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KAYLA SERRANO Never too young to make a difference Written By Kelly Barbazette A love of service and inspiration from a teacher motivated 16-year-old Kayla Serrano to apply for a grant earlier this year to feed homeless people in Gilroy. She applied for the grant through the Gilroy Assistance League in February, asking for $2,000 to pay for the makings for 200 burritos and kits containing hygiene items. “I was so taken aback that an organization such as GALs would help someone as young as me,” Serrano said. Serrano shopped for all the items with her grandmother. Then with the help of her grandmother and a family friend, made the burritos at home in a single day in August. They delivered them to the Lord’s Table that evening where they were handed out to guests. “The people that we gave them to seemed so grateful,” she said. Her grandmother, Rosemary Carranza, a case worker at St. Joseph’s Family Center, distributed another fifty burritos to people living in low-income neighborhoods in Gilroy. Serrano also assembled 200 hygiene kits and while driving around town the last few months, she handed out all of them. She distributed the last of the kits in October. “My family was great. They all pitched in and helped where they could. It was really nice to see a community of people supporting me,” she said. A junior at Christopher High School, Serrano said helping homeless people has been on her heart all of her life through watching her grandmother, who passed that commitment to service to Serrano’s mom, Jina. “When we saw someone that needed a sweater or food, my mom would be the first one to pitch in and help out and encourage us to do the same,” Serrano said. When Serrano learned of the opportunity to apply for a grant from GALs, she was reminded of the kindness of her English teacher, Mrs. Grant, who Serrano said would give a student her lunch if they forgot to bring one. Mrs. Grant’s mom, Elizabeth Kemp, passed away in 2016. Mrs. Kemp started the Brown Baggers program in Sonoma, which helped feed vineyard workers, labor- ers and anyone who needed a meal. Now, the program is part of Sonoma Overnight Support, co-founded by Mrs. Kemp, which helps feed and clothe homeless people. Serrano said that seeing the program operating first-hand and how it was helping others greatly impacted her. “I saw what a beautiful thing it was to help someone at the lowest point of their lives when they’re not doing well,” she said. The experience of carrying out her idea to help homeless people has inspired Serrano to start a non-profit group after she turns 18. “I saw a year-round homeless shelter in Sonoma. We don’t have that here. I really, really want that,” she said. “I think that more than food, more than shampoo and conditioner, people want to feel loved and that someone cares about them… I think that someone being there full time and have a shoulder to lean on would make a world of a difference for a lot of people.” The Gilroy Assistance League awarded nearly $26,000 to fifteen local youth organizations in 2018. Proceeds from the GALs Annual Impressions Home and Garden Tour & Boutique provides funds for the grants. For more information, regarding the grant process, visit www.gilroyassistanceleague.org GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN december 2018-january 2019 gmhtoday.com 53