On most days in St. Anthony’s Dining Room, you’ll find Cheryl singing tributes to the people she loves in the Tenderloin. This past Monday – Memorial Day – her songs were replaced by quiet contemplation and thoughts of her late husband, a Veteran of World War II. She held a small American Flag close to her heart, a remembrance for the sake of a song.
Cheryl was joined at the table by Henry, a Veteran from the Vietnam War era. Despite the hustle and bustle around them – this is St. Anthony’s busiest day of the year – Henry’s thoughts, too, were of fellow soldiers no longer here to be honored on this day. “Other people have other minds for festivities, but mine is focused on the Veterans who gave all.”
Memorial Day is a perfect storm in St. Anthony’s Dining Room. People surviving on a modest fixed-income have run out of funds for the month and the federal holiday means other services are closed. Add to the mix that many people in San Francisco have other things on their mind, namely the three B’s of Memorial Day: Beaches, Barbeques, and Baseball. Preparing for this meal is a herculean feat to accomplish for the chefs and regular volunteers who scramble to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for meals; 4,000 meals to be exact, fourteen hundred higher than the daily average.
The three B’s of Memorial Day are the last thing on the minds of those who turn to St. Anthony’s for a meal, including hundreds of homeless and low-income Veterans. One in every five meals served in the Dining Room is served to a Veteran.
Barry Stenger, the Executive Director of St. Anthony’s, was keenly aware of the significance of this day for many of our volunteers. “It’s a special day here because we get many volunteers, who with their service, express their gratitude for those who have served.”
Every day, the people who serve at St. Anthony’s are part of a miracle that is bigger than any one of us. On Memorial Day, that feeling is especially poignant. Benjamin Wynn, a Navy Veteran, may have summed it up best. “It’s off the hook, I love it here. St. Anthony’s is the only place I really come to because of the volunteers. It’s like a different world here.”
For complete coverage of Memorial Day at St. Anthony’s, click on the link below to our press room: