Holiday Spirit

Language partners Susan Stulz and Silvia Monico chat in the backyard of the house the Rosalie Rendu Center operates out of in East Palo Alto on Nov. 16, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Posted November 26, 2021

Where learning English is 'medicine for the people'
Rosalie Rendu Center empowers immigrants by teaching language, acculturation and life skills

by Sue Dremmann / Palo Alto Weekly

Ever since she was a young nun, Sister Trinitas Hernandez wanted to follow the path of Rosalie Rendu, a 19th-century nun of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Rendu had dedicated her life to helping the poor in French slums at a time of great human influx due to the Industrial Revolution. In East Palo Alto, Sister Trinitas has been doing the same.

Small and energetic with sparkly eyes and a keen intelligence, Sister Trinitas joined the charitable order at the age of 18. When she arrived in East Palo Alto in 1997, she was looking for a project that would take her into the community. As in Rendu's time, many new immigrants have come to the Bay Area in search of work and a better life. They often struggle to adapt and to grow into their new community, and a lack of fundamental language skills can keep them in poverty, she noted.

One day a woman asked for help learning English. Sister Trinitas, affectionately called Sister T, said she wasn't a teacher. The woman said that because Sister Trinitas could speak and read English, that was enough. Sister Trinitas gained her first pupil. Twenty-three years later, she's still teaching through the Rosalie Rendu Center , which she founded and leads as its executive director.

The educational center for Latino mothers and families is aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty through English as a second language, life skills and acculturation classes. It serves 90 to 100 people per year through ESL classes, one-on-one conversational English mentorships, educational outings and citizenship classes.

Student Gloria Del Rio said the parents learn how to encourage and support their children through parenting workshops.

"Most of the students are from Mexico and we have a different culture. The sisters help the mothers to learn life here and to get better educated," she said.

Del Rio said the classes have taught her to manage stress and to listen to her children. The camaraderie with other women builds a sense of shared community.

Before arriving at Rosalie Rendu, she wasn't interested in learning English despite having lived in California for many years. There wasn't much incentive since she could get by through interpreters or her children. Then she partnered on school projects with mothers who came to the center, and it changed her life.

"Once I started, I couldn't stop," Del Rio, a dark-haired mother of four, said while sitting at the spacious dining room table at the center's home, located at 2345 Pulgas Ave., East Palo Alto.

Now in her third year, Del Rio speaks English fluently and understands the language without hesitation.

"The teachers are kindly with us. They understand it's a big effort to come here, and some of the mothers work," she said, noting that classes accommodate shifting schedules.

Before coming to the center, Del Rio often held back asking questions at her children's schools.

"I could only say 'My name is Gloria,'" she recalled.

Now she feels more confident and she is an active part of the school community.

"I don't have to ask for an interpreter at the school and at the doctor's now. We don't feel embarrassed," she said. "Before, I was hiding. I just did what I had to do."

Del Rio said the center has helped her become less dependent on her husband and children. With her command of English, she is now free to get what she needs by herself, such as when shopping at the store.

"My family is proud. I'm doing something for me. Maybe it's a good example for them to see me practice. They know I'm here and it teaches them to be brave and be a participant," she said.

Del Rio's example has helped inspire her children to be high achievers. One son attends the University of California, Davis and is studying biochemical engineering; her daughter is studying to be a dentist. Her other two sons are a sophomore and freshman attending Menlo School.

Del Rio has also used her language powers to protect her community and not be a victim.

"Once, there was an ice cream man and I saw two boys were trying to rob him in the apartments. I called the police," she said.

Another time, Del Rio was in a car crash, and the other person left the scene when Del Rio asked to exchange driver's license and insurance information. Del Rio again called the police. Officers traced the license plate number she managed to write down, went to that woman's home and brought her back to give Del Rio the information, she said. Having such language abilities and understanding the system is empowering, she said.

Like its students, the center has gone through its own challenges. In late 2019, just as the pandemic began, the center lost its longtime location at the Carriage Manor Apartments.

Every day, Sister Trinitas prayed, asking God to help her find a new location, she said. One day in spring 2020, she learned that a student named Marina had moved to Nevada to be near her family after her husband's death. She was selling her house and wasn't coming back to East Palo Alto.

