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Employee Spotlight - Manny Villalon - Meeting a Hero

Manny and Jerico

I met Jeronimo Garcia in May of 2023. The experience of meeting someone who I've been following for years, and someone who I look up to as a mentor and a role model not only as a boxing coach but also as a great human being was overwhelming. But first let me tell you about how Jeronimo Garcia and I came across in life.

I started following Jeronimo Garcia "Coach Jero," like most people call him, back in 2020. I came across his Instagram page during the pandemic year and I really liked the way he was teaching boxing online. I found his methodology to be very interesting, engaging, and fun at the same time. But what I really liked the most about him was the message he will always send to his students and followers at the end of every session. His messages were very encouraging, inspiring and most importantly, they were specifically directed to the youth. And that is what really got my attention and inspired me to continue following him and learning more about him.

Therefore, I decided to do my own research about who this Jeronimo Garcia guy really is, because I wanted to learn a little bit more about his boxing background. Little did I know, I learned that he was a former boxing middleweight national champion born and raised in Madrid, Spain, who grew up in a rough environment and went through a lot of trials and tribulations during his childhood and as young adulthood as well. I also learned that because of boxing he turned his life around, and just like he said in his own words: “I was able to turn my life around because of the discipline and commitment that it takes to become a boxer, and that is why I do what I do for a living nowadays.”

I also learned that he took part in a couple of movies in Spaniard cinema and also he was the main character of a very popular TV reality show in Spain called "El Hermano Mayor" (The Big Brother). His role on this TV show was to help troubled youth to cope with addiction and behavioral issues. Obviously, Jeronimo Garcia was the right guy to play this role because of his life background and the way he was able to defeat all the odds that life threw at him. So in this TV show, the families of these so-called "at risk children" will contact Jeronimo and ask for his help to straighten their kids out.

On top of that, Jeronimo Garcia has done a couple of TED talks:

Mi batalla contra la violencia y la exclusión social. Jero García, exboxeador y formador, and has become a public figure and a role model all over Spain and in some parts in Europe. He currently owns two boxing gyms in Spain, he is the CEO and founder of his own non-profit organization "Sports VS. Bullying" The Jeronimo Garcia Foundation, travels across the country going to different schools, colleges and universities to talk to the youth and give speeches about life, sports and education. Jeronimo Garcia has helped hundreds of kids and people in general and continues to do so to this day.

So after I learned all these things about Jeronimo Garcia, who he is and what he does for a living, I really got very curious and interested in meeting this guy in person one day because I was able to relate his life story with mine.

So one day I sent him a text message, via Instagram, introducing myself and telling him

that I have been following him for a few years and that I truly admire what he does for a living, specially for our children, because I kind of have the same mindset about sports and the impact that dedication, discipline and higher education can have upon our children. At first I thought he was never going to reply back to me. The fact that he is famous and probably a very busy man with a very busy agenda, my text message probably was never going to be read by him. Next thing I know, three hours after I sent him the text, he replied back to me and our conversation started flowing. We started sharing ideas about using sports as medicine. I told him a little bit about who I am and what I do for DSAL and I even shared our DSAL Boxing Academy Instagram link with him, which he liked a lot. In fact, he told me that if I ever go to Spain, to come and visit him at his gym.

So in January of 2023 my wife and I planned to go to Spain for vacation to see some family and friends, and guess what?... right there and then I said to myself: "Manny this is your chance now to go and meet that guy that you have been following online for the last three years, you have to go and meet coach Jero in person." So I sent him another text message and I told him I was traveling to Spain in May. He replied back to me saying the following words: "I can't wait to meet you my friend, and learn more about the wonderful job you guys are doing over there on the other side of the ocean."

I arrived in Spain and after spending a few nights in Barcelona, I got in my car and traveled to Madrid to meet with Jero. I was so excited that I rented a bicycle and rode it for 20 kilometers. All the way from my Hotel in Downtown Madrid to "Barrio El Lucero" in Madrid Spain, which is a very rough neighborhood where Jeronimo Garcia grew up. And this is exactly the hood where he opened his first boxing gym named "La Escuela de Boxeo" The School of Boxing.

