The Main Event is over, but we still need your help to Knock Out Hunger! On May 5, Samaritan House will be a part of an amazing online event: Silicon Valley Gives. Hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Gives is a 24 hour day of online giving. Last year over 600 nonprofits in Silicon Valley raised over $8 million dollars! This year our goal is to raise $5,000 to help us Knock Out Hunger!
Samaritan House serves low-income families and individuals in San Mateo County. Our services are designed to meet the immediate and basic needs of our clients for food, clothing, shelter, health care, worker resources, counseling and coaching services.
Samaritan House relies on the support of donors to help individuals and families avoid the suffering caused by hunger, homelessness and lack of access to basic necessities.
This year, we are asking our supporters to help our food program continue to distribute over 156,000 prepared meals and more than 40,000 bags of groceries, which equates to 600,000 hot meals, to individuals in need each year.
YOUR HELP MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Thank you for your support as we work to feed individuals & families in need.
Community Connections is comprised of narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, our staff and volunteers!
To submit a story, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Road to Success at Safe Harbor Shelter
June 23, 2015
Written By: Mental Health Case Manager, Julia Parmer, MSW
Matt Swenson had led a relatively stable life in Redding for several years. In early 2014, he celebrated 5 years of living clean and sober, after a long period of struggling with an addiction that resulted in prison time. He had a son with his girlfriend and they lived together in her parents home. He worked hard as a temporary groundskeeper at a local veteran’s cemetery and was a doting father. But, when the mother of his son relapsed on drugs, he decided that he needed to make a change. She entered a treatment program, and Matt signed over temporary custody of his son to the grandparents. He decided then and there that he would leave town, find a place of his own, and save enough money to be a responsible single father to his son.
On the evening of October 29th, 2014, Matt packed a backpack, kissed his sleeping son goodbye, and headed out the door into the darkness. He stood out on Highway 5, thumb out, waiting to begin a new life. In short order, a van of four rowdy college kids who were just wrapping up a week of camping at Whiskeytown Lake, pulled over and rolled open the door. “Where ya going??” they asked. “Anywhere but here,” was Matt’s reply. They drove Matt all the way to Oakland and gave him enough money for BART fare. While on the road, they had called around to every shelter in the Bay Area, asking about availability. “Safe Harbor is where you want to go,” they determined. “South San Francisco. It’s the best place to get help.” Dutifully following their advice, Matt took BART to the SFO Airport. He showed up in South City and asked a man sitting on Grand Avenue where he could find “The Safe Harbor.” “Well hey brother!” came the friendly reply (from a man whom Matt would come to know as Marino, a Safe Harbor resident), “I’m on my way there myself! I’ll take you.”
Matt arrived at the shelter and introduced himself to Anje, our associate director. She agreed to put him on a cot for a few nights until he could get a proper referral from the YMCA. On his second day on a cot, Matt went to Labor Ready and signed up for temporary work. He started that very day and has not stopped working since then. He eventually landed a job with a demolition company run by an acquaintance he had met while attending Sunday services at a local South City church. Matt developed a case plan with his case manager Terrell; identifying all of the goals he wanted to accomplish while at the shelter, such as finding stable employment, buying a car, and most importantly reunifying with his son. With Terrell’s support and advocacy, Matt accomplished each goal he had set for himself. He was even the recipient of an HRP voucher last month; a 3 year housing scholarship through the County of San Mateo.
Throughout his time at Safe Harbor, Matt maintained contact with his former boss in Redding. This paid off when the opportunity to apply for a lead groundskeeper job at the cemetery became available. Matt swiftly applied and two weeks ago got the call he had been hoping for, offering him a well-paid, full-time position with benefits, beginning April 1st. He debated the merits of remaining in San Mateo County and utilizing the HRP voucher but ultimately decided that what he really wanted to do was return to his son with the new life skills he had developed during his time in South San Francisco. Matt used part of his savings to buy a car and tucked away the rest of his money for future housing in Redding.
Matt will be returning to Redding this afternoon, with a new bike, a car, a savings account, and a secure job. He is looking for an apartment to rent, and as soon as he is settled, he will be filing for full custody of his son. He is arriving back home just in time to celebrate his son’s 4th birthday; which will surely be the first of many happy birthdays to come.
Matt’s story is a remarkable one, both because of his own tenacity and hard work, but also as a prime example of that tried and true saying that “it takes a village.” There were the college kids who took a chance on a stranger on the road, the friendly Grand Avenue local who showed him the route to the shelter, the staff at Safe Harbor who supported him and believed in him. Matt’s departure is bittersweet; we will miss his energy, his warm smile, his willingness to always lend a hand to fellow residents. But more importantly, we will relish in his success and in his incredible journey. As he hits the road today, back to that Highway where he stood so many months ago, and back to his beloved son, we wish him all the best. Matt’s future is bright and so very full of hope.
Improving Your Memory
June 9, 2015 – Written By:
Samaritan House Volunteer, Dr. Jerry Saliman
“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”
With advancing age, many adults worry not only about their health, but also about their memory. First, let us examine why we value our memory, and then look at some of the latest research in how to improve memory.
With the externalization of memory by cell phones, computers, digital photographs, books, and pencil and paper, one can wonder why we need our brains to remember anything at all. However, thousands of years ago the major way we passed along information was orally, which required focused attention and memory. Dating back 2500 years, the Iliad and the sequel, the Odyssey, were transmitted orally by the rhythm of the words. It is said that the Torah, or Five Books of Moses, was memorized by Moses, then taught to the leaders of the Hebrew people, and then passed on to the 1 million or so who left Egypt around 1500 BCE. The Torah chant or trope aided memorization, and may have even contributed to more precise interpretation. For 1000 years, not one word of Torah was recorded in the written word. The value of “knowing” the Torah in the mind was that it could be scanned quickly for reference and applied meaningfully to any life situation. Today, with the exception of some Torah and Talmudic scholars, few possess this skill. Although computers are useful memory tools, digitalized knowledge cannot be applied in situations requiring emotional awareness and response. For example, a musician who performs a piece from memory can evoke musical pathos or elation that extends beyond the printed notes.
There are scores of self-help books on improving memory. One that I recently enjoyed reading is Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by an investigative journalist, Joshua Foer. He states this about the process of improving his memory, “My experience has validated the old saw that practice makes perfect. But only if it’s the right kind of concentrated, self-conscious, deliberate practice.” The main technique he utilized was the “PAO system.” A specific person, action, or object is associated with a specific card in a deck, or a segment of poetry, or a number to be recalled. I won’t reveal the ending of the book, but the memory feat Joshua Foer was able to accomplish was quite extraordinary. Moreover, the tools he used can be learned by anyone.
There have been many medical studies to investigate memory loss and interventions to improve it. Despite early hopes that computerized brain games or taking gingko biloba could make a significant difference, follow up studies have not confirmed their long-term benefit. One novel medical study from UCLA (in the journal Aging, September 2014) showed actual Reversal of Cognitive Decline. In this study, 9 of 10 patients with early Alzheimer’s, or mild and subjective cognitive impairment improved within 3-6 months using a comprehensive program involving up to 36 interventions. The one patient who did not improve had advanced dementia. Patients who had quit their jobs because of poor memory were able to return to work. Notably absent from the regimen were prescription medicines. Although the program was personalized, here are some of the key components:
Although none of the participants followed the protocol entirely, the results were still impressive. Dr. Dale Bredesen, the neurologist and author of the study, advises a full clinical trial to substantiate the findings.
I instruct my patients who have concerns about their memory to incorporate heart-healthy habits: “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.” Other measures that aid our memory that I have witnessed watching my 3-year-old granddaughters and 92- year-old mother include:
In summary, keep yourself focused, exercise your mind, and practice a healthy lifestyle to stay sharp. Your personal memories are valuable because they define you. Protect them.
Jerry Saliman, MD is a volunteer internist at Samaritan House Medical Clinic in San Mateo. He retired from Kaiser South San Francisco after working there more than 30 years. While at Kaiser SSF, Dr. Saliman was also Chief of Patient Education. He received the 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Kaiser SSF Medical Staff.
This article was reprinted with permission from Peninsula Jewish Community Center. For complete original version, visit blog.pjcc.org.
A Volunteer’s Experience
March 12, 2015 – Written By:
Samaritan House Staff Volunteer, Vicky Stein
There are few things in the world as satisfying as feeding people. My favorite memories of my childhood are of the chaos in our kitchen as we finished cooking and sat down at a crowded table, filling ourselves with warm food and good company: I could look around the table at my friends and family and feel proud that I had worked hard to leave everyone healthy, satisfied, and loved. As a result, the Samaritan House Produce Harvest is one of my favorite volunteer activities- it also leaves me with the sense that I’m helping my community create warmth in their own homes.
Not every one of my neighbors is as lucky as I’ve been, to have constant and predictable access to healthy food- junk food is cheaper, faster, and more readily accessible. It doesn’t require special storage like fruits and vegetables do, which makes it simpler to stock up and store both for donors and clients. But the health benefits of produce are clear- high in nutrition and flavor, low in fats and salts and added sugars- and we’ve figured out a way to help people who might not be able to afford grocery store fruits and vegetables benefit from local bounty. When leftover produce from farms isn’t bought by supermarkets, it’s often donated or sold below cost to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which can transport the fragile goods in its refrigerated truck. The Samaritan House, teamed up with Second Harvest Food Bank, distributes the produce to nearly a hundred families on the last Monday of each month, turning potentially wasted food into fresh opportunity.