"Upfront, I asked, 'Will you sell it to me?' And three weeks later, we signed on the dotted line," Sister Trinitas said. "The good Lord sent us this house. I feel deep in my heart that it is a miracle."

The center moved into its new home in June 2020. Pictures of Sister Rosalie Rendu, resplendent in the white, starched "gull wing" hat, or cornette, for which the Catholic order is known, grace the center's living room walls.

Getting through the COVID-19 pandemic while renovating the house and yard took time and many financial resources and volunteer help. The students needed to know how to download Zoom onto their phones in order to continue learning English through remote classes. The first week was uneven but by the second week things were running smoothly, said program director Maria Lozano.

The center created a remote tutoring program that matches college and high school students to the younger children of the center's parents. The center purchased a three-month subscription to Kiwi Kits, a hands-on science kit, for 22 children, which were delivered to the children's homes, with classes continuing on Zoom this school year.

StreetCode Academy, another East Palo Alto nonprofit organization, lent the center laptops to meet all of the student's needs. The center's volunteer computer teacher downloaded software on the laptops, put together an instructional video and helped students connect to their home internet networks.

Rosalie Rendu Center has provided emergency funding to families for food and rent who were without jobs due to the pandemic. It also contracted with One Life Counseling Center to offer counseling services to parents who need professional support and who are facing housing, health and jobs challenges during the pandemic, Lozano said.

The center used its $5,000 Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund grant to purchase indoor and outdoor furniture and accessories and classroom items for the new location and for equipment and a daily cleaning service to keep the center sanitized against COVID-19.

Recently, student Silvia Monaco and volunteer Susan Stulz sat at a backyard table in the verdant garden conversing mostly in English. The one-on-one conversation sessions are beneficial to both women. Stulz, of Los Altos Hills, wanted to learn Spanish, while Monaco needed to improve her English to get a better job.

A hospital nurse in her native El Salvador, she now works in Bay Area senior congregate care communities. Finding a job has sometimes been difficult because she didn't speak English well, she said, and part of caring for any patient involves communication.

As a hospital nurse, gently touching and talking to patients, together with medicine, helps them to heal faster, she said. Not speaking English restricted her powers as a healer — something she hopes to remedy.

"The medicine for the people is language," she said.

Make a donation
2023 Recipient Agency
Able Works$10,000


Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Art of Yoga Project$5,000

Aspire East Palo Alto
Charter School

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers
Athletic Foundation

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area

Blossom Birth and Family$5,000


CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$7,500

Community Legal Services
in East Palo Alto

Counseling and Support
Services for Youth (CASSY)

Downtown Streets Team$15,000


East Palo Alto Academy

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Razorhawks
Rugby Football Club

Eastside College
Preparatory School

Ecumenical Hunger

Environmental Volunteers $7,500


EPATT (East Palo Alto
Tennis and Tutoring)

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education


Fresh Lifelines for Youth$5,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto
Junior Museum & Zoo

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hidden Villa$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000


Lauren's House 4 Positive

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation$7,500

My New Red Shoes$5,000

Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto$10,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community
Child Care (PACCC)

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection $10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Pursuit of Excellence
Scholarship Foundation

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education

Rebuilding Together


Rich May Foundation$5,000

Riekes Center$5,000

Rise Together Education$15,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Science is Elementary$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban
Debate League

StreetCode Academy$10,000

The Circuit EPA$5,000

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association
Film Festival)

Vista Center for the Blind
and Visually Impaired



Youth Community Service $25,000

Child Care Grants


All Five$10,000

Children's Center of the
Stanford Community

Children's Preschool Center$5,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Community
Child Care (PACCC)

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

The Learning Center$10,000

As of October 2nd, 386 donors have contributed $744,423 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

