board felt compelled to make a donation to that cause, among others.”
The work of the foundation, named after Ponzini’s late son, has consistently expanded in recent years. The Prado Foundation also organizes assistance for farmworkers in Watsonville and Salinas, and helps families with rent and utility expenses when funds are available. Ponzini also leads a local toy drive for children during the winter holidays—an effort that has grown significantly the last three years.
Under normal times, Cecelia’s Closet provides new clothing for local residents and families. That aspect of the foundation has been on hold since the Covid-19 pandemic started, as Ponzini doesn’t want to risk accidentally spreading the illness.
In short, the Prado Foundation aims to offer whatever help is needed to families throughout South County and beyond. “I just finished furnishing a whole apartment with donations,” Ponzini said.
Ponzini started the Edward Boss Prado Foundation with her husband, Gary Ponzini, in 2013. The nonprofit was started as a legacy to Cecelia Ponzini’s late son, who died at the age of 29.
“I do it in honor of my son,” she said. “This is who I am, and I will continue to do this as long as I can.”
For more information about the Edward Boss Prado Foundation, visit edwardbossprado.org or call (408) 670-0266.