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December 5, 2022

Volunteerism Runs in the Family

– Sometimes doing the right thing is a family affair.
Hollister – Sometimes doing the right thing is a family affair.

That’s definitely the case with Niessa Bauder-Guaracha and her daughters Natasha and Avi. Bauder-Guaracha has been pitching in with local service groups for more than 20 years, but her daughters may soon eclipse her.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Can we steal your daughters?'” Bauder-Guaracha said. “The directors at Habitat for Humanity call them mini board members.”

Although she’s only 11, Avi Guaracha has been raising money to send gift packs with food and supplies to local service members serving in Iraq. And it was 13-year-old Natasha Guaracha who raised the money to purchase a new statue of the Virgin Mary for St. Francis Retreat.

Natasha said that when she heard the statue had been stolen after the retreat was devastated by a fire last summer, it just seemed natural to grab a big jar, head down to the San Benito County Fair and spend the weekend cajoling the crowd for donations.

“You know, it’s the thing to do,” Natasha said. “If you see a problem, why leave it there?”

At the end of the weekend, Natasha had raised $1,000. Rev. Barry Brunsman, the retreat’s director, said he was stunned when he found out.

“Holy Moses, who would think of a thing like that?” Brunsman said. “Yeah, (the sisters) are good. They’re following Mama.”

Bauder-Guaracha, 50, said it was her career as a fashion designer – the same career that took her to far-off locations like New York City and France – that first pulled her into helping the local community, when a local chapter of the 4-H club asked her to give a speech about her job. After that, Bauder-Guaracha began helping out at different clubs and things snowballed.

“It just sort of happened,” Bauder-Guaracha said.

In the years since, Bauder-Guaracha started the Christmas Spirits Renewed program to find presents for needy families, spearheaded a successful effort to build a new playground near the county homeless shelter and more. And although she’s largely retired from fashion design, she still puts those skills to use once a year, when she creates the historical costumes for more than 50 cast members at Teatro Campesino’s Christmas show.

This year, Bauder-Guaracha is raising money for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit group that builds, renovates and sells homes to low-income families.

Habitat hasn’t raised enough money to build any new houses, Bauder-Guaracha said, but she’s hopeful that the organization will be able to rehabilitate some existing homes here later this year.

“It’s not that I look for these things to happen,” Bauder-Guaracha said. “But when I’m asked to do something, I believe in putting in 200 percent.”

Anthony Ha covers local government for the Free Lance. Reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected]

Anthony Ha
A staff member edited this provided article.

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