58 Anonymous137,070
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Veronica Tincher*
Janice & Walter Sedriks100
Rob Colley & Kate Godfrey100
Wachtel Family1,000
Dr. & Mrs. Frederic J. Kahn1,000
Kim Harvey1,000
Richard M. Glendening100
James Lobdell & Colleen Anderson500
Kay Remsen*
Delle Maxwell1,000
Kenneth Bencala & Sally O'Neil100
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Eric & Katie Seedman*
Mitchell Rosen50
Colleen Chihak and Joe Urbassik*
Debbie Mytels100
Elizabeth Shepard*
Roger V. Smith500
Annette Isaacson200
Julie & Dan Lythcott-Haims250
Anne & Don Vermeil*
Deborah Roth200
Page & Ferrell Sanders150
Tess & Eric Byler150
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Denise and Jeff Simons*
Keith and Linda Clarke*
Peter Rosenthal1,000
Roderick C. McCalley100
Glenda & Gordon Hughes2,500
Nancy & Steve Levy250
Lynn and Andrew Newman*
Anthony & Susan Wood25,000
Boyce & Peggy Nute*
Maureen O'Connor150
Gwen Barry*
Martha Shirk1,200
Hoda Epstein*
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker1,000
Jack & Martha McLaughlin*
Elizabeth Lillard-Bernal75
Diane and Brandy Sikic*
Marilyn, Dale, Rick & Mei Simbeck*
Duane Bay & Barbara Noparstak150
Nancy & Jim Baer*
Werner Graf*
Alicia Newman100
Dorsey & Katherine Bass300
Jonathan MacQuitty & Laurie Hunter1,000
Bill Reller*
Edie Kirkwood1,000
Harry E & Susan B Hartzell100
Micri & Bob Cardelli*
George & Betsy Young*
Diana Diamond1,000
Ann Burrell & Charles Smith*
Brigid Barton 2,000
Charlie Williams*
Janis Ulevich*
Diane Doolittle*
Theradep Technologies500
Lee Zulman*
Jack and Susan Thomas*
Korol Family250
Bruce & Mary Beth Train500
Julie and Jon Jerome*
Lawrence R. Yang & Jennifer W. Kuan10,000
Harriet Benson10,000
Andrea B. Smith100
Arthur Keller250
Mackenzie Family Fund25,000
Leif and Sharon Erickson500
Susan D Osofsky Fund200
The Havern Family5,000
Weil Family Fund1,000
Gwen Luce and Family*
Barry L. Goldblatt150
Margaret A. Krebs578
Diane and Joe Rolfe*
Diane Finkelstein250
Linda & Steve Boxer*
David & Betsy Fryberger400
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Judith Appleby300
Chris & Anna Saccheri5,000
Donald Barr150
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Edward Kanazawa300
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell2,500
Karen A. Latchford*
Dawes Family Fund500
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Kingsley Jack250
Braff Family Fund 500
Jean MacDonell200
The Fruchterman Family Fund250
The UMOC Charitable Fund 250,000
Nancy Wong and Robert Lipshutz200
Ellmann Family100
Vic and Norma Hesterman200
Gil and Gail Woolley200
J Platt & S Murphy*
Richard and Karen Olson500
Richard Zuanich150
Carli Scott*
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Charles Katz & Gina Signorello250
Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow100
The Dong Family200
Jody Maxmin*
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Ellen and Ron Krasnow*
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Ed & Linda Selden721
Cynthia Costell100
Romola Georgia*
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Georgie Gleim1,000
Scottie Zimmerman100
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Marcia & Michael Katz200
Christine and Bob Buss*
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Pat Burt500
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Jean Doble*
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Kieschnick family1,000
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Steve & Diane Ciesinski500
Elizabeth Lee and Remington Fong*
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Barbara & Skip Shapiro*
Dena Hill500
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Art and Peggy Stauffer500
George & Betsy Bechtel200
Jonathan & Judith Rattner100
John Tang & Jean Hsia*
Joan Willingham150
Ed & Linda DeMeo500
Ellen M. Lillington200
Stuart & Carol Hansen*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Tom & Nancy Fiene200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Elizabeth Salzer & Richard Baumgartner*
Fran Codispoti250
Bruce Campbell*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Paul & Jane Millman250
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Deborah A. Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Merele McClure250
Kate & Marvin Feinstein1,000
Judy Kramer*
Richard & Pat Douglas50
Margaret Forsyth and Glenn Rennels*
David Backer500
Constance Crawford250
Kingston Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer500
Jill and Brian Bicknell300
Rosalind Haber200
Freddy & Jan Gabus250
Susan & Doug Woodman150
Donald Price*
Judy Ousterhout*
John Keller100
Hyrkin Family500
Donna Silverberg100
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Charlotte Johansen200
Robert McMillen100
Roger & Joan Warnke300
Virginia and David Pollard125
Jim & Valerie Stinger100
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Carolyn Williams & Mike Keeler*
Marian Sanders*
Katherine Bryant100
Ralph & Jackie Wheeler 300
Barbara Riper*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Carolyn Caddes*
Kroymann Family250
Marian Adams100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Elaine Hahn1,500
Joanne Koltnow400
Joan Norton*
Christina Kenrick1,000
Nina & Norman Kulgein200
Karen Winkleman Furman & Bruce Furman100
Richard Johnsson5,000
Becky & Ted Baer250
Xiaofan Lin100
Bonnie and Bryan Street*
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Larry Klein500
Marvin & Kate Feinstein500
Carol & Hal Louchheim400
Leonard & Mary Jo Levy150
Katherine L. Hunt400
Ajit Bhave & Manisha Kulshrestha500
Bill and Susan Beall *
Eric Keller and Janice Bohman*
Linda& Jerry Elkind*
Tony & Kathleen Hughes1,000
Leanne and Peter Giles100
Barbara Allen100
Dukovic and Frommer Charitable Fund100
John B. Florine Galen*
Diane Moore*
The Ely Family500
Scott & Sandra Pearson500
Trish Bubenik*
Eric & Linda Jensen250
Vic Befera 100
Mindy & David Sitzer*
David Kalkbrenner*
Rosalie Shepherd100
Kay Sabin*
George & Dianna Richardson250
Dr. Teresa L. Roberts1,000
In Memory Of