While the planning of the event seems smooth (the food is picked up and transported, the truck is unloaded, families check in and collect their produce, volunteers help them carry bags to cars and wave goodbye) it often becomes a happy sort of chaos. Volunteers span the ages, from students in school uniforms to retired parents, which means that only some can help with heavy lifting, some speak more languages than others, and some might not have ever cooked the produce they’re giving away. Meanwhile, clients at the event might also speak only one language, which won’t necessarily be English, and may have come with their elderly grandparents and children, who add to the general excitement. Those of us who regularly turn up to help are joined by men from the Worker’s Resource Center, who pitch in with unloading the truck, unfolding tables, and moving heavy boxes into empty spaces so that the handout can continue smoothly. Everyone signs in and pulls on a pair of gloves and, in true neighborly spirit, joins the melee and lends a hand wherever their skills are needed.
At the end of the event, my hands are sweaty inside the latex gloves and my sweater is covered in flecks of onion skin, and I can watch in satisfaction as hundreds of people walk away laden with the fixings to feed their families a healthy and hearty meal.
A Safe Harbor Story
March 9, 2015 – Written By:
Samaritan House Staff Volunteer – Julia Parmer
John has been sitting by the window overlooking the SamTrans parking lot for two days now. He is steadfast in his vigilance, barely moving a muscle, back straight, hands in his lap. He is watching something, but I do not yet know what. Towards the end of the second day, he cautiously approaches the front desk, where I am filling out some paperwork. “Miss Julia?” he asks hesitantly. “There’s a dog in that truck by the window. I think his owner must have forgotten about him and I’m worried.” Following John’s lead, several clients run to the window, and for the first time they observe what he has been keeping a close watch over. A small dog is sitting in the driver’s seat of a large Chevy truck. The dog is completely still. Immediately, we all spring into action. Anje calls the police and the SPCA. Gus, an outreach case manager from San Mateo County Behavioral Health who happens to be here runs outside and taps on the car window, hoping to awaken the dog. The car window is slightly open. With some help from another client, Gus drops some food inside. The dog stirs; he is ok. John continues to oversee the action from his perch, silent and steady. All hands are now on deck to save this neglected animal. I am smiling, laughing at the controlled chaos.
Every day, the residents of Safe Harbor amaze me. John has little more than a backpack to his name. Yet there he sits, day in and day out, keeping watch over another life, protecting this small creature that cannot protect itself. It is these moments in which I feel so privileged to work here and it is these moments that make the other, often heartbreaking moments bearable. I am so thankful to know people like John, and to be a part of this community at Samaritan House.
Perspective from a New Staff Member
February 6, 2015 – Written By:
Samaritan House Staff Member – Carol Laughlin
Since coming to Samaritan House four months ago, I have been constantly surprised and amazed by the generosity and the depth of involvement of our community. Volunteers come to us from every sector of the county moved by a deep urge to help, to give back, to share their own good fortune, to have a sense of purpose.
Coming from a volunteer director job in San Francisco, I feel like I have traveled back in time to a kinder, gentler era in our history, when the community pulled together to help others. My days of getting together with other volunteer directors to bemoan the difficulty of finding and retaining volunteers are over. Rather, every day, requests to volunteer, to donate, pour in. Finding new ways to involve everyone is the challenge, now.
For 40 years, Samaritan House has acted out that ancient story of selfless caring for another, helping all who have a need without regard to religion or ethnicity and our faith-based partners have been right there with us, giving and giving.
Here are just a few of the many things faith-based groups do at Samaritan House:
If I have left out your group, please forgive me. These are just the groups I have seen and spoken with in the past month. As I am here longer, I hope to meet all of our incredible partners.
If you were busy having too much fun at the main event and missed the opportunity to sign up for our Pay-to-Plays, we’ve got great news! There are still a few spots available. The openings are given out on a first come first serve basis, so sign up today before the party are sold out!
There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than relaxing with friends as you Sip wonderful wine & Savor light bites.
You may not be a wine connoisseur but doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rich flavors of vino to the fullest! We will make sure your glass is decadently decanted and your plate is full of first-rate cuisine. Come raise a glass, toast Samaritan House and unWine with us.
