Marcos Garces, 25, got involved in sports as a matter of personal safety. His parents, raising him and his brother in the heart of San Jose, wanted to keep him off the streets and out of gangs. So they made sure he was always signed up for teams and classes—anything to keep him busy. Instead of dragging his feet, he welcomed the physical activity. He excelled at it.

Over the years, Garces picked up karate, soccer, baseball, football and ran track and field. While a student at Willow Glen High School, sports kept him focused, both in the classroom and on the field. That’s where he fell in love with football, which he played through the collegiate level at San Jose State University. In 2012, he graduated with a degree in kinesiology and became a personal trainer. sat down with Garces to learn about what motivates him as an athlete and mentor and to ask about his annual charity clothing drive, which goes on through next week.

Why did you become a personal trainer?

I come from a very supportive family who have always been there for me. My father has worked hard his entire life to give us the life that we have. I credit some of my work ethic to him. My mother is one of the strongest ladies I have ever met. Her strength has guided me and always pushed me to want more out of myself. She has shown me that anything and everything can be overcome. Along with my devotion for sports and working out I grew a passion for helping people and giving back to others. After I graduated from SJSU with a degree in Kinesiology, I went into the personal training industry. This is where I could get the best of both worlds. I could work out for a living and at the same time help change peoples lives through physical activity. I started my personal training career at the Performax Training Center located in the Cathedral of Faith church. I stayed here for about six months and learned a ton of vital information from the owner. I then started working at City Sports Club as a personal trainer in December of 2012, where I currently remain. Outside of City Sports, I’ve been a strength and conditioning coach at Leland High School for the past two school years. I also coached two years of varsity high school football at Leland High School and then Santa Teresa High School. My main goals and aspirations are to some day own my own private training facility, run my own business of fitness, be a strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level, and help as many people as I possibly can. My success as a trainer has mainly came through my ability to genuinely care for others.

What inspired you to start this charity drive?

I started the clothes drive back in 2012. I’ve always been passionate about helping people in need, so this was my first grand attempt at doing so. One of the main things I want to do with my life is help save someone else’s. The act of donating clothes may not help save someone’s life, but it will make things easier for people in need. I have always tried to lead by example. I’ve always wanted to be the reason for change, and that carries over to my work. Whether its helping change a family who aren’t fortunate enough to buy new clothes, to bringing people together to help change a community, or to changing someone’s outlook on the need to give back. I strive to be that change. I’ve always tried to stay true to who I am and true to what I believe in.

Which organization receives the clothes?

The first year I donated everything (42 bags of clothes) to Sacred Heart Community Service located in San Jose. Sacred Heart is a non-profit which meets basic needs such as food, clothing, and housing assistance, while at the same time offering the tools for self-sufficiency, including employment assistance, family mentoring and adult and youth education programs. Last year, with the help of everyone, I was able to collect 82 bags worth of clothing. I donated them to Sacred Heart, Cityteam Ministries, and InnVision. Cityteam is a non-denominational Christian non-profit serving the poor and the homeless in local communities in the United States. InnVision provides emergency shelter for women and women with children for up to 90 days. While in the shelter, women work closely with a case manager to secure transitional or permanent housing.  Daycare, employment services, and counseling are provided to break the cycle of homelessness. Last year on Christmas day I set up an area with clothes and shoes at St. James park in downtown San Jose. Everything was taken within minutes. This year I plan on finding more organizations to give back to and I want to set up an area again at St. James Park for people to get stuff. I also want to find in home families who I can personally take things to. I’ve never incorporated that aspect, but I surely hope to do so for this year.

What would you tell people to encourage them to give? 

This is such a simple thing to contribute to. First and foremost, we all have things that we never wear and need to get rid of. Instead of just letting it sit there, why not donate it to someone in need who will actually wear it? It helps clean out your closet and at the same time could be helping give a person, family or a whole community new clothes. Too many people talk about change and making a difference, but not enough people take the initiative to actually do something about it. I made a plan and stuck with it. The act of giving/ helping is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling feelings a person can have. Anyone and everyone can help make a difference. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you look like. If you’re passionate about something and have love in your heart the possibilities of what a person can achieve is endless. Multiply that passion and love times a group of people and you have change, you have hope, you have the potential to help make a difference in this life.

How can people donate?

If you want to join in and help give back you can contact me directly at 408.316.0212. From here we can set up a drop off destination. You can also drop donations off at City Sports Club located at 1045 E. Brokaw Road in San Jose. I set up a bin to the left of the door as soon as you walk in.