COMMUNITY: Bridget Balajadia provides countless resources to tackle poverty

2020 - Bridget Balajadia

The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.

Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.

For over 60 years, Cathlolic Charities of Santa Clara County has made it their purpose to change lives for good. Their focus is social service and social justice, and they work with people of all cultures and beliefs to rise up out of poverty. They focus on three main areas - alleviating the conditions of chronic poverty, reducing the effects of situational poverty and preventing the cycle of generational poverty.

They accomplish this by providing food, housing assistance, senior services, jobs, immigration services, financial literacy, early childhood development and after school programs, and much more.

For Bridget Balajadia, working for CCSCC has been life changing. As a Program Manager at the charity, Bridget assures community members are connected to the necessary resources.

“What we’ve found is that communities are able to heal within, if they are given a little bit of structure and guidance,” says Bridget. 

The CCSCC staff have seen that the roots of poverty often stem from circumstances such as lack of food, housing, health, education or economic insecurity. 

They have taken three main approaches to their mission of combating poverty, categorized as accompaniment, referrals and community markets. 

In order to uplift these community members, Bridget and CCSCC begin by building relationships with their clients. From there, they support them in their basic needs like access to food, and then connect the clients with their resources or other agencies for more complex needs such as medical assistance or housing assistance. Then, they follow through with their clients for months after the connections are made to ensure they are on track and not alone in the process. 

Community markets have been a way for CCSCC to bring the community together and create an environment where they are heard, supported and encouraged. It started from an expressed desire for food from the community, and turned into an all-encompassing operation. On Tuesdays and Fridays, CCSCC holds farmers market-style events where those in need can receive groceries, a hot meal, and even get medical evaluations or legal assistance. 

In addition to those in need getting access to a variety of services all in one place free of charge, Bridget says these market events have been a way for the community to break down barriers with their neighbors. 

“We could easily be in poverty ourselves, so it’s important to help one another,” says Bridget. 

The most rewarding part of her job is knowing that every day is vastly different than the next. With CCSCC, Bridget witnesses lives being changed for the better on a daily basis. “Everyday I wake up and I’m excited to go to work,” she says.

In the same way that poverty can loop people into a negative cycle, getting assistance and support can create a positive long-term cycle. “Neighborhoods are intergenerationally impacted,” says Bridget. 

During the pandemic, CCSCC has seen a massive increase in the number of new clients and community members in need. The community market events alone take at least 25 volunteers to run effectively and smoothly. “My goal and vision for this valley is for everyone to volunteer in a way that works for them,” says Bridget. 

CCSCC is holding a volunteer training event next week on September 4. Sessions will take place virtually throughout September on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7p.m. For more information or to register, contact ldemanti@catholiccharitiesscc.org

To learn more about how to get involved or volunteer at an event, click here.