As soon as I walked into the boxing gym, he was right there sitting by the ring waiting

for me. I felt like a little child who was taken to the movies for the first time to watch Superman. It was overwhelming and humbling to be right there standing right next to the guy who I have met 3 years ago, and inside his own boxing gym!!!

As soon as we started talking, I could tell that he and I had a lot in common. The conversations we had were not just only about boxing, they were also about life, education, parenting in this new century, pain and struggle. We hit it off right away and then after being there for almost three hours, one thing that I will never forget was when he told me: “the root of the problem with our youth in today’s era is a product of the lack of responsibility, engagement and communication that parents should have with their children. Even more so, it is the lack of will for some of us to educate ourselves as parents and recognize when something is wrong. Come and see me next time you are back in Spain coach Manny.”

We took a picture together, exchanged both of our gym shirts and I told him "alright my brother Jero, I will see you next time."

The things that I learned on this day from Jeronimo Garcia and his foundation are very similar to what we do here at the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League.

These are definitely life lessons and I feel like I just got another degree in life coping skills and using sports as medicine.

Officers and DSAL staff delivering cart with supplies to a community member in need

DDF - Going Above and Beyond to Help a Community Friend

Deputy K. Feagley was at the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub in unincorporated San Leandro when she encountered a gentleman needing assistance who came to the farm for food.

Kimberly, the site manager, advised Deputy Feagley that the man was an unhoused community member who had been walking up the hill one to two times a day for months for fresh water, a warm meal, and dry foods to take with him in a cart Dig Deep Farms staff bought him with money they each pitched in to purchase. This made it easier for him to carry his things up and down the hill multiple times daily.

His cart was recently stolen. Around the same time, a kind citizen donated $500 to DSAL, and Deputy Feagley spearheaded an effort to use the donation to help our new friend.

Deputy Feagley and Kimberly used the donated funds to purchase items, and assembled a care package for him. The care package contained a foam pad, sleeping bag, camping pillow, blankets, hygiene items including wipes, soap, oral hygiene, a battery-powered shaver, several clean outfits, hiking boots, and a new pull cart. Information regarding additional resources and services is provided to our community member on an ongoing basis.

We are extremely proud of our staff, who went above and beyond to help a community friend, treating him with respect and compassion. We are equally proud of Deputy Feagley for her dedication, compassion, and outstanding work ethic.

Additionally, we extend a heartfelt thank you to the community member who donated the funds. Your act of kindness helped make this possible.

Celebrate Summer at Eden Night Live,

Friday, August 25th, 4-8PM, Hayward Adult School

Our next ENL is August 25th!

ENL is DSAL’s FREE, monthly, family-friendly placemaking event to celebrate the arts, culture, food, recreation, small business, and community!

The Hayward Adult School parking lot transforms into a safe place for kids to play, adults to connect, nonprofits to share resources, and performers and small businesses to reach new audiences.

The Sunset Futsal Park will be open for free, after-hours, recreational soccer, with no pre-registration required.

This month's ENL will feature:

A children's BIKE RAFFLE sponsored by the Bay Area Bike Project!

DSAL received a donation of 30 bikes courtesy of Bay Area Bike Project (BABP), a non-profit organization that mobilizes people through the Power of Bicycles. BABP hosted a Bike Build event at Cummins Sales and Service in San Leandro, where the bikes were assembled by warehouse workers. Some of these bikes were raffled off to community members age 8 and under at our July ENL, and another batch will be at our free raffle during Eden Night Live August 25th!

Eden Night Live Includes:

∙ Music

∙ Dancing

∙ Futsal

∙ Food from local vendors

∙ Games for all ages

∙ Group art projects

∙ Resource fair

DSAL Health & Fitness Positive Impact Report page 1

Positive Impact Report with Participant Stories!

