Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

The South County Expo used to be a heck of an event here in town; but like all events, it takes people to host year after year and the people get tired. A couple of years ago, the Soledad Merchants Association elected to revitalize the event and host a showcase for local businesses, a forum for folks to share who they are and what they do.

I always enjoy these get-togethers, a couple of hours of chatting to your neighbors in business and reminding yourself of what it is like to live and work in a small town. It’s worth the effort to put yourself out there, for want of a better phrase, and be a part of your local community. Maria and Frank Corralejo spend an immense amount of their free time working on community projects to enhance life in this small town, and it does not go unnoticed.

My business partner Letty and I had a booth each at the expo — one for our real estate business Legacy Real Estate group — and one for my bookshop LUNAbooks (my book-writing hobby). With five titles to my name, it always makes me feel proud to set up my bookshop wherever I go and realize that I accomplished my goal of being a published author, whether or not anyone actually buys and reads the books.

We were greeted at the expo by a group of young people in green shirts. They asked if they could help carry our stuff into the hall. This was a nice touch. They were members of a Workforce group that assist in the communities and get work ethics and experiences that will help them in future life. I thought that a marvelous idea.

Another great idea was the entry fee being a few cans of unperishable food to benefit the Salvation Army. We can easily forget what tremendous work the Sally Army does for those in need — meals provided, food baskets handed out, shelter provided and so on. If you are in need, they will help you. Reminding people of the importance of their work was a lovely touch to a pre-Thanksgiving event.

All of a sudden, I realized that several of the workforce students were standing in front of my booth. “What exactly is it that you do?” they asked me. A direct question from a young person struck me as interesting. I explained that I was a local columnist and author, also a REALTOR for my day job. “Oh, you have two jobs?” they enquired. “Well, no. I have a job and I have a hobby.” I tried to explain to them that you do not always get to have the two things merge as one and they found that rather inspiring, it seemed.

They wanted to know about each one of my books and what they were about. This was an on-the-spot interview I hadn’t anticipated. I asked them if they read books and if they would like a book. To my surprise they all wanted a book. If they didn’t have any cash on them (maximum price for them $5), then I gave them books anyway. I was so delighted to have come across a group of young people who seemed as excited by books as me. Then they wanted the books autographed. “I can’t believe I am standing in front of a real-life author!” exclaimed one. Had to giggle at that.

If you would have asked me about my expectations for the expo, I would have said that I would have chatted mildly with a couple of folks about the state of the real estate market. (Rates are still high, low inventory, blah blah.) A few people would have asked if the bookmarks and pens were free (yes) and I would maybe have sold a couple of my books, if I was lucky. Plus, the candy trays would have been emptied. I was literally blown away by this group of Workforce kids who were so personable and interested in the world. I know they will all do well. I commended their supervisor on what a lovely group of young people he brought along to our event. I really love to be pleasantly surprised in this life.

If you have a youngster in your life and you are not sure how to get them on a good path to life, I would urge you to check out the Workforce group and all their good works. I shall be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

“I’ve already got through two chapters,” chirped one young man at the event, holding up one of my books. “It’s so good!” If there was ever a reason to keep writing, this group gave me several.

Thank you, South County Expo and the Corralejos for hosting another great event. I look forward to next year’s and hope that my Workforce kids will be back and ready to read some more of my books.

What a wonderful time we had at our local expo. I went home that night with my heart very full of optimism and promise for the next generation.

While you are feasting around your dinner table this Thanksgiving, spare a thought for those you have food anxiety in their families and maybe send a few dollars to the Salvation Army folks who feed people year-round, not just during the holidays. It is a real and present need in our communities that we cannot ignore.

Check out montereycountyworks.com, email [email protected] (Green Cadre) and visit salvationarmyusa.org for more information.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].

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