Many thanks to Pen Voice host Dani Gasparini for having Samaritan House CEO Bart Charlow on the program earlier this month! We appreciate the opportunity to talk about our revolutionary Food Pharmacy program and the many ways we strive to help our neighbors in need.
#Community Connections Blog Post
By: Rachel Spencer (#Samaritan House #Volunteer)
Traffic is miserable in the #Bay Area. It’s not because the highways are small or that traffic lights aren’t programed properly, but because people are flocking here. As the number of cars on the road continues to increase, the number of people looking for housing is also increasing at a high rate.
As the Bay Area’s population continues to grow, the supply of rental units is rapidly decreasing and the demand for them is increasing, which is causing rental prices to sharply incline year after year. For the affluent, the high rental rates are often discussed as an annoyance. For the working class, the high rental rates are crippling. If you want to survive the cost of living in the Bay Area, a single household needs to make a minimum of$78,000/year. Most working class individuals are working hard at jobs that pay minimum wage. Imagine: for one household to make $78,000/year, it would require 4.7 full time minimum wage jobs!
Despite working full time and doing all that is in their control working class families are struggling to scrape by and, just when it all gets to be too much to handle, Samaritan House swoops in to save the day.
The name Samaritan House reflects perfectly the nature of the good work that they do. It calls to mind the story of The Good Samaritan. In short, the story depicts a man who was a victim to thieves during his travels, leaving him without any possessions and half dead on the side of the street. As he lay there, people walked past him and avoided him until another traveler from Samaria helped him by tending to his wounds, giving him a safe place to stay and being a true hero for this man in need. Samaritan House exemplifies the compassion for the needy in today’s San Mateo.
In San Mateo alone, there is not a shortage of people who need help meeting their basic needs. As they come to Samaritan House, they are treated like dignified human beings and helped to get a roof over their heads, clothing on their children’s backs and food in their stomachs.
On any given day, you can go to Samaritan House in San Mateo to find a 3 story building full of compassion, dedication, humility, kindness, and laughter working day-in and day-out to meet the basic needs of those who can’t do it on their own. In other words, you’ll find a 3 story building full of heroes, and remember, not all heroes wear capes.
Community Connections Blog Posts are comprised of narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best- our staff, clients, and volunteers!
Everyone is invited to participate, please email your experience with Samaritan House to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of our deep commitment to engage young people in our work, we recently had students from Design Tech high school with us, everyday for two weeks. They eventually produced an informational video that will be used to teach other classes about Samaritan House. They also created a redesign plan for our client waiting room and will continue working with us on redesigning our Kid’s Closet throughout the summer!
Check out one of their videos here:
A huge thank you to all of the Design Tech students who are working with us. Your creativity and hard work will travel far, and continue to connect people and help improve lives.
Design Tech High School helps students develop skills that are critical to success int he 21st century – skills like collaboration, creativity, self-management and communication. At Design Tech, students develop these skills by building deep content knowledge and learning important problem solving skills. For more information on Design Tech High School, visit: http://www.designtechhighschool.org/
Nearly 400 guests joined the fight to end hunger at our 23rd annual Main Event Fundraiser. This year’s theme was Knock Out Hunger!, which provided an opportunity for Samaritan House supporters to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our robust food assistance program.
The evening began with dynamite drinks, five unique silent auctions and a photo opportunity for the premium ticket holders with Celebrity Master Chef, Martin Yan. As the emcee, Yan ran the action packed program from center ring. Festivities included an elegant dinner, a live auction including a fund-a-need paddle raise for the food program and even a surprise cooking demonstration from Chef Yan himself.
Samaritan House CEO, Bart Charlow, thanked everyone who contributed to making the event possible. The impact of the Food Program shined with the help of a client speaker who shared her personal story and inspired discussion of the real struggles that low-income families face every day.
The live auction was led by auctioneer Alison Lustbader of KLM Auctions, and offered everything from a Maui vacation in paradise to an Ultimate Sports Fan Package with all access tickets to several of the most famous San Francisco sporting events. Guests finished off the evening in style, dancing to the swanky sounds of the Bay Area’s own Pure Ecstasy, others stepped out to the lobby where Chef Yan was signing a selection of his recent cookbooks.
All proceeds from the event will benefit Samaritan House’s Food Services Program which provides over 156,000 hot meals and 40,000 bags of groceries annually to families in need in our community. http://samaritanhousesanmateo.org/main-event-2015/.
Samaritan House 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.
**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it to email@example.com.
Samaritan House Staff Member, 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.**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the help of our generous volunteers & donors we were able to create a brighter holiday for the 1,750 children who received new toys, coats and books, and over 1,200 households that received food.
Food Distributions: Our special food distributions during November & December provided groceries – such as fresh fruits & veggies, canned goods, hams and turkeys to over 1,200 families.
Toy Shoppe: 1,750 very happy children and their parents picked out three to five toys for each child, a book and a coat. Toys included things like Legos, dolls, games, educational toys, gift cards and sporting equipment. Extra special thanks for the donated books from Barnes and Noble! Books also were donated from school groups, service clubs, and individual donors from around the community.
Family Sharing Program: 110 families more than 30 seniors were supported this year through our Family Sharing Program (FSP). FSP allows donors to give in a more personal way by selecting a specific family to sponsor. Donors included individuals, families, church and civic groups, businesses and schools.
Wee Care Program: Over twenty elementary and middle schools participated in our Wee Care Program. Parents, teachers and volunteers teach students about the needs of the community. They create cheerful decorations and organize food, clothing and toys drives that are eventually distributed to the Samaritan House clients.
All of this was made possible with the caring and sharing of so many donors in our community and the 1,000 volunteers who came together to hand out toys, food, and help clients pick warm coats. Thank you to all those who support our holiday program every year!
