Morgan Hill’s Cecelia Ponzini—who has helped more than 10,000 families gain access to food, clothing and other necessities—is the Woman of the Year for California Assembly District 30.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who represents the 30th district, announced his selection of Ponzini for the honor on June 27. An award ceremony at the Capitol in Sacramento is indefinitely on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Rivas presented Ponzini with a plaque commemorating the distinction at her southwest Morgan Hill home.
“Cecelia is a special part of this community, contributing so much of her time and energy to the needs of others,” Rivas said. “I had wanted to wait and present this award at the Capitol celebration that we typically hold. But, as I see her continuing to help so many families during this pandemic—and with the uncertainties around when we might be able to hold large events again—I didn’t want to wait any longer.”
Ponzini “exemplifies the best of Assembly District 30, with her hard work, tenacious spirit, and compassion,” reads a press release from Rivas’ office.
She spent parts of her childhood in foster care in Southern California, before landing in Morgan Hill as a teenager, says the press release. At the age of 15, she dropped out of high school and married. By age 19, she had four children in an unhealthy marriage. She worked hard to escape that life, and she later married her current husband, Gary Ponzini. But in 2003, tragedy struck their family, as Cecelia’s son Edward Boss Prado died at the age of 29.
As a child, Edward was a good neighbor—sensitive to the needs of others and quick to offer help, according to Rivas’ office. Cecelia and Gary started the Edward Boss Prado Foundation in her son’s honor, and built it upon his values.
Many families in Assembly District 30 still struggle with the issues of poverty and homelessness. As a result, Ponzini’s philanthropic vision was to create a beloved, local and honest charity dedicated to serving children and families in need. She started with one organized charity, and her efforts continue to grow. In the last five years, the Edward Boss Prado Foundation has served over 10,000 families.
The foundation was started in Morgan Hill, but now manages more than 15 programs that serve the residents of many communities within the 30th District and beyond, including Hollister, Gilroy and San Martin. Her programs recently expanded to San Jose and to victims of the fires throughout the state.
These programs focus on providing dignity to adults and children in need, and many of the programs require no proof of income. For example, Cecelia’s Closet and Food Pantry—located in north Morgan Hill—provides career clothes for interviews and clothes for all ages; Toys 4 Our Own conducts annual holiday toy drives; and Prado-on-the-go Meals feeds people who are homeless. One new program is collecting items for farmworkers and their families.
The Prado Foundation also provides financial contributions and other support to outside nonprofits and organizations, such as the Learning and Loving Education Center, Community Solutions, Magical Bridge Playground in Morgan Hill, and Rebekah’s Children’s Services.
During the pandemic, Cecelia has continued to collect and provide food and essential supplies for families in need through the Gate to Gate and the Heart to Heart Covid-19 food relief programs. The most recent Gate to Gate giveaway took place June 26 outside her home.
About 160 families stopped by the giveaway to pick up groceries and other household items, Ponzini said. She and her volunteers were “surprised” at the end of the giveaway when the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill presented the Prado Foundation with a check for $3,000.
The 30th Assembly District includes all of San Benito County, and parts of Santa Clara (including Morgan Hill and Gilroy), Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.