Helping our clients build ‘Secure Futures’

Financial-classes-web

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.”

To learn more about this program, view our program flyer (English) (Spanish) or contact us for more information.

Agency History – Spotlight on the Kids Closet

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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.

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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.

Kids Closet volunteers, Ally Nushy-Lenat & Cathy Brown

“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. sign

“[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 info@samaritanhousesanmateo.org for more information.

Monica MacMillan, Samaritan House volunteer

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Emergency rental & deposit assistance helps move San Mateo couple into a new home

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Every month, our client service department helps provide emergency rental assistance to help 23 low-income individuals and families experiencing financial hardship maintain a stable living situation. Last month, our client service and finance department staff went above and beyond to ensure that a client was able to pay the deposit and 1st month’s rent for a new, more affordable apartment just 2 days before her move-in date.

“My partner and I are both people living with disabilities, specifically wheelchair users, and we are on a fixed income. We both work very hard to make ends meet every month…” reports Ligia. When the opportunity arose to move into a Below Market Rate (BMR) apartment nearby, she turned to Samaritan House for help. “[Our case manager] Christiana Weidanz worked hard to make sure that our new property had a check that same Friday. Everything worked out wonderfully! We moved in, they received their deposit and first month rent, and now we can finally breathe.”

BMR Availability

Many Americans struggle to afford a decent, safe place to live in today’s market – especially in Silicon Valley. According to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank that researches the topic of housing affordability and homelessness, “For every 100 extremely low-income renter households, there are only 19 affordable and available rental units in San Mateo County.” In addition, over the past 5 years, average rental prices in the area have skyrocketed while the number of renters who need moderately priced housing has increased.

These pressures make finding affordable housing even tougher for low-income households in San Mateo County, and make the need for Samaritan House’s safety-net services and emergency assistance programs a precious resource for families in our community.

In a thank you note to our client service department, our client Ligia expressed her appreciation for having this rental assistance service to help out during her time of need: “This all could not have been possible without Christiana being so proactive, understanding, and compassionate. We are so grateful for her assistance, and the assistance we received from Samaritan House.”

Agency History Pt. 2 – John Kelly “Father of Samaritan House”

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“If there is a serious need in the community that no one is currently meeting, then Samaritan House will address it.” John Kelly, Exec. Director from 1985-1999

In honor of Samaritan House’s 40th Anniversary in 2014, a brief glimpse back at the people who made our role as a leading social service agency in the county possible.

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In 1985, John Kelly assumed the role of Executive Director of Samaritan House and through his leadership, helped transform the agency. A San Francisco native, John earned a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. Prior to coming to our agency, John spent 25 years as a Catholic priest (thus earning the name “Father of Samaritan House”) and nearly two decades teaching at Serra and Menlo Atherton High Schools.

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Ground breaking ceremony in 1987 for a new location at 401 N. Humboldt St. (left to right: John Kelly, ED; Evelyn Taylor, Board President; Mary Griffin, SM Cty Supervisors; Paul Gumbinger, SM City Council; Russ Pitto, Building Advisor)

Under John’s guidance and in response to the growing needs of the community, Samaritan House widened its breadth of services and transformed from an agency that provided referrals to an agency that provided services. Upon his retirement in 1999, John recounted his time with our organization and spoke of his philosophy for providing service to the community, which was simply: if there is a serious need in the community that no one is currently meeting, then Samaritan House will address it.

During this time, Samaritan House also became a Core Service Center for San Mateo County, helping bridge the gap between the needs of the community and public and private aid. Today, we continue to work with this network of Core Agencies that provide San Mateo County residents with information and referrals, emergency assistance, case management, food and clothing vouchers, and many other services.

 

Diabetes Care Days at Redwood City Clinic

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Pauline Chau, RD, CDE, a volunteer from Sequoia Hospital, speaks with one of our patients about the importance of nutrition as an essential component to diabetes management during one of our Diabetes Care Days.

Did you know: Uninsured individuals with diabetes have 79% fewer physician office visits, but also have 55% more emergency department visits than diabetic individuals who have insurance? (Source: American Diabetes Association)

It is for reasons such as these that Samaritan House is excited to begin offering monthly ‘Diabetes Care Days’ at our Redwood City Clinic. This exciting new program will help empower our patients with the self-management tools and educational resources they need to prevent and control a variety of diabetic issues.

