Memorial Day in St. Anthony’s Dining Room: The Busiest Day of the Year
St. Anthony’s Dining Room is braced to serve up to 3,500 meals on Memorial Day, over a thousand more meals than the average day. One in five of those meals will be served to a Veteran.
Henry, a regular diner at St. Anthony’s, is one of the hundreds of Veterans who will be served that day. Henry served his country in the Marines from 1969 – 1976. Honorably discharged, he struggled to find his way in life after returning back to the United States from the Far East. Henry attributes the disproportionate number of Veterans in the Dining Room to a disconnect between their lives and where they go to receive services.
“What happens to a lot of Veterans I know is that they don’t realize they have all these benefits. I didn’t go to the VA until 1996. I got back from the service in 1976. A lot of Veterans get disconnected. They put you back in society to survive on your own.” read more…
Those who’ve read all the kind and great things said about Lon Simmons, the former broadcaster for the Giants, A’s, and 49ers will not be surprised to know that his compassion and goodness was expressed each month through a generous donation to support the work of St. Anthony’s.
Lon took care of all of us who couldn’t get to the game and listened over the airwaves. For decades and right up to the present, he made sure that the poorest among us also listened to the game after having shared a nutritious meal in our Dining Room.
Read more about the life of Lon in SFGate.
When Zendesk, the customer service software company, moved into the rapidly developing mid-Market area adjacent to the Tenderloin, they connected with the neighborhood in a profound way. Their employees volunteer regularly in St. Anthony’s Dining Room. The company donates a portion of the proceeds from one of their products to St. Anthony Medical Clinic. And they helped the Tenderloin Tech Lab develop a mobile web site for low-income people to find the services they need, closest to their location, a project now being expanded upon by other partners and the City of San Francisco.
When Del Seymour got sober and stabilized his life, partly with help from St. Anthony’s, he decided to connect visitors to San Francisco with a community usually omitted from the guidebooks: the poorest people in the city, many of whom live in the Tenderloin. His Tenderloin Walking Tours are now a favorite among readers of The Huffington Post, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
When Eric Barrett looked out the window and saw St. Anthony’s Free Clothing Program serving hundreds of low-income residents, he did not content himself with looking on. He called St. Anthony’s and donated some of the stock he’d earned as an engineer at Facebook to support the work he saw. He participated in the work by making a gift.
These are people who bloom where they are planted, who live where they find themselves: across the street, across UN Plaza, across the economic divide. This is also the secret of living that St. Anthony’s guests teach our staff and volunteers every day. Be where you are. Join in. Don’t look the other way. Be part of the miracle.
The Tenderloin, for all its troubles and tragedies, is a vibrant community. Filmmaker Henri Quenette discovered this last year. He was so inspired by the people he met that he made a documentary about the neighborhood, Love me Tenderloin, spotlighting four Tenderloin residents, some of them St. Anthony’s guests, and inspiring others to see the beauty in these streets.
It’s easy for those who do not live or work in the Tenderloin to define the neighborhood by what is missing. We at St. Anthony’s define it by what—and who—is here, and we ensure that we not only connect those in need with stabilizing services, but also that we connect those who share a common dignity as human beings; that we bring together people who would not otherwise have met.
When people connect at St. Anthony’s, they reconnect to the heart of the city. We are so glad that you have connected with this community.
Barry J. Stenger
At our Free Clothing Program, we are able to run efficiently and effectively with the assistance of our many volunteers. Our volunteers come through corporate groups, high school groups, the community, and also through programs that promote economic self-sufficiency for individuals looking to build vocational skills. One of our new volunteers, Laura Chinas, found St. Anthony’s through Arriba Juntos, a non-profit employment and training organization. Laura was recently featured in an SF Gate article highlighting the difficulties families living in Single Room Occupancy (SRO) arrangements face. Here is some more information about Laura and her family’s situation, which is unfortunately not a unique story in San Francisco.
Laura, her husband, their 11 year old daughter, and three sons, ages 9, 8, and 5, as well as their two dogs live in an SRO on Mission Street. Their monthly rent is $1000, which they have difficulty affording. Laura’s husband does not have a permanent job and must find work on a daily basis. Laura currently has applied for employment authorization, which may take several months. One part of the process requires renewal of her California identification card, which has expired; our Social Work Center will be able to provide her with a voucher to get a new identification card free of charge. Through Arriba Juntos, she is able to receive compensation through CalWORKS to work at St. Anthony’s for five hours a week. The program, in addition to providing job training, also has its participants work on their English skills. Laura is slowly but steadily working on her English skills. She has a better grasp on understanding English than speaking it herself.
The Chinas family receives $800 a month from CalWORKS benefits and $620 a month in Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The SRO they reside in does not have a full kitchen so Laura prepares meals on a portable stove. She says that it is too expensive to eat out and she must buy food at discount stores, but that is still not enough for her family. Thankfully, her children were able to take summer school classes this year, which provided free lunches.
Laura’s family lives in a 10 x 10 foot room. All of her children sleep in one bed while she and her husband sleep on the floor. The family has trouble getting adequate rest because their living space is so small. Laura also has trouble sleeping because of constant worries about what the next day will bring. She feels tired during the day due to the many tasks she needs to take care of and the feeling that others will not help her. She often feels depressed and nervous because her family has been on the public housing waitlist for five years with no indication that the wait will end soon. Her husband is desperate to find a new housing arrangement for the family, but they are having a difficult time because of the size of their family. Her daughter in particular longs for some space of her own as she does not even have enough space to do her homework.
When she receives authorization for employment, she will search for a full time job. For the time being, she has been enjoying her time at St. Anthony’s. She was excited to start helping at St. Anthony’s and likes it here. She enjoys working with clothing and the environment that St. Anthony’s fosters.
The scaffolding’s coming down, the drywall’s going up, and we’re on schedule to open the doors to the New St. Anthony’s Dining Room this fall.
When construction’s complete, we’ll be able to serve 43% more guests in a gorgeous space with floor-to-ceiling windows, state-of-the-art equipment, and easy access to the rest of our programs & services, helping San Franciscans in need find a path to stability.
Stay tuned for details on the grand opening!
Twitter’s Nonprofit Volunteer Fair connected St. Anthony’s with a plethora of new volunteers. Folks were interested in volunteering in our Tech Lab, Dining Room, and offering pro bono services.
We met a Twitter Dining Room volunteer who found his experience so meaningful he stayed around to share his story with co-workers visiting our table, and we got to say hello to some of our Tech Lab volunteers too! Kudos to Twitter for hosting this event, held on April 29th, and for serving most excellent cupcakes to everyone.