When you think of philanthropic events in the Bay Area the places that usually come to mind are San Francisco or Palo Alto. And Morgan Hill? Not exactly. Yet, on a warm September afternoon people gathered in this town just south of San Jose to support the efforts of The Supernova Foundation. Organizers of the event had transformed a backyard of a small residence into a wine tasting room to raise funds for victims of domestic abuse. While guests attended to drink fine wine provided by Vino Latino USA, they were also there to give back to their community.
“It’s good to give back at any stage of your life and career,” says Adrian Espinosa who is one of the co-founders for The Supernova Foundation. When he is not working at a hospital or studying to become a nurse practitioner, you can find him planning or organizing events such as this one for his foundation.
Adrian started The Supernova Foundation almost seven years ago along with his sister, Erica, when he was about to turn thirty. He conceived the idea at the moment when he was trying to decide what to do for his birthday party. “It was a turning point for me,” Adrian says. According to Adrian, the passing of another calendar year made him reflect and think to himself, “I’m here, I’m grateful, and I’m surrounded by such supportive friends and family, so I am going to do something meaningful in my life and as a community.”
Instead of throwing himself a typical birthday party that December, Adrian had decided to use the month’s holiday spirit to organize his first charity event. He told his friends not to bring birthday gifts or bottles of alcohol; instead, they were instructed to bring toys for children staying at two local women’s shelters in Santa Clara County. Over a hundred people showed up with toys in hand. Two days before Christmas, these toys were delivered to the shelter and The Supernova Foundation was born.
Fast-forward seven years later to the wine tasting event in Morgan Hill. A group of well-dressed guests sit on white picnic table chairs and listen closely to the Vino Latino duo Ramon & Becky Sandoval speak about Cabernets and Moscatos. They nibble on Mexican wedding cookies as they drink from the Sandoval’s custom blend. The neighbors’ regional Mexican music can be heard in the background, providing a nice soundtrack to the wine tasting. This was a charity event that not only raised money for Supernova’s “Modesta’s Spirit and Courage Scholarship Fund” but that also brought different cultures together.
In addition to blending Mexican culture with philanthropic values, Supernova also brings together friends and family who have dedicated their time and energy to the foundation. The event, for instance, was hosted at the home of Natalia Galvan, a good friend of Adrian’s and a board member. Natalia proved instrumental in connecting Supernova with the women’s shelters in Santa Clara County since she used to work there before she became a probation officer. When asked what that was like, Natalia stated, “working with survivors was one of the most gratifying experiences.”
Now Natalia works with the families as a Supernova committee member, which also includes Claudia Mendivil, Oralia Espinoza, Mary Diaz and Erica Espinosa. The committee plans the annual holiday gifting party, which involves picking age appropriate gifts for each child. The team of volunteers also prepare a gift bag of toiletries for the mothers. Natalia describes the event as a joyous family affair since Adrian’s mom bakes cookies while his “dad always brings the piano and sings with the kids.” She adds, “It’s very heart-warming because these little kids will come up to you and hug you.”
Supernova’s charity efforts have received more publicity with the help of Mary Diaz, an on air radio personality for 99.7 NOW and a VJ for the California Music Channel, who is also a friend of Adrian and a member of the board. She met Adrian while she was taking song requests during a night shift for Wild 94.9. He was a student at San Jose State at the time and he would often call late to request songs during his long study sessions. Eventually Adrian and Mary “hit it off” and “became quick friends and like family.”
Once Mary started publicizing Supernova’s events on the California Music Channel, she could tell that the mission to raise awareness about domestic abuse struck a chord with her audience. While some of them wanted to help Supernova’s cause by attending events, others wanted to share with her their personal experience with domestic abuse. “Listeners tell me their stories,” Mary says, “there are so many times that people need the help but don’t really speak up.”
“Growing up, I realized there was a stigma that made it difficult for people to ask for help. Whether it was in your own home or someone else who you knew, it wasn’t an easy topic to bring up, which surely made it harder for some people to reach out for help,” she says. Indeed, according to a 2007 study by E.M. Ingram, Latinas do not seek shelters as much as women from other ethnic groups. Considering that speaking about domestic abuse is an issue that is especially taboo in the Latino community for multiple historical and cultural reasons, organizations such as Supernova allow for these conversations to happen publicly.
Adrian knows that there are a lot of organizations out there providing resources to victims of domestic violence. However, he created Supernova because he wanted to create an intimate event for the kids, along with the support of his family, friends, community, and supportive committee. “We all work, have families, but we make the time to give back,” says Adrian as he points to the guests surrounding him.
Where did Adrian get this philanthropic spirit, I had to ask before the event ended.
“My parents were farmworkers and ever since I was little I was taught to appreciate what I had, to work hard, and to open our home to everyone.” Although his parents weren’t wealthy, says Adrian, his family was nonetheless “rich in cultura, rich in tradition, and rich in love.”
“We all have the capacity to give back to the community,” he adds, “hey, if I did it you can do it too.”
The annual Supernova gift drive event called “Supernova: Celebrating Life and Giving Back to the Community” is soon approaching on Dec. 6th at the Los Lagos Golf Course in San Jose. Prospective attendees or gift-givers should check out their website for more information at likeasupernova.com. It will most likely be another great birthday for the foundation and its co-founder.