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St. Anthony Foundation Hosts ‘Thank You’ Event for Leadership Council and Speranza Society

March 23, 2023

Companion Lead Wayne Garnett addressing the crowd

On Tuesday, March 21, St. Anthony’s hosted a ‘Thank You’ Happy Hour for nearly 50 extraordinary supporters of our work, including individuals and families, representatives from charitable foundations, and Bay Area businesses.

The attendees were members of two of St. Anthony’s donor groups: our Leadership Council and Speranza Society. Leadership Council members donate at a level of $10,000 or more per year in support of St. Anthony’s emerging service focuses, such as our Companionship Model of Care and Transitional Employment programs. Speranza Society members are supporters who have chosen to make St. Anthony’s part of their charitable legacy by leaving a bequest in their will and/or living trust. 

St. Anthony’s convened the groups to express our deep gratitude for their kindness and generosity, and their role in helping lead the way to greater and more transformational impact for thousands of San Franciscans who are struggling with challenges ranging from homelessness and substance use disorder to behavioral health and workforce reentry.

Corporate Relationships Manager David Watterson

The event also featured a special announcement from St. Anthony’s CEO, Nils Behnke. “We are pleased to announce that we will be expanding in 2023 to meet the distinct needs of women and families who experience homelessness very differently from men,” Behnke told guests. “We will address their unmet needs and provide integrated services featuring a full continuum of care including mental health treatment, medical care, access to childcare, legal services, access to housing via our partnerships, and vital long-term peer counseling support.

“We expect to have more exciting news to share on this front in the coming months,” Behnke added.

The event also featured a Q&A session with Wayne Garnett and Erik Otten, who are implementing our Companionship Model of Care, a multi-year, tailored commitment that St. Anthony’s is making to each person in our substance use recovery and transitional employment programs. Companions walk alongside our guests to accompany them on their journey toward attaining long-term stability and personal and professional renewal, and in so doing – breaking the cycle of poverty.

Companion Erik Otten sharing his experiences

Garnett, who leads the care model, first came to St. Anthony’s over 20 years ago, when he was homeless and struggling with addiction. He enrolled in our addiction recovery program, then called Seton Hall. “I gained stability when I graduated from the program and then secured employment at St. Anthony’s. But that’s when a whole new set of challenges presented themselves to me – I found myself needing support with ongoing professional development, life and money skills, even spiritual health,” Garnett explained. “That’s where some peers who had walked that path before me really stepped in and made the difference. I was able to lean on them and learn from them and surround myself in a supportive community.” Garnett highlighted that it is his own lived experience of being in the shoes of the clients he now provides care to that makes him so confident in the promise and the impact of Companionship Model of Care.

The event was hosted at Waterbar, located along San Francisco’s Embarcadero, overlooking the Bay Bridge. Waterbar selected St. Anthony’s as the nonprofit beneficiary of its quarterly Oyster Give Back campaign for January through March 2023.

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