This past Friday, I decided to check in on some wonderful people working in the field in the Redwood City area, while accompanied by a local community member, Christine Rammler.
For our first stop, we visited Sequoia High School in Redwood City and met with the principal, Bonnie Hansen. She is a most impressive woman who is battling against gangs. She brought in two students to talk with us about gangs and then she told us about these two young men and steps she is taking to move them away from gangs. This is the oldest high school in the Bay Area. It is large, urban, serving primarily black and Hispanic students, and it is well run, receiving recognition for its international baccalaureate program and high staff morale.
Our next stop included lunch at Saint Anthony’s Padua Kitchen, which feeds hot, nutritious meals to 400 people a day and is run by volunteers under the guidance of Max Torres. It is the largest soup kitchen on the Peninsula, and also serves as a center for food distribution.
We then visited the Catholic Worker House run by Larry Purcell from a single family home that houses youth and families until they are stable and can move on. Larry and the staff receive no pay. Theirs is a work of love and hopefulness.
We also visited the St. Francis Center in Fair Oaks, run by the dedicated Sister Christina Heltsley. The Center distributes food and clothing, runs a school for very low-income children, teaches parents English and how to use computers, and offers the homeless access to showers and washing machines. The Center runs a housing complex for serving 50 very low-income families and recently built a gym for the neighborhood to keep youth away from gangs, which are prevalent in the neighborhood.
After our packed day, Christine Rammler reflected on our visits to these wonderful community institutions: “We saw people up close and personal who are helping those in need: from the St. Francis Center, where kids and parents are learning and thriving, to the Catholic Worker House, where at-risk teens are welcomed, to Sequoia High School, where kids in gangs are helped one at a time. Bill insists on finding and supporting extraordinary people with no red tape, and God, was the message clear and resounding!”