Margarot T. Hanks200
Florence K. Ho2,500
Carol Berkowitz*
Bill Land100
Marilyn Hansen*
Betty Meltzer50
Bertha Kalson*
Boyd Paulson Jr.3,000
Alan & Tracy *
Dr. David Zlotnick*
Paul Seaver*
Nate Rosenberg100
Kathy Morris1,500
Jeffrey David Tuerk*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Chet Brown*
Andre Jones *
Mary Floyd50
Mr. & Mrs. Ray Tinney200
Nellie Perna Bartello100
Mason & Ryan*
Mary & Emmet Lorey*
Ian Halliday250
David Sager100
Ruth Satterthwaite*
Marie and Don Snow200
Er-Ying and Y.C. Yen250
Beverly Aarts*
Ted Linden200
Philip M. Stein*
Jack Sutorius750
Walter Dean*
Rabbi Sidney and Marjorie Akselrad *
Gary Zweig500
Karl Knapp500
Bob Donald*
Aaron O’Neill*
Jim and Dottie Mellberg*
Shiela Mandoli*
J Norman Rossen*
Shiela Mandoli 100
Edward and Elizabeth Buurma*
Elizabeth and Edward Buurma*
Bob Markevitch100
Ray Bacchetti300
Bob Donald350
Steven T. Ross100
Leonard Ware*
Michele Wilson*
Lily & Philip Gottheiner150
Gerald Berner300
August King*
Bob Simoni500
Phil Zschokke200
Franklin Elieh*
Mary Alice Carpenter Pearson50
Robert Spinrad100
David W. Mitchell*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
Robert O. Jack150
Kaye H. Kelley & Richard C. Van Dusen*
Suman Patni*
Patricia A. Popp*
Duncan Matteson1,000
Maureen Martin*
Pam Grady250
In Honor Of

Dr Ron Radzilowski*
Marie Wolbach50
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach and Thomas & Louise Phinney1,000
Darla Tupper3,922
Marilyn Sutorius750
Joe Simitian*
Lee Zulman96
Polly Caddes*
Gabby Perez & Logan Marsh250
Liz Kniss250
Georgia Lee*
Barbara Zimmer and Kevin Mayer150
Businesses & Organizations

Delores Eberhart DDS*
Angelo Family Foundation 5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Arrillaga Foundation10,000
Leannah Hunt Realtor250
Peery Foundation10,000
Hearts & Minds Activity Center75
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run67,893
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Packard Foundation25,000
Communications & Power Industries LLC*
McCalmont Engineering2,500

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000