Living Well

Like many residents of Monterey County, Cosme Padilla’s ancestry can be traced back to Mexico. He was 4 when his family migrated to the U.S. and made their way from Texas to California, where they finally settled in Castroville. Padilla, now 79, went on to serve in the U.S Navy. He also worked in the artichoke fields, on the railroad and as a firefighter for the Salinas Fire Department. He was 56 when he retired after a heart attack.“I was given a second chance in life,” Padilla says.“Twenty-three years ago, on my birthday…I was born again.” He’s used that second chance to serve in a variety of roles, including political appointments. He was a planning commissioner for the County of Monterey for 12 years and is now president of the board of directors of Castroville Community Service District. He served on nonprofit Rancho Cielo’s board. Padilla is a humble person who prefers to work in the community rather than talk about himself. He channeled experiences of discrimination and racism growing up into working to empower fellow Latinos. He and his brothers created the Black & White Ball, a scholarship fundraiser, and supported redistricting efforts to help empower Latinos to run for (and win) elected office. As a firefighter, Padilla saved the lives of people in Salinas. He continues to do so across the border.This time, instead of being on the line, he does it behind the scenes, finding fire engines and ambulances that fire departments don’t use anymore and pairing them with cities in Mexico that need one. “They don’t have the equipment they have here, so whatever we could give them they appreciate—they put it to use,” he says. The fountain outside of Our Lady of Refuge Church in Castroville is a donation from Jerécuaro, Guanajuato, as a thank you for one of the nine vehicles Padilla has sent across the border. Padilla likes traveling with his wife, Juanita, and spending time with his family (four daughters, eight grandchildren and soon six great-grandchildren), attending his grandkids’ baseball and football games. Daughter Yvette Padilla admires her dad’s determination, and notes he’s fond of saying,“If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Padilla is proud the younger generation is following in service-oriented footsteps. “That’s everybody’s dream, [that] somebody can pick up the mantle and continue doing it,” he says. Community First Cosme Padilla is a community activist dedicated to public service and leveraging his skills to help others. By Celia Jiménez DANIEL DREIFUSS Seneca Family of Agencies Central Coast Seneca Familia de Agencias Costa Central • Community services including foster care, adoption, relative caregiver support, children’s mental health and wraparound services, and parent and professional education. • Servicios comunitarios que incluyen cuidado tutelar, adopción, apoyo a parientes cuidadores, salud mental infantil y servicios integrales, y educación para padres y profesionales. M-F/L-V 8:30am-5pm 831-455-9965 Suicide Prevention Services of the Central Coast Servicios de Prevención de Suicidio de la Costa Central • Crisis hotline • Volunteer responders • Community outreach and education • Línea de crisis • Socorristas voluntarios • Alcance comunitario y educación Available/Disponible 24/7 9-8-8 Option 1 / Opción 1 Sun Street Centers Centros de Sun Street • Residential and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment programs • Education and prevention services • DUI program • Sober living environment aftercare • Programas y tratamientos residenciales y ambulatorios para alcohol y drogas • Servicios de prevención y educativos Counseling/ Mental Health Services Servicios de Consejería/ Salud Mental 34 The Best of Monterey Bay® Living Well 2024-2025