Courtesy of Assemblyman Robert Rivas’ office:
On Saturday, June 27, 2020, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) announced his selection for Woman of the Year for Assembly District 30, Cecelia Ponzini, of Morgan Hill, California. The award ceremony at the Capitol in Sacramento was postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Rivas presented the official Assembly plaque to Ponzini at her home.
Rivas said: “Cecelia is a special part of this community, contributing so much of her time and energy to the needs of others. 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.”
Cecelia Ponzini exemplifies the best of Assembly District 30, with her hard work, tenacious spirit, and compassion. She spent parts of her childhood in foster care in Southern California, before landing in Morgan Hill as a teenager. 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, Cecelia’s son Edward was a good neighbor—sensitive to the needs of others and quick to offer help. 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, which Cecelia faced in her youth. As a result, Cecelia’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 now manages more than 15 programs that serve the residents of several cities within the District and beyond, including Hollister, Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill, and recently expanding to San Jose and to victims of the fires throughout the state. The 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 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 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 countless families in need through the Gate to Gate and the Heart to Heart COVID-19 food relief programs. She facilitates a simple, safe process for residents to donate and to receive food during this challenging time, expanding her role as the philanthropic heart of Assembly District 30.