Date: Sunday, August 23, 2015 2:00 – 4:00pm
Hosted by: Maureen and Paul Fitzgerald, Susan and Roger Oser
Connect with your inner Zen in Equinox’s premier yoga studio while your personal yogi, Sue Dooley, transforms your body & mind. After your rejuvenating yoga class, you will be treated to bubbly beverages and scrumptious snacks. Then, Equinox invites you to continue on your path to wisdom and inner peace. Guests may enjoy Equinox for 3 consecutive days, which will include a complimentary personal training workout, a private Pilates session, and your choice of a class or workout on the fitness floor. Namaste!
Date: Sunday, September 13, 2015
Hosted by: Sue Dooley, Maureen Fitzgerald and Susan Oser
Get your dancing shoes on – it’s time to salsa! Enjoy the sizzling sounds of Latin music while learning timeless moves.
Your evening will begin with salsa lessons by our very own, Lisa Wheeler and her partner Brian Emord. No experience necessary! To help get you in the mood, enjoy tasty Sangria and tapas. Whether you like to shimmy or shake, this is an evening you won’t want to miss!
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2015
Hosted by: The Napa Dance Club, Patty Hsiu, and Vicky Stein
Mangia at Pizzeria Oser! Experience PeteZeria Forno’s friendly chefs cooking tasty pizza pies in their custom built wood-fired oven on wheels. Their Neapolitan-style pizzas are made from scratch with ingredients that are imported from Italy, as well as locally sourced and organic. You will also enjoy handcrafted hard cider by the Bay Area’s own South City Cider Company. Adult only.
Date: Friday, September 18, 2015
Hosted by: Susan and Roger Oser, Maureen and Paul Fitzgerald, Michelle and Jim Graf, Kelly and John Kenny, PeteZeria Forno, South City Cider
Please join us for High Tea in the elegant California Room at The Peninsula Golf & Country Club. We will enjoy an afternoon of tea, elegant eats and tasty treats served at tables set with fine heirloom china and antique silver pieces owned by some of our gracious hosts. With service fit for queens, your tea of choice will be steeped and poured old-fashioned tea pots while you taste the various finger sandwiches, scones & clotted cream and mini desserts to end. We invite you to slow down, join us and experience the elegance and tradition of Afternoon Tea. Please do not stay away if you are gluten free, just let us know! *Per club protocol, no denim or cell phones allowed at The Peninsula Golf & Country Club. Hosted by: Kelly Cliff, Val Constant, Berit Dailey, Gina Fuenzalida, Terri Garnick, Annette Kranzler, Karon Kaye, Pam McCarthy-Hudson, Elaine McKay & Lori Tamura-Chinn
Date: Saturday, August 29, 2015 3:00 – 4:00 pm .
For more information: Call 650.294.4329
Or email email@example.com
Food and toy drives generate an essential portion of the overall donations we give away to local, low-income families each holiday season. We need all types of non-perishable foods and new toys or gift certificates for children ages 0–16.
Samaritan House will provide you with sturdy donation barrels and pick-ups when requested.
Drives are a great option for businesses, groups of neighbors, classrooms, churches, families, sports teams, or just about any group of people who want to celebrate the spirit of giving during the holidays. If the link does not work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of the drive you would like to run.
San Mateo County Human Services Agency
San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services
San Mateo County Department of Housing
San Mateo County Medical Center
California Department of Housing and Community Development
Sequoia Healthcare District
Peninsula Health Care District
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Federal Emergency Management Agency
City of Burlingame
City of Foster City
City of Redwood City
City of San Carlos
City of San Mateo
City of South San Francisco
Thank you for subscribing to the Samaritan House monthly e-newsletter. Please be assured that we do not share our lists with any third parties and that your email information remains confidential.
-Samaritan House Communications Team
The Grove Foundation
Hurlbut-Johnson Charitable Trusts
J.H. Robbins Foundation
J.W. Bagley Foundation
Leslie Family Foundation
Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation, Inc
Ronald and Ann Williams Charitable Foundation
S. & C. Blatteis Foundation
Sobrato Family Foundation
The Howard and Betty White Foundation
The Sylvain and Marjorie Heumann Family Foundation
Please accept our apology for any errors or admissions. You may contact email@example.com with any additions or corrections.
Each school year, Samaritan House’s Project Wee Care teaches thousands of students from local area public and private schools the importance of giving. Parents and teachers, with the help of Samaritan House staff, inform children about the needs in our community and assist them in organizing food, clothing, and toy drives. All donations are then distributed to Samaritan House clients through our various programs.
Project Wee Care started at Baywood Elementary School in San Mateo in 1987. This community program was developed as a link between the San Mateo-Foster City School District and Samaritan House.
Today, after 25 years, our primary objective is to reach out to new school districts and to bring them into the Project Wee Care Family! If you are a school administrator interested in participating, please contact Reyna Sandoval, Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Wee Care is one of the reasons why the spirit of volunteerism is so strong in our community.
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