The El Puente Team

“El Puente has always been something more than a place to share a bowl of soup.  

It is a place in which human relationships and conversations reveal the incredible abilities, 

resources and potential hidden within each of us.” – Kent & Melissa Gledhill

how we started

Our Founders

meet our founders

Barry & Nanci Stevens

It was January 2003 and they had come to Costa Rica to retire. Starting a non-profit organization was never in their plan…

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Barry & Nanci Stevens

Founders of El Puente – The Bridge

"We do our best to be a bridge between ancient indigenous culture and the greater community of Talamanca"

In the weeks and months after moving to Costa Rica, Barry and Nanci realized the needs of the people who lived in the hills behind them. They began to offer healthy meals to the families who would appear at the edge of the jungle in search of work and food. While the pair of spry new retirees had always looked for ways to serve, El Puente became their next 15 years of retirement together.


They called it El Puente – The Bridge, because as Nanci explains: 

“We do our best to be a bridge between ancient indigenous culture and the greater community of Talamanca.”


From the food came conversation and friendship and through that the realization that children needed school books and uniforms in order to go to school, and that parents sometimes needed micro-loans and assistance to provide for their families. 


In feeding and serving people, Nanci and Barry Stevens became a bridge to the many tourists and volunteers who came to work in their small home every year. 


el puente now

Our Directors

meet our directors

Kent & Melissa Gledhill

Kent and Melissa Gledhill live with their four daughters in the mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado.  In 2015, their family spent five months living in Puerto Viejo and working as volunteers at El Puente.  This was a life-changing experience for all of them. 

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Kent & Melissa Gledhill

Executive Directors 

El Puente – The Bridge

"It is our dream that El Puente will continue to be a place where people are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to discover deep truth about themselves."

In 2015, their family spent five months living in Puerto Viejo and working as volunteers at El Puente.  This was a life-changing experience for all of them.  Whether the family (with kids ages 4-11 at the time) were of much help as volunteers is debatable.  But the experience of always being welcomed in, of always being viewed as valuable, and of always being made to feel that they had something to offer, made an impression. 

 

Four years later, when El Puente founders Barry and Nanci Stevens decided it was time to step down from their role, the Gledhills knew they wanted to be a part of making sure the program continued to exist.  

 

On the evening of their 20th wedding anniversary, Kent and Melissa decided over dinner at Koki Beach that they would say “Yes” to accepting the responsibility as the new directors. It still took another year after that…a year filled with many long conversations and many hard decisions, before that decision would become a reality.  

As of July 2020, the Gledhills are humbled to take the reins of this incredible program. 

 

It is their dream that El Puente will continue to be a place, as it was for them, where people are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to discover deep truth about themselves.  El Puente has always been something more than a place to share a bowl of soup.  It is a place in which human relationships and conversations reveal the incredible abilities, resources and potential hidden within each of us.  

 

You, also, are welcome at El Puente!  You are inherently valuable! And you, too, have something to offer in this world!  Come visit, have a bowl of soup, and see for yourself!

el puente now

Our Managers

meet our on-site managers

Derek & Mery Quiros

Derek and Mery Quiros live on-site at El Puente with their daughter Sophia. Together they dream of working hard to see the community empowered and unified.

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Derek, Mery & Sophia Quiros

On-site Managers

El Puente – The Bridge

"Our dream is to see those who come to El Puente empowered and interacting; unified as the family that they are."

Derek is indigenous BriBri of the Ulabruwak clan, which means “good farmer”. He has been an active member of the El Puente community since he was a child and has always enjoyed the family feeling of unity and community that is experienced at El Puente. As a teenager, he began to volunteer at El Puente doing various things and helping to prepare the soup on Saturdays.


Mery is originally from Argentina, she settled in Puerto Viejo in 2011 after falling in love with the Caribbean culture. When she met Derek she slowly began to integrate into the BriBri community and culture.


For a long time they both dreamed of the possibility of becoming more involved in the community activities at El Puente and they did not hesitate to join the team after knowing that they had Kent and Melissa’s support.


Their dream is to see the El Puente community grow with daily activities, completed projects, art activities, education, school and university degrees; to see those who come to El Puente empowered, interacting and unified as the great big family that they are.


A young couple, with a family that continues to grow, full of dreams and energy to help make El Puente grow along with the help of other similar minds and hearts. Hands that give will never be empty. Join them in this dream!