BELLINGHAM - Ray Giordano expects to be among the guests at the Friday, March 29, potluck commemorating the work of an old friend of his: Cesar Chavez.
Giordano, 95, is a retired attorney who lives in Bellingham. He and his late wife Jeanne, who died in 2011, spent many years supporting Chavez's efforts to organize and unionize California farmworkers. Giordano also went to court to defend the rights of Chavez's supporters to set up informational picket lines outside California supermarkets during the United Farm Workers' grape boycott and similar efforts.
Giordano's relationship with Chavez began about 40 years ago. He and Jeanne went to hear "somebody speaking at a church about farmworkers."
"Somebody" turned out to be Chavez, the cofounder of United Farm Workers who became a guiding light for many in the struggle for social justice before he died in 1993.
Giordano said he and his wife got the message that Chavez and his group needed help. So they collected a bunch of old clothes and shoes and dropped them off at the union office in Delano, Calif.
"They said thank you very much, but this isn't the kind of help we need," Giordano recalled.
Chavez told them his group needed money to pay people to do the job of organizing farmworkers.
Giordano gives Jeanne most of the credit for the organization that resulted: the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farm Workers.
They scheduled monthly dinners with guest speakers on farmworker issues, and collected donations. Later, they participated in strikes and boycotts that United Farm Workers organized.
Along the way, the couple became fast friends with Chavez, who stayed at their home occasionally when he was in the area.
"He was a very religious man," Giordano said. "He was really a pacifist. ... He was someone who was really an outstanding human being who, out of very humble beginnings as a farmworker himself, was able to dedicate himself to the betterment of the lives of other people."
CESAR CHAVEZ POTLUCK
What: Seventh annual Cesar Chavez Community-Supported Justice potluck
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, March 29
Where: St. Luke's Community Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Parkway
Who: Event supports Community to Community Development, a local farmworker and immigrant rights group
Featured speaker: Aurora Martin, executive director of Columbia Legal Services
Suggested donation $5, plus healthy potluck dish; dessert provided