Local nonprofit brings hope one costume at a time


Cony Fuentes

A little girl tries on a princess costume at the Una Vida costume drive. More than 300 costumes were given away.

One Life Counseling Services, a nonprofit organization in San Carlos that states on its website that they provide counseling by skilled therapists for anyone regardless of socioeconomic status, helped to bring the local Latino community together with community outreach events including food deliveries and a recent costume drive for immigrants and families in need on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Una Vida, the newly created division of One Life focused on providing bilingual mental health services, was launched in June of 2022 and organized the costume drive. They work specifically with the Latino community and provide various mental health support resources and cultural events like a recent Day of the Dead celebration.  

Cony Fuentes, the Director of Community Partnership for Una Vida, explained that they collected around 500 costumes and distributed over 300 to local children. Community members gave new or used costumes and helped organize them by gender and size for children between three and 14. The drive was advertised on Una Vida’s website calendar and across social media platforms like the Nextdoor app.  

Cindy Schwaab is the Director of Community Outreach for One Life and helped at the costume drive. She explained that One Life believes cost should not stop someone from getting the care or resources they and their families need.

“We get to know that when there are Halloween parties and parades at schools, our kids will be able to march around happily with their classmates. That matters a lot,” Schwaab said.

Among the Latino community that Una Vida works with are immigrants who have just arrived in the United States and often do not have places to live or adequate resources.

We get to know that when there are Halloween parties and parades at schools, our kids will be able to march around happily with their classmates. That matters a lot.”

— Cindy Schwaab

“Trying to introduce [new immigrants] to the community is difficult, like American holidays and everything, it is really important for these new people. Things are expensive, and sometimes they might not even have a place to live, let alone a costume,” Fuentes said. 

Bay Area resident Zita Agazzi echoed Fuentes’ sentiment of how difficult it is to adapt to the local community after immigrating to the U.S. Agazzi explained that she immigrated from Argentina to the Bay Area in 2002, and despite coming with her husband on a school visa, she did not speak any English. 

“I think that was definitely the hardest part. In Argentina, I always studied French. So I did have the process in my head for learning another language, but it was difficult,” Agazzi said.

Even though she was a native Spanish speaker, she found an organization while living in Berkeley that helped with learning French, the Alliance Francaise de Berkeley. Agazzi said that the people there helped her the most, showing her how to enroll in English classes at the Berkeley Adult School and get a phone number. One of the connections she made there even helped Agazzi get her first high school teaching job. 

“It was very lonely in the beginning … If I hadn’t made the connection with these French people and the Alliance Francaise de Berkeley, I think I would have gone back to Argentina,” Agazzi said.

She added that she couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to immigrate to the United States without having a community or resources like the ones she had found.

That is where One Life comes in. Schwaab explained that they have resources that will have the most impact, with over 100 therapists and counselors in more than 24 schools. Additionally, they partner with Second Harvest to provide groceries for community members in need. 

“We get to take on the weight of others’ stress and sadness and give people hope,” Schwaab said.