ESL Classes at Worker Resource Center

A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Full House

According to a recent survey conducted by media organization Red Brown and Blue, “98.1% of undocumented Latino immigrants want to learn how to speak and write English.”  Yet, only a mere 11.2% feel that they can speak and write it “well or very well.”  Despite this strong demand, “cities across the country are experiencing severe shortages of English [as a second language] teachers, leaving long lines of would-be English speakers waiting outside their doors,” according to Businessweek.com.  It is with this backdrop that Samaritan House is thrilled to welcome Sergio Lua as its newest volunteer English teacher at the Worker Resource Center.

Sergio Lua, ESL Teacher

Lua began teaching English at the Worker Resource Center a little over a month ago.  Classes are free, and the curriculum is determined largely by the students.  “I have them tell me what they want to learn,” says Lua.  In addition to basic greetings and grammar, participants often ask to learn vocabulary relating to their occupations, such as tools used in landscaping, carpentry, and painting.  Frequently, they practice pronunciation of the phrase “I am looking for a job.”

An immigrant himself, Lua came to the United States from Mexico in 2003 with very little knowledge of English.  Through adult education classes, he learned English very quickly, and started taking other classes.  He currently attends Notre Dame de Namur University and is working towards a B.A. in psychology.  He volunteers his time at the Worker Resource Center because he wants to give back to his community.

“I want to make them feel comfortable,” Lua says, referring to his students.  “It’s not a school, you can participate or not,” so long as you remain respectful.  Lua is also experimenting constantly to see what works best.  He is currently considering creating a curriculum and posting a calendar outside the classroom so that his students know in advance what he will be teaching from week to week.

In a focus group study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants were insistent that learning English was “critical for their success.”  “Fully 85% [said] it is hard to get a good job or do well in this country without learning English.”  Reyna Sandoval, the Interim Volunteer Coordinator at Samaritan House, agrees: “I know that workers have been passed up by potential employers because they don’t speak English.”  Equally as important as finding employment, English-speaking immigrants are frequently more “well-versed in their rights and the laws protecting them,” notes Businessweek.com.

If you are interested in volunteering as an English teacher at the Worker Resource Center, please contact Reyna Sandoval, Interim Volunteer Coordinator at (650)523-0819 for more information.

Sergio teaching

Meet Bart Charlow, Samaritan House’s New CEO

bart-pic-smThe 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!

 

 

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

keys-to-home

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”

John-Kelly
“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.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

1987-group
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.

 

History of Samaritan House – Humble Beginnings…

Communiity-Worker
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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

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!

 

 

Capital Campaign Celebration – Oct 23, 2013

recognition4-(web)

 

Samaritan House’s Capital Campaign for a New Home – an initiative launched in 2006 to raise money for a permanent headquarters from which to anchor our county-wide operations – closed this month. We celebrated and commemorated this milestone by unveiling a donor wall which recognizes those individuals who contributed $1,000 or more to the campaign at an event on Oct. 23rd.

 

At the event, attendees were invited to share memories of our previous locations and celebrate what a difference our new space has made to our clients, staff, and to the community. A video was made to show the change from our two previous locations, to our office space here on Pacific Boulevard.

 

 

Thank you to all those who attended and to staff for organizing the event!

 

Impact of the Government shutdown on our services

A message from our Director of Development, Lynn Nawahine on the Federal Government shutdown:

“We are relieved to report that as yet we have not had a significant increase in client requests. The good news is that the State of California says it has enough money to continue providing food stamps, school lunches and aid to poor mothers and children through the end of October. Should the budget impasse continue beyond that, they may be forced to cut programs that directly affect our clients, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps; and grants to help residents pay their energy bills.

We will continue to be mindful of what is happening in Washington and will update you if funding cuts begin to trickle down to the most vulnerable here in California.”

Lynn Nawahine, CFRE
Director of Development, Samaritan House

 

 

 

Volunteer Recognition Event 2013 – Neighbor Helping Neighbor

Every year, we honor volunteers who have shown exemplary effort in support of Samaritan House’s programs at our annual Volunteer Recognition Event. This year, the Sammy Award winners were treated to a special gift from Ruby Kaho, Kitchen Manager for Samaritan House. Before the event, Ruby created handmade Hawaiian leis for each Sammy recipient. The leis were then handed out at the event by a local Boy Scout troop.