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“I love volunteering with Samaritan House because I get to spend more time talking with my patients. I enjoy being able to give individuals my full attention and help them with their issues.” Laura Blackwell, RN, FNP – El Camino Hospital.

At a special weekend clinic event in January, diabetic patients were screened for complications, provided with medications, and given flu vaccinations. Because individuals with diabetes are more prone to foot problems, a screening station was set up to identify potential issues and instruct patients about how to keep their feet healthy.

Educational classes were also provided by a volunteer dietitian from Sequoia Hospital, who provided one-on-one counseling about what to look for on food labels, how to plan meals, and how to exercise proper portion control.

Samaritan House patient Jeanine Ortiz was one of the individuals taking part in the nutrition classes offered that day. According to Jeanine, she came to Redwood City Clinic a few years ago for help maintaining her high blood pressure, but was informed during her initial visit that she was exhibiting elevated glucose levels and was at-risk of developing diabetes.

“I had no idea that anything was wrong,” says Jeanine. “I was unemployed at the time and didn’t have the money to afford any extra medications, so I knew that I had to do whatever I could to avoid becoming diabetic.”

Fortunately, through weight loss and watching her diet, Jeanine has been able to maintain a normal glucose range. She feels great and is so thankful for the help she received from Samaritan House.

A special thank you to all of our program volunteers for helping provide these very necessary screenings and classes and to Stanford Hospital and Clinics for their financial support! As always, we also extend our sincere appreciation to the Sequoia Healthcare District, which over the past ten years has contributed more than $5 million dollars in support of our Redwood City Health Clinic, and has continued to help us serve a very vulnerable group of residents.

If you are a physician interested in volunteering with the Diabetes Care Program or in either of our medical clinics in San Mateo or Redwood City, please visit our volunteer page to see how you can help!

 

 

Holiday Program Highlights – 2013

2013 Holiday Highlights

With the help of our volunteers & donors, we were able to help over 1035 families have a brighter holiday season!

Some highlights to come out of the holiday program this past year:

FoodFood Distribution: special food distributions during November & December provided groceries – like fresh fruits & veggies, canned goods, hams and turkeys- to 3,894 individuals

 

 

 

 

 

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Toy Shoppe: 1,422 children picked out stuffed animals, games, educational toy, and books that were donated from groups, service clubs, and individual donors from around the community

 

 

 

 

 

FamilyFamily Sharing Program: 110 family sharing program donors – including individuals, families, church and civic groups, businesses, Scout  and after school programs – provided food and gifts for 193 families and seniors

 

 

 

 

All of this was made possible with the caring and sharing of so many donors in our community and the 1,179 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!

History of Samaritan House – Humble Beginnings…

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A community case worker meets with a family in Samaritan House’s early home.

In honor of our 40th Anniversary in 2014, a brief glimpse back at the people who made our role as a leading social service agency in the county possible.

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In 1974, Dr. Cora P. Clemons, R.N., M.F.C.C., M.P.H., Ph.D, had a growing concern. So many people needed basic social services but they had a hard time getting to her. “Isn’t there a way to bring services to the areas where the people in need live?” she wondered.

When Cora brought together some of her associates to talk about the problem, they came up with a creative idea to form a nonprofit agency and put its office in the heart of San Mateo in the community which needed the most service. In December 1974, Samaritan House opened its doors to provide ongoing information and referral to any San Mateo citizen experiencing basic need.

Samaritan House was originally located in a small, 2-bedroom house located in North Central San Mateo. Space – and privacy – were at a premium in this first location, which provided workspace for 3 Samaritan House case managers, a Salvation Army worker, a representative from the U.C. Department of Nutrition, and visiting staff from the County Health Department.

Over the years, Cora saw Samaritan House grow from a few case managers providing referrals to an agency with many programs providing food and nutrition, shelter, healthcare, clothing, counseling, worker resources, and holiday assistance. Amazing to think how far we’ve come and how many people we’ve been able to help thanks to such wonderful community support!

 

 

Serra High School Padres Bring Christmas Cheer through the Adopt-a-Family Program

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Every year, Samaritan House’s Adopt-a-Family program connects individuals, corporations, and community groups with local, low-income families for the holiday season. This year we were pleased to work with students and teachers at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, connecting the group with 10 client families for the holidays as they purchases needed clothing, food, and toys for them.