The Board of Directors of Samaritan House are pleased to announce the appointment of Bart Charlow as the agency’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) effective June 1, 2014. Mr. Charlow will attend and meet with Samaritan House’s supporters and guests at the agency’s annual fundraiser dinner, The Main Event, on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
Charlow is a seasoned health and human services CEO, who manages and consults in nonprofit, business, health care and human relations markets. He is also a practicing Licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist and currently serves as the Executive Director of Peninsula Volunteers in Menlo Park.
Samaritan House’s appointment of Charlow concludes a year-long search to fill the executive director position vacated by Kitty Lopez in May of 2013.
“After a national search of formidable candidates,” says Patty Hsiu, Samaritan House Board Chair, “Bart emerged as our next leader because of his extensive experience and his work in various nonprofit roles in our community over the last 30 years. He is an established local leader, an effective organizational builder, and a strategic and innovative thinker. As we celebrate Samaritan House’s 40th anniversary in 2014, Bart is ideally suited to lead our agency forward as we continue to provide comprehensive support to those in need.”
“Samaritan House is the great heart of a great community,” Charlow shares of his new position. “I’m thrilled to join this vital organization and humbled to be chosen to lead it into its fifth decade of service. As the gap widens between the privileged and the poor, Samaritan House is needed more than ever. I hope that those who have made the organization so effective – and any who want to help – will join with us in making a difference here in our community.”
In Charlow’s 39 years as a San Francisco Bay Area executive, he has held posts at several Bay Area nonprofit organizations: CEO of Easter Seals Bay Area, CEO of Adult & Child Guidance Center, President of Silicon Valley FACES (former Northern California National Conference for Community & Justice), and Executive Director of Peninsula Volunteers. He has also served as Interim Executive Director for several organizations, including: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Coastside Children’s Programs, and Loaves & Fishes of Contra Costa. He has been an Instructor for the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals, St. Mary’s College, and at Notre Dame de Namur University.
Charlow has been a member or officer of numerous community boards and commissions. In 2007, he received the Award of Special Merit from the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission for his Interfaith work.
Charlow holds an M.A.Ed in Counseling and a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology from Wake Forest University. Over the course of his career, he has been quoted in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and interviewed on the NBC Today Show.
Meet Bart Charlow at this year’s Main Event – May 3, 2014. Purchase your tickets for the event today!
Samaritan House’s new financial workshop classes, Secure Futures, are helping equip our clients with the financial skills they need to build assets and plan for the future.
Secure Futures Instructor, Carlina Davila is very pleased with the results she is seeing from her students. “It is really the small changes in spending habits and attitudes towards money that are having such large behavioral changes.” One of Carlina’s clients has started a new savings account and had managed to put away $90 over the course of a month just by cutting back the number of Starbucks each week. “Once our participants lay out their monthly expenses to create budgets, they’re really able to look at areas that they can cut back.”
In honor of Samaritan House’s 40th Anniversary in 2014, we take a look back at the people who helped make our role as a leading social service agency in the county possible. A special thank you to Monica MacMillan, our new communications volunteer, for contributing the following blog post.
Since 1985, Samaritan House has distributed clothing to those in need as part of its goal to provide essential services to the members of San Mateo County. When Samaritan House moved to a new location in 2009, the clothing distribution center needed to condense itself into a much smaller space. After polling its clients and receiving feedback, Samaritan House determined that the primary need was children’s clothing. Two volunteers, Cathy Brown and Ally Nushy-Lenat, took charge of setting up the new distribution center, which was renamed the Kids Closet.
“At that time, it was just an empty room,” says Cathy. Together, Cathy and Ally sourced clothing racks, storage shelves, bins, and hangers, and set up new procedures for how to accept clothing donations. They also put the word out to church groups and other community organizations. Today, members of the community donate approximately 2,000 pieces of children’s clothing per year to the Kids Closet. Dozens of volunteers offer hundreds of hours of their time to collect, sort, and distribute the items to Samaritan House clients, with whom they are shared free-of-charge.
Through their case managers, clients receive monthly clothing vouchers that entitle each child to receive 5 tops, 2 pairs of pants, 1 dress or skirt, 1 jacket, 1 sweatshirt, 1 pair of pajamas, and 1 pair of shoes. Baby clothes and accessories are unlimited. But there is something else being offered at the Kids Closet that is harder to define, more intangible, than just clothing. Volunteers strive to offer a pleasant and positive shopping experience, and perhaps even a self-esteem boost.
“[We try to make the center feel] as much like a store as possible,” Cathy states. Volunteers greet the clients warmly as they come in, and let the clients know that they are there to help. If a client is looking for a particular item that is not out on the floor, volunteers will check the stock room. Those volunteers with retail experience are happy to offer advice about silhouettes or trends if asked. “We’re very conversational with people [as they shop] and complimentary about their selections,” says Cathy. Gaby Korn, one of the original Kids Closet volunteers, echoes these sentiments. “I try to make the clothes look as close to brand new as possible.” Volunteers are sensitive to the fact that “how one looks to one’s peers is very important” and they “don’t put anything out on the floor that is not in good condition,” Cathy says.
The physical space is airy and bright, with lots of natural light. Families often come together to the center to shop, and there is a children’s play area in one corner with toys, books, and beanbag chairs for the littlest shoppers. “One of the ways parents nurture their children is by taking care of their children’s clothing,” says Cathy, who has a background in early childhood education. The Kids Closet is happy to facilitate this very important bond between parent and child.
Donations of children’s clothing are always welcome (see our Wishlist for a list of our current needs). Contact us at (650) 341-4081 or email email@example.com for more information.
–Monica MacMillan, Samaritan House volunteer