Heart iconDonate
St. Anthony's Foundation logo mark
St. Anthony's Foundation logo mark

Beyond the Chess Board: Leon’s Moves to Mentor, Motivate, and Serve

April 29, 2024

Leon, a longtime volunteer at St. Anthony’s and a chess enthusiast, views life much like a chess game—full of strategic moves and thoughtful decisions. His journey began when he moved from New Jersey to the West Coast in 1994, driven by a desire for a new environment and to manage his arthritis more effectively in a warmer climate. Leon’s life took a significant turn when he discovered St. Anthony’s, a place that would eventually become a central part of his life.

“I first stumbled upon St. Anthony’s in 1995 when I was looking for food. Little did I know that this place would become a significant part of my life,” Leon recalled. His initial visit marked the beginning of what would be a long-standing relationship with the organization. He began volunteering in the early 2000s when the shelter operations were in full swing. “I think volunteering helps the community and helps me feel like I’m a part of something bigger,” Leon said.

Throughout his life, Leon has volunteered in various cities across the United States, such as Sacramento, Oakland, and as far away as New Jersey and Georgia. His experience spans multiple organizations, including Volunteers of America and Loaves and Fishes. “It’s not about prestige or recognition for me. I volunteer because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Chess, a game Leon passionately teaches and has played semi-professionally, mirrors the intentional and strategic approach he takes toward helping others in need. “Chess requires you to think ahead, plan your moves, and adapt based on actions that may be out of your control,” Leon explained. This philosophy translates into his work at St. Anthony’s, where he interacts with various people, each facing unique challenges that may be out of their control, to help them navigate their next moves towards a happier and healthier life in each interaction.

Leon’s chess expertise extended into organizing tournaments and teaching the game every Tuesday at St. Anthony’s around 2009. “I used to run a chess tournament here every three months. St. Anthony’s would donate the prizes, and I organized everything because I knew how to do it,” he shared. Although he no longer organizes these events, his love for the game persists, and he continues to teach chess in schools, spreading his passion to younger generations.

One of Leon’s most memorable moments helping others involved a young man he met at Emporium Centre who was struggling with personal issues. After directing him to St. Anthony’s and a nearby center for teenagers, Leon later learned that the young man had found a job and was doing well. “It wasn’t directly at St. Anthony’s, but it’s all interconnected. Helping one person can change a part of their world,” he reflected.

As for advice to others considering volunteering, Leon keeps it simple: “It’s about giving a part of yourself to help others. It’s not just good for them; it’s good for you too. It gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.”

In reflecting on his time at St. Anthony’s and his broader experiences, Leon emphasized the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect. “We all face our battles, our own games to win,” he said, “but it’s important to make the right moves and help others along the way.”

Your support helps to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has access to the services and welcoming community they need to flourish. Please help us continue uplifting San Franciscans through our programs by giving today.

Our Partners

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.

Accept cookies
Skip to content