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Bringing Christmas cheer to BVHP and OMI

December 23, 2017

by Judy Goddess

Turkey and trimmings graced the Christmas menu for 1,400 seniors and families from the Bayview and OMI. The recipients, many of whom regularly visit neighborhood pantries or receive home-delivered groceries, were identified by schools and local community and faith-based organizations, who also helped organize the donations and coordinate deliveries.

Chester Williams, who coordinates the home-delivered grocery program for the Community Living Campaign in Bayview, was busy on turkey delivery day moving the fixings for hundreds of Christmas dinners from the big truck to the vehicles of the volunteers who distributed the Christmas cheer. – Photo: Judith Sandoval

The turkeys and trimmings were donated by Glide Memorial, the Community Living Campaign and the SF Public Health Foundation in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and other community agencies.

Turkey delivery day was Wednesday, Dec. 13. All morning and into the afternoon, trucks from Glide and the Community Living Campaign pulled into the parking lot at the Joseph Lee Recreation Center in the Bayview and the I.T. Bookman Center in the OMI. Volunteers from the partnering organizations unloaded the trucks and sorted the donations into piles.

By 9 a.m., the volunteers at Bookman were cautiously making their way through the hundreds of bright red holiday bags filled with stuffing mix, potatoes, bread and vegetables that crowded the center’s suddenly too-small courtyard, while frozen turkeys sat curbside waiting to be unloaded.

The large parking lot at Joseph Lee was better able to accommodate the containers of frozen turkeys and trimmings, as well as providing parking for volunteers picking up donations for delivery to their members.

Food insecurity is a significant public health issue; it’s a proven risk factor for chronic disease, stress, depression, higher rates of hospitalization and acute care utilization. A report on hunger in the City will be released this winter.

When parents must choose between buying food or paying for medicine, transportation and other bills, that’s food insecurity. It is when a senior or an adult with disabilities is homebound or cannot easily reach a market that sells healthy, fresh food. Both poverty and lack of access to healthy food are realities in Bayview Hunters Point and OMI.

Food insecurity is a significant public health issue; it’s a proven risk factor for chronic disease, stress, depression, higher rates of hospitalization and acute care utilization. A report on hunger in the City will be released this winter.

“Every year, we add more families, more seniors,” said Veronica Shepard from the city’s Department of Health, Equity and Quality Improvement. She organized the first turkey give-away in the Bayview four years ago and continues to do so.

This year, Bayview needed 221 more turkeys than Glide could provide. So, the Community Living Campaign conducted a fundraising drive, allowing Executive Director Marie Jobling to dash around town purchasing turkeys and trimmings.

This volunteer from Glide Memorial celebrated in anticipation of the jubilation he was spreading throughout the community at Christmastime. – Photo: Judith Sandoval

“That 221 doesn’t even account for populations like immigrants, who are scared to come out,” said Shepard. Her clients are the school district, faith-based communities and nonprofit agencies – committed people who know their congregants and members.

“They’re in a perfect position to help: People feel comfortable with the church liaison, the outreach worker; they’re willing to talk about being hungry,” Shepard said. “They don’t feel judged.”

Chester Williams arrived early to the Joseph Lee Center, where he guided trucks and helped other volunteers pack their cars with turkeys and trimmings. Williams also coordinates the home-delivered grocery program for the Community Living Campaign in Bayview.

“Our hunger looks different. We live in homes and apartments. We can’t stand in long lines; we’re sick and broken already, or we’re working, we have children and parents to care for,” he said. “We don’t have the capacity. We’re the working poor.”

Williams and a host of volunteers unloaded trucks, packed holiday grocery bags and delivered turkeys and trimmings Wednesday to 1,421 Bayview families and seniors. As Shepard said, “Love, passion, compassion. We’re here to help.”

Williams and a host of volunteers unloaded trucks, packed holiday grocery bags and delivered turkeys and trimmings Wednesday to 1,421 Bayview families and seniors. As Shepard said, “Love, passion, compassion. We’re here to help.”

Judy Goddess, who is herself a senior, writes a monthly column on senior issues for the Ingleside-Excelsior Light, a fellow member with the Bay View of the San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association. She can be reached at judygoddess@gmail.com.

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