Gilroy Garlic Festival: a history of volunteerism


Volunteering is good for your health.
Studies show that volunteers have less anxiety, sleep better, suffer less from stress and have better overall health. In the face of growing individualism and the indifference toward the struggle of poverty, volunteering sends the message that we are all responsible for helping one another.
In Gilroy, one of the most popular times to volunteer is coming up with the celebration of our 36th Annual Garlic Festival. Known around the world, it raises thousands for charitable causes and brings out hundreds of people who volunteer for thousands of hours to make it possible. I asked people what motivates them to volunteer:     “Have you ever volunteered at the Gilroy Garlic Festival? Why should anyone want to volunteer?”
Ivory Trams said, “The amazing energy from the people, slamming food and that it raises money for community organizations like schools.”
Nancy Moncada Headley: “Because I like to help my community.”
Judy Livingston said, “Yes, I’ve volunteered four out of the five years I’ve lived in Gilroy. I started reading to patients in a hospital in Miami influenced by my cousin who started reading for Recorded Books when our Aunt couldn’t see well. Then I led Girl Scouts, Sunday School, Literacy Training, Community Emergency Response Team, Garlic Festival, Prison Community Board, Brown Bags for Seniors, St. Joseph’s Family Center, etc. I talk about it to everyone I know about it. Great fun!
Angelo Bul: “I volunteered to say thank you for coming to this country as a refugee.”   
Rosa Watson: “I have come to the Festival for 25 years. My husband and I volunteered on our honeymoon when were first married, then again on our first anniversary, and now we’ve come every year since.”
Kristine Pena said, “I have volunteered for many years. I do it for the thrill of seeing the smiles of the people I help, and the feeling it gives me in my heart to have the ability to be able to do good things for people who can’t. I love helping others.”
Jackie Arribere: “The stories and the people you meet. Volunteering is good for the soul.”
Julia Brodersen: “Volunteering means to give my time to a cause that I believe in to help others. I give my time to my community so it can do better.”
Antoinette Marie Reiser: “Giving your time for others is a whole different thing than getting paid for it yourself. It is an entirely different benefit.” 
Randy Brundage: “I don’t have a good answer. I’m still very much a work in progress. For one thing, my experience and shortcomings have taught me empathy toward others. Also, I am so appreciative of the support that I’ve received.”
The simple answer: Julie Bradbury: “Love one another.”
Sue Wilson: “I am making a difference.”
And my favorite response was this one from Iunisi Tovo: “Do you need anything? Name it and we’ll make time for it!!”
Val Kelly, a volunteer coordinator and teacher at South Valley Middle School sums up Gilroy’s reasons for volunteering at the festival the best: “The Festival makes possible the big picture of being able to fund so many scholarships. There are parents who work all three days and all six shifts to fund scholarships, and to make possible choir trips for students to New York and Japan. When you see the human component of it, the human face of it, all those hours are worth it.
“Another reason to volunteer is that you meet folks from all over the place. It is so fun; when you walk around, especially as part of the Host Corps, you meet every different kind of person getting off the buses and arriving from so many different places that you wouldn’t meet any other way.
“A third reason is the community building component. Parents from all walks of life wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to meet each other and work together this way, but they come the week before to help set up for the festival and end up spending a lot of time together. The festival connects the community in a big way.”


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