LocationAlhambra , CA United States
Halloween at Almansor Court came a few days early this year as the Lakeview Room was layered with orange, black and purple balloons and banquet tables were strewn with snack-sized candies surround pumpkin centerpieces. This was a Halloween party with a purpose. It marked the YMCA of the West San Gabriel Valley’s 34th Annual Celebrity Waiter’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.
Some 270 attendees, most of them local community leaders, business owners and civic organizers, gathered in costume for the event Tuesday on a breezy, but sunny Alhambra afternoon. Each table had their own local “celebrity” in costume serving tea, coffee and eventually lunch to donors from across the West San Gabriel Valley.
State Assembly Member Ed Chau served as keynote speaker and lead “Celebrity Waiter” for the event with the goal of raising funds to support the Y’s programs including the Junior Fit after school initiative and the weeklong overnight summer program at Camp Ta Ta Ponchon near San Gorgonio Mountain.
West SGV YMCA CEO Valarie Gomez kicked off the luncheon by explaining an additional goal of the fundraiser, which carried the theme: “Returning the Faith + Challenge of the Children’s Center Construction Grant.” And, according to Gomez, that overriding challenge is to make the YMCA of the West SGV a true lifeline organization with programs to help support homeless students around the area.
Last year’s homeless count showed a 25% increase in the homeless population in the San Gabriel Valley. Many of the programs at the Y’s new Children’s Center which is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020, will go help those at-risk children.
Gomez spent some time dispelling myths about homelessness including one that suggests there are really no homeless children in the area. In this context, she said the homeless in the area are often families with children who live in cars or shelters or hotels or are couch surfing on a temporary basis at the homes of friends. The key here is that these families and children have no home of their own.
“Those are the children that are hidden…these children we welcome to our Y each and every day, each and every afternoon, 11 hours Summer day camp, Saturday childcare, and year-round,” she said.
Earlier this year, Assemblymember Chau was credited with obtaining a $1.82 million grant from the California Department of Education to fund the new West SGV YMCA Children’s Center. The building will become a haven offering a wide variety of amenities and services to families in need including basic necessities such as locker rooms and showering areas.
Although the CDE grant was impressive the funds are just enough to develop the building. Services, appliances, and amenities still need to be obtained through the Y’s strong fundraising efforts, community support and vital leadership.
Gomez and Mark Paulson, who served as MC for the event, followed up with a robust recognition of the current board of directors of the Y. They include former Alhambra Mayor and current President of the YMCA Barbara Messina; Francella Aguilar from Republic Services; former San Gabriel Mayor Mary Cammarano; City of Rosemead Mayor Margaret Clark; former Alhambra Mayor Mary Louise Bunker; and Andrew Kwok from Southern California Gas Co.
Along with Assemblyman Chau and Y President Messina, “celebrity waiters” included Christian Daly, assistant field deputy to L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who was dressed as a Jedi; Cindy Gomez from Valley Vista Services, who dressed up as a circus ringmaster; and Cindy Ho, Alhambra Chamber of Commerce ambassador, who dressed up as a busy bee.
These community members, among many others, refilled coffee mugs, brought in extra bread, and took monetary tips for the YMCA from key city council members from Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Rosemead. A few of these names included Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, Vice Mayor Ross Maza, Councilmember David Mejia, San Gabriel Vice Mayor Denise Menchaca, and many others.
Newly appointed Alhambra Rotary President Edgar Garcia-Mora was among the celebrity waiters serving the gathering. Garcia-Mora made sure water glasses were topped and empty plates collected, but also looked to make stronger connections with his community. “[Being a waiter] was a great way to connect with the table and really put ourselves in the shoes of those that do serve us and its really hard work,” he said.
While connecting with his table, Garcia-Mora thought about the overarching goal of the event on a personal level and spoke about the children affected by housing insecurity. “I love the fact that [the YMCA] help those affected by homelessness whether they are Alhambra Unified students who might be struggling or others…to me that is something I personally love about the Y.”
Watch our video of the ground breaking of the Children’s Center from this Summer.
Those interested in supporting the Children’s Center may contact YMCA CEO Valarie Gomez at [email protected] or by phone at 626 660-6881.