'Tender is the Loin' 


If you’ve ever visited San Francisco or are lucky enough to call this place home, then you have either heard faint rumblings or decisive warnings to avoid an unfortunate area of the city or know to avoid it if at all possible. Which it turns out is pretty difficult considering that it is flanked on all sides by some of the most desired, interesting spots in “The City,” as locals call it.

Descriptions of this area are depressing; drugs, violence, prostitution, filth, garbage, homeless and hopeless.

The Tenderloin district in the very heart of San Francisco’s wealth Mecca. Prestigious Nob Hill to the north, consumer’s paradise - Union Square to the east and the commonwealth’s public fixtures to the west (think the Civic Center, the Opera, etc.). This district is surrounded by the various main veins that power the ‘City by the Bay.’ Massive accumulations of wealth and privilege are towering around this 30 square block area that on average, has over 1,000 residents per block. How many people live on your street? Historically, this area was a residential landing spot for newly arrived immigrants with relatively affordable housing. Hotels have been reconverted into one bedroom apartments, that are tiny and perhaps only slightly larger than your walk in closet. Many varying demographics live in this district, but namely families, veterans, immigrants and the physically and or mentally disabled call this place home.

The great community magnet and bright spot in this grim urban jungle is St. Anthony’s which has been serving meals to the poor and homeless of San Francisco since 1950. 

Recently, my office participated in the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Volunteer Week. Our office chose to volunteer at St. Anthony’s Dining Room in San Francisco. The dining room is located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, one of the most impoverished areas of the city and serves approximately 2400 meals per day 365 days a year.  More than just a meal provider, St. Anthony’s also operates a medical clinic, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and classes to provide job skills.

During our “shift”, we served about 1800 meals. We prepared the plates and served portions of curried beef and rice, brought plates to the tables of those who were disabled, bused and cleaned tables.  Everyone also had the opportunity to sit and dine with the people in the dining room. Which was really quite powerful, I sat and chatted with a young, articulate and well-educated woman who clearly didn’t fit the mold of what my preconceived notions of a ‘soup kitchen’s’ clientele would look like. The economy has created an increased demand for charitable organizations in every community. We served many unemployed and underemployed people and their families that day. St. Anthony’s is a bright beacon that offers hope, compassion and essential meals to many who would otherwise have to go without.

During our time with the patrons, we were touched by the overwhelming amount of gratitude, respect, manners and wide smiles. Our assumptions of this neigborhood and the people who live there were challenged that day and won't soon be forgotten.



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