Bill and James visited St. Mary’s Center recently, a community center that has been operating for decades in an inconspicuous building within the heart of Oakland. During their visit, the Center’s Executive Director, Carol Johnson, gave them a tour of the facilities and described how the Center is geared towards supporting the basic needs of very low-income seniors and children.
One of their main services is their food program. In addition to providing supplemental groceries to low-income seniors each Friday and to families three times a month, they serve a nutritious breakfast and lunch to seniors six days a week. During Bill and James’ tour, seniors were gathered around tables in the Center’s multipurpose room waiting to be served their daily lunch by young volunteers. A nurse providing health screenings was stationed at a nearby table for convenience and support.
St. Mary’s Center also provides seniors with winter shelter from December to April, transitional housing for six, and assistance in finding permanent housing. Support is also given to impoverished families with children through their preschool program.
These basic services are vital to those they serve, who often are homeless, hungry, and not supported. More than half of St. Mary’s Center’s clients are older than 75, with 99% of them being functionally impaired. The Center thus acts as an anchor to which these vulnerable and at-risk people can tie themselves for safety and respite.