Thank you to by Antonia Ehlers, Communications Manager at Serra High School, for sharing the following blog post with us!

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Every December, twinkling lights transform neighborhoods, halls are decked and Christmas trees are adorned with ornaments. Excitement fills the air, as children and adults look forward to the traditional comforts of the Christmas season. However, not all families are able to enjoy the busy weeks leading up to Christmas. Money is tight. Parents are between jobs. Presents are few.

That’s why the Samaritan House Adopt-a-Family Program is so important – it supports families in need while showing them that the local community cares. This week, Serra students brought Christmas cheer to 10 San Mateo families.

“The entire school was involved,” noted Campus Ministry Christian Service Director Jackie Schroeder. “Upper division student government students collected gift cards, and lower division student government students collected cans. Campus Ministry organized the Kmart shopping trip, and many other students helped with food sorting and deliveries. It was a school-wide event.”

This year, Samaritan House’s Adopt-a-Family Program provided gifts, food and clothing to 190 local families during the holidays.

“We are so glad that the Serra boys partner with us to provide this wonderful holiday experience for the less fortunate in our community,” said Samaritan House Client Services Manager Robin Fischer.

Each year, Samaritan House assists more than 12,000 low-income residents in San Mateo County. The organization provides food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, worker resources and counseling services – all free of charge. In addition, Samaritan House volunteers deliver more than 145,000 nutritious meals and 14,000 bags of groceries to people in need.

“All the Serra guys who came together for Adopt-a-Family were really fun to work with,” said senior Alex Adamis. “This was my first year getting involved – it would have been great to start freshman year!”

Senior Ben Kusber agreed, “Adopt-a-Family provides an excellent opportunity to give. Being able to give gifts to those who are underprivileged is a great thing.”

In San Mateo County, one in 10 receives food assistance, and one in six is “food dependent,” meaning that he or she sometimes receives help.

“Adopt-a-Family is a fantastic way to get the entire school involved in a charitable act of giving at Christmastime,” Schroeder said. “The students really have fun with it, especially knowing that they are volunteering their time to families in need. The work involved with making this happen reminds us of the power of giving, and how the ripple effects can be felt by everyone.”

San Mateo Clinic in the San Jose Mercury Wishbook

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Patient Ronaldo Romero with Samaritan House Dental Assistant Alex Vilchez

We are very excited as well as honored to be a featured nonprofit in the San Jose Mercury Holiday Wish Book this year!

This year’s Wish Book story from Samaritan House features dental patient, Ronaldo, who came to our clinic from by way of our Safe Harbor Shelter. Ronaldo, who is currently uninsured, was seen at the San Mateo Clinic for help maintaining his diabetes, dental work, and for a referral to surgically treat the cataracts which previously rendered him unable to work and to see.

Your donation to Samaritan House helps individuals like Ronaldo receive the medical & dental treatment needed to live a full and healthy life. Read his story in the Wish Book and please consider a donation to help patients like Ronaldo at both of our free clinics:

http://www.mercurynews.info/wishbook/2013/wbsam.shtml

Use your IRA to make a charitable gift to Samaritan House – ends Dec. 31, 2013

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Your support helps Samaritan House continue to serve those most in need in San Mateo County – including through our annual holiday food & toy distributions.

If you are 70½ or older, you can make a charitable gift of up to $100,000 to Samaritan House from your Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) to meet your 2013 annual minimum required distribution amount without having to include the transfer as income for federal income tax purposes. However, the law allowing this special charitable IRA rollover, or qualified charitable distribution (“QCD”) expires after December 31, 2013.

To complete your charitable gift, transfers must come from your IRA and be paid directly to Samaritan House. If you have retirement assets in a 401(k), 403(b) etc., you must first roll those funds into an IRA, and then you can direct the IRA plan administrator to transfer the funds from the IRA directly to Samaritan House. You cannot use the rollover to fund either life-income gifts (charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, or pooled income funds), or donor advised funds or supporting organizations.

If you have questions about completing an IRA charitable rollover to Samaritan House before its expiration on December 31, 2013, please contact Samaritan House’s Director of Development, Lynn Nawahine, at nawahine@samaritanhousesanmateo.org or 650-523-0825.