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Finding Light in Dark Times: Kathy Soothes COVID-19 Isolation at St. Anthony’s

March 6, 2024

Kathy is a cherished member of the St. Anthony’s senior community. With a friendly face framed by straight shoulder-length hair the color of granite, she’s always ready to give feedback and share her thoughts and concerns about the various activities in the neighborhood. She’s warm, talkative, approachable, and a favorite among St. Anthony’s team members.  

Kathy’s connection with the foundation emerged during a particularly challenging period of profound isolation following her husband’s death during the pandemic. “St. Anthony’s opened its doors through their Tech Lab at a time when the world felt closed off,” she remarked. While readjusting her metal-framed glasses, she further described the organization as “a beacon in the fog,” not only offering her assistance but also a sense of belonging within a community.

The Tech Lab adapted to the pandemic by moving its services outdoors, fostering a communal spirit among those who already experience severe isolation, ostracism, and societal exclusion—issues particularly acute for seniors. The COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures intensified these challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the necessary mandates led to a significant rise in mental health crises and fatalities.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently stated, “Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health.” Social isolation is recognized as a critical public health crisis, especially for older adults, due to its association with increased risks of cardiovascular, autoimmune, neurocognitive, and mental health problems. The pandemic heightened these risks, significantly elevating the dangers of depression and anxiety among the elderly, which underscored the vital role of communities like St. Anthony’s in alleviating these detrimental effects.

At St. Anthony’s, Kathy found the sense of community and safety she needed. Her initial interaction with the Tech Lab opened a door to resources and support, which further fostered her connection. “The Dining Room was also open for takeout, so I would go there…it was a very positive experience,” she said. These programs enriched her experience, provided nourishment for both body and soul, and played a crucial role in her sense of belonging by providing a safe haven and relief from the debilitating effects of extreme isolation.

Before connecting with St. Anthony’s, Kathy’s journey was marked by diverse experiences and transitions. Originally of Japanese descent but raised in the U.S., she spent years living in Japan later in life when her husband took a job there and said, “It was difficult to get a job as a woman in the old days.” She described it as a time of deep personal exploration and learning resilience. This experience, along with family struggles in her youth, equipped her with the strength to handle life’s unpredictable challenges. But the extreme pandemic isolation proved uniquely difficult. As a resourceful person, Kathy ventured out and immersed herself in the uplifting St. Anthony’s community during these trying times.

Today, Kathy is happy, healthy, and thriving. Through ongoing program participation, Kathy gives back to the community that once offered her a lifeline by offering the same lifeline in the form of a hand in friendship to others, embodying St. Anthony’s spirit of community resilience. She describes it as a place where “everyone is the same” and there are “genuine connections.” “Giving back means everything to me. It’s my way of saying thanks for the hope and support that changed my life,” she said.

Kathy’s journey with St. Anthony’s shows the transformative power of community support in hard times. Her experiences highlight the critical role the foundation plays in providing a sanctuary for those in need. Reflecting on Kathy’s story, it’s evident that St. Anthony’s mission goes beyond direct safety net services by creating a safe, welcoming place to foster belonging and strength when people need it most. “My journey shows how much we can overcome together,” Kathy aptly concluded, fully capturing the power of community to transcend difficulties and uplift lives.

Your support helps to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has access to the resources and community they need to overcome obstacles and thrive. Please help us continue uplifting our neighbors by giving today.

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