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

“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.

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.


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

  1. My mother Eda Basurto worked at the Samaritan House during the early days with Cora at the original location. It was grass roots community work at its best! I remember John Kelly well and how much my mother respected him as a person and appreciated his guidance as a community leader. The agency grew exponentially under his leadership and it is so nice to see John acknowledged in the history.

  2. Hi Jennifer – Yes, John continues to be such an inspirational figure in our community, and we were lucky to have his guidance and leadership here at Samaritan House.
    Thank you for your kind comments and for sharing you mother’s experience with our agency!

  3. I would like to contact John Kelly. Among other things, he married me to my late hhusband, Gene Daniels and married my daughter, Deanne as well as presiding at Gene’s memorial service. I have learned he isn’t very well and would like to send him a greeting. He is a wonderful man as I know you are aware- even more than I.

    Thank you.

    Nora D

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