Community Bridges named Nonprofit of the Year

Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino, second from left, and board memebers Lee Slaff, left, and Richard Vasquez, right, were recently honored by State Assemblymember Robert Rivas as his Nonprofit of the Year for the 30th district. — Contributed

WATSONVILLE — Assemblymember Robert Rivas has named Community Bridges the 2019 Nonprofit of the Year for the 30th Assembly District. The organization was honored for its public service at the 2019 California Nonprofits Day Luncheon on June 5 at the South Lawn of the California State Capitol.

“Community Bridges makes a difference every day in the lives of many in our community,” Rivas said. “Community Bridges provides critical services and programs to help meet the needs of the diverse population in our region. Staff and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that some of the most vulnerable residents in our community are supported.”

Community Bridges, which operates in the heart of Watsonville, offers child development services, prenatal and early post-partum classes, free or reduced cost counseling services for families, support programs for youth on probation and senior transportation and meals.

Community Bridges Chief Executive Officer Raymon Cancino called the award and trip to Sacramento an eye-opening honor and experience.

“It was nice to be acknowledged for all the work that we do and it was a great opportunity to meet with other policy-makers and other elected officials as well,” Cancino said.

In total, Community Bridges houses 10 programs at more than 20 sites across Santa Cruz County. In Watsonville it provides services to people of all ages and backgrounds through programs such as Elderday Adult Health Care, Lift Line, Meals on Wheels, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and La Manzana.

Cancino said programs like La Manzana, which serves roughly 2,200 people a year, have helped numerous immigrants in Watsonville by giving them a safe space to ask for guidance without the fear of reporting to a government agency. The program helps people understand what services they’re eligible for, refers them to other locations for legal help and teaches them how to pay their taxes — among other things.

“We’re a trusted location because we’re a bilingual and bicultural staff,” he said. “There’s a whole disconnect with using public services and it effecting someone’s future immigration status. I’ve never talked to one immigrant that has ever said, ‘I never want to become a U.S. Citizen.’ That’s a dream for everybody, and no one wants to endanger that. That’s why it’s important to have non-government organizations that are able to bridge them to getting comfortable with the idea of using services, and providing them services that aren’t going to risk that future.”

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