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I met Cecelia Ponzini in 2014 during Leadership Morgan Hill’s nine-month leadership development program. At an evening workshop students were asked to talk about someone whose qualities inspired them to community service. Most of us hung back, but not Cecelia. She stood up, gazed slowly around the room, and shared a personal story that inspired us all. Nothing breaks a parent’s heart like the loss of a child. Some parents are paralyzed by grief and anger. This could have been the case for Cecelia, who lost her son Edward when he was in his 20s, but after struggling with the loss, she came to a different realization. “I remember so clearly the day that Edward died,” Cecelia said. “I woke up thinking that life was good and I was so fortunate. But a few hours later I was on the phone with a Southern California hospital. Edward had suffered heart failure and passed away at the hospital that morning. I never got to say goodbye.” Transformed by Loss “For a long time afterward, I dwelt on the past and how I might have done things differently. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The pain wouldn’t go away. Then I sat down with my husband Gary and said, ‘I’ve got to do something to honor Edward’s memory but I don’t know how.’” Cecelia and Gary decided to create a foundation in Edward’s name. “My son was a generous and caring person. I still remember him packing extra food to share with kids at school who had no lunch. That’s just who he was. I wanted to set up a foundation to raise funds and help people in the community, in the same spirit of giving that Edward had.” Cecelia received encouragement from Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate. “He told me, ‘Cecelia, you need to share your idea. The community will help you!’” Mayor Tate connected her with the Morgan Hill Community Foundation, where she received guidance from Amy Whelan and Michelle McKay. “I’d never done anything like this before,” Cecelia said. “They offered services to help me set up a nonprofit and gave me hope. I can never thank them enough.” And there were others who offered support. “Mary Lou Conragan gave me courage. Dan McCranie gave me hope. John Horner has been my mentor and Vivian Varela my go-to gal. Morgan Hill’s City Manager Steve Rymer gave me reason to trust.” One of Morgan Hill’s 2017 Strategic Priorities is Inclusiveness, and according to Rymer, “Morgan Hill is a better place because of Cecelia’s vision and genuine interest in helping others. I thank her for all that she does to foster an inclusive community.” Evolution of a Young Working Mom For Cecelia, completing her education has been a lifelong dream that, despite her best efforts, was always just out of reach. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN As a young girl in Southern California, she was taken away from her family, placed in foster care, then reunited with her mother and stepfather in Morgan Hill as a teen. She was married to her first husband and had four children before her 20th birthday. In those days there were no options for a pregnant teen to stay in high school—she had to drop out. She struggled for some time in an unhealthy marriage, eventually leaving to raise her children as a single mom. “Growing up I’d always been told I was no good and had no future. I often wished there’d been someone to ask for advice. I worked hard and matured during my years as a young single working mom, but not without making mistakes.” Cecelia took receptionist and mail room jobs for local companies including Sakata Seed and Specialized in Morgan Hill. Then she got a job at Community Garage & Towing, working for the man who would become her future husband, Gary Ponzini. “He was a wonderful,