Sammy Awards in 18 program categories honored volunteers who have shown exemplary effort in support of Samaritan House’s programs and services:

• Administration – Louise Delafield

• Bread Basket – Trader Joe’s team

• Client Services – Mary Lynn Ruiz

• Dining Room – Chris O’Leary

• Finance/Development – City Auction Crew

• Food Pantry – Ana Maria Jackson & Paula Corona (Kelly Award)

• Holiday Program – Saia (George) Bourke

• Kids’ Closet – Susan Campo

Every year at our volunteer event, we present our highest honor, the Kelly Award, to an individual who has shown exemplary volunteer service to our agency. This year, the award was given to 2 volunteers – sisters Ana Maria Jackson and Paula Corona.

AnnamariaandPaula

Ana Maria and Paula have been volunteering with us for over 10 years, and can be seen 3 days a week handing out groceries to families in our Pantry. We recently interviewed the 2 about their experience (http://bit.ly/SH_Pantry).

Congratulations to our 2013 Sammy Award winners, and thank you for all you do!

Asha’s Story: “Samaritan House was the lifeboat that saved me”

life-preserver3

Asha * never envisioned being on public assistance and seeking help for her family prior to coming through the doors of Samaritan House. Everything changed for her last year when, at the age of 58, she was laid-off from the banking job she had had for over a decade.

Residents of the Peninsula for almost 30 years, Asha and her husband immigrated to the U.S. from India in the 1980s. After a series of unforeseen circumstances, suddenly her family was faced with the decision of whether or not they could afford to keep living in the area that had called home for so many years.

“It was like being in an avalanche happening in slow motion,” Asha explains of the financial situation that she and her family found themselves in just a few months ago. Her husband experienced a back injury many years ago which rendered him unable to work, and he does not qualify for disability. Her daughter, who just graduated from college in India and moved back to the U.S. to live with her parents, is also struggling to find employment in a challenging job market for new grads. Asha was receiving unemployment and continuing to look for work when both she and her husband suffered health issues, which saddled them with medical debt.

Asha was always an exemplary employee, and before being let go of her previous job, she received several awards from her work for outstanding performance and sales. After she was laid off, she found herself struggling to find another job in the banking industry, despite her years of experience. Asha feels her age was held against her in many situations, and she became discouraged and very depressed.

“There were nights where I lay awake until 3 in the morning, going over in my head bills that were due and trying to figure out how we were going to make it through to the next month,” Asha recalls. Then, for the first time in their lives, she and her husband were late paying their rent. Having no family to turn to for assistance and having exhausted their resources, a friend mentioned that they should visit Samaritan House to look for help.

Asha came to Samaritan House reaching for a lifeline to get them through a troubled time. “The first time I met with my case manager, Julio, I was going through the worst time in my life,” Asha explains. “During our first meeting, Julio talked to me and put me at ease. I was no longer filled with dread, and I found myself feeling hopeful for the first time in months.” After Julio evaluated her case and assessed her income and expenses, Asha was given rental assistance and vouchers for Samaritan House’s food pantry for the next two months to help stabilize her family’s financial situation.

She and her husband also gave up their car several years ago to cut costs, but this left Asha relying on public transportation to get to and from job interviews. Unable to afford this expense, her case manager was also able to provide Asha with bus passes, which Asha said was invaluable in helping her find her current job.

Things are much brighter now for Asha, and she is proud to report that she received a job offer and began working as a customer service representative at a local bank in April. She and her husband continue to pay-off medical debt and look for ways to improve their financial situation, but she talks of feeling far more optimistic about their future and their ability to stay in the area, which they have called home for so long.

Asha feels an undying gratitude for everything that Samaritan House provided her family during the most challenging time of their lives. As Asha states, more than just the tangible support from Samaritan House, the kind and supportive words and listening ear from her case manager Julio touched her heart and gave her hope.

In the future, Asha says she would like to be able to give back to Samaritan House by volunteering there. “I always tell people that one day I want to be able to become a major donor! I can’t thank them enough for all they did for us.” As Asha explains, “…at the time, I felt like we were surrounded by sharks. Samaritan House was the lifeboat that helped save me and my family.”

*At the request of our client, the above name has been changed in order to maintain confidentiality.