LCF Trailblazer in Philanthropy, 2016 Gala Awardee
My name is Catalino Tapia. I am the Founder of Bay Area Gardeners Scholarship Foundation. I am a gardener and now a philanthropist.
I came to this country from Mexico in 1964 with only 6 dollars in my pocket. A year later, I meet who is now my wife Margarita Tapia. After working on many different jobs my wife and I started to save money for our kids’ education. I became a gardener in Palo Alto and Redwood City. All that effort paid off when my son, Noel Tapia, graduated from UC Berkeley Law School. This is the proudest moment of our lives. That night I noticed that only a handful of Latino students graduated, I promised myself to do something about it.
After a couple of years went by, with the help of my son and his lawyer friends, I created the Bay Area Gardeners Scholarship Foundation. Once I had the legal documents in my hands I began to fundraise. I decided to ask my wealthy gardening clients for scholarship donations. I thought to myself “What’s the worst that could happen? They could fire me or say no.” To my surprise, on the first two weeks I raised $10,000 from donations from my gardening clients.
Up to this day we have awarded 173 scholarships, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary and we are planning to award 30 scholarships, placing us at over 200 scholarships. It makes us proud to help so many students and their families with the little we have.
To me, philanthropy means love. Giving people food when they are hungry or my jacket when they are cold. It’s about people, about giving and helping. I want to share a short story that occurred to me in 2007 after an article of the foundation came out in The San Francisco Chronicle, a family from Colorado wanted to donate, but did not have the money. Their two sons of 7 and 5 years old had a piggy bank, which decided to cash out and send me a nice letter with three $20 bills, this action made me cry for days. To me this is philanthropy to its fullest expression.
When the scholarship recipients look at me as their second DAD, it makes me very happy to be a person in their lives that believes in them. That’s what we do. It’s not just about the money, it’s about helping young people achieve their dreams.
I have a 6th grade education and now I have a foundation. If I can do it, so can you.
If you are inspired by Catalino and his Foundation, join us at his 10th Anniversary celebration! To buy tickets, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/10th-anniversary-student-recognition-dinner-and-fundraiser-tickets-26002695763