DSAL provides safe, inclusive sports programming and develops sporting infrastructure as strategic investments into structured play, which builds a stronger and safer society in Alameda County according to the Community Capitals Public Safety Framework. We have put together a report detailing the positive impact that our programs have on the community, complete with heartwarming stories from some of our wonderful participants! Ashland and Cherryland have a dramatic lack of opportunity for youth advancement. We fill that void by:

  • Providing training and experience in sports, opening up new worlds for young people.

  • Giving youth structure and coping skills that serve them throughout their lives.

  • Teaching the importance of regular fitness for the body and mind.

  • Providing individuals with strong role models, a sense of belonging, and a welcoming and supportive environment

We emphasize:

  • Good sportsmanship and positive attitude

  • Alternatives to anger and negative emotions

  • Pride, perseverance, and camaraderie

The spirit and heart in our coaches, mentors, and trainers is contagious. Young people grow into strong young adults who coach, mentor, and lead following generations into safer, healthier ways of existing. Our impact on our youths’ potential and the community multiplies with every life we serve.

Bag of groceries graphic

1,024,482 POUNDS of Food Saved and Distributed to Community Members!

Our Food Recovery team SMASHED their goal, recovering over ONE MILLION POUNDS of valuable food this year, and redistributing it to food-insecure communities through our Food Recovery Program!

If you know someone in need of food, or know of a business that could contribute to our program and help keep our residents fed, let us know!

Proceeds from the sale of our CSA bags filled with fresh, locally grown produce go towards building a more resilient and productive Alameda County, with the goal of food-security for all. Order yours today and support your community while eating well yourself!

Hayward Promise Neighborhoods Logo

Funder Spotlight: Hayward Promise Neighborhood

Hayward Promise Neighborhoods (HPN) is a collaborative partnership led by Cal State East Bay working to ensure educational success from cradle to career and a safe, healthy, thriving community for all living in Hayward.

Their goal is to maximize existing assets in the neighborhoods so that all children, families, and community members have access to equitable opportunities along with a cradle to career continuum of services and supports. These services and supports include the areas of educational success, physical and social-emotional health, and a safe and sustainable thriving community. Explore their programs and services available to families in HPN.

Funders like HPN support our work and allow us to continue to serve the needs of our community. Thank you Hayward Promise!

Miiki in the greenhouse with fresh local produce

DSAL’s Small Business Spotlight: Nourishing Community with Miiki from ALAB SF

Our Small Business Spotlight is on Miiki Bunag - chef and owner of ALAB SF - a healthy and delicious meal delivery service that uses a restorative approach to cooking.

Chef Miiki recognizes that food plays a vital role in our health, as well as physical fitness, mental and social well-being, and has become a vital part of the chef community at our Food Hub.

Treating food as medicine with the use of whole foods, organic, local and sustainable foods and practices, ALAB SF takes you on a journey with a wide variety of cuisines each week, re-creating dishes with cleaner versions, taking out dairy, gluten, and refined sugar/oils, and uses sustainable packaging.

Find our more about the delicious meal options on their website or in our Food Hub Magazine!

Rex (Flordy) Nduenga kicking a ball like a champ at soccer camp

Summer Camp Participant Rex (Flordy) Nduenga is DSAL’s Athlete of the Month

This was Rex's third year attending DSAL Summer Camp. Rex always brings a can-do attitude to camp and is his behavior and positive attitude towards others is exemplary. He is always willing to jump in and try any new activity, and he supports and assists others when needed. Our coaches agree, it has been great having Rex in summer camp!

"This a great way to interact with others and have a good time. My favorite part about participating in this program is playing soccer, and I like the workouts.

The program provides a fun and safe environment for youth, so in that way, I see that it contributes to a healthier and safer community. Participants are supervised and have a safe place to go, so they can stay out of trouble.

I have noticed positive changes in my life since starting the program - without it I would be home alone, or playing video games. I like to interact with other kids, so the hardest part of the program for me is when I have to go home.”

- Rex (Flordy) Nduenga


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