ESL Classes at Worker Resource Center

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

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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

Agency History – Spotlight on the Kids Closet

clothes

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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Notice to clients & volunteers of new space for dining room

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Dining Room Manager, Mario Cousenes, November 12th during dinner service from the King Center.

 

Please Note: Beginning November 12, 2013, Samaritan House’s Dining Room will relocate from Westside Church of Christ in San Mateo to a new, temporary location at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, located at 725 Monte Diablo Avenue.

 

 

 

• Last day of dinner services at Westside Church will be Friday, November 8th

• Dinners will be served from the King Center through January 2014

• Meals served from the new location will be wrapped, to-go meals rather than sit-down dinners

• Volunteers will be asked to come to our Samaritan House kitchen between 3-3:30pm each day to help with meal preparation as well as help distribute at the King Center between 5 and 6pm

We will continue to keep clients and volunteers informed about our location for the dining room after January. Questions or concerns: please contact Samaritan House at 650-341-4081. Thank you for your understanding and support!