Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Work of Christmas

This blog post takes its title from the name of one of my favorite poems, The Work of Christmas, by Dr. Howard Thurman.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

This has been a slow month for blog posts, but the SF CARES collaborators have been as busy as ever providing pastoral care, soul growth opportunities such as worship, Bible study, writing groups, meditation and street retreats; growing food; feeding people, and giving away all the hundreds of pairs of socks Crystal Springs Sangha, Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, and St. John’s United Church of Christ collected for us in December. 

We were blessed with an abundance of volunteers, as we are each year during the holidays.  Now we’re moving into the time of year when we usually have a bit of a lull. Not a lull of need as those we serve still need all that we have to offer, but a lull of volunteers.  Our regulars like the Congregational Church of San Mateo, the Congregational Church of Belmont, Old First Presbyterian and Saint Paulus Lutheran are all already scheduled for their usual shifts, but we need you to help us continue the work of Christmas.  We would welcome your help as:

  • volunteers to serve at the Community Dinner any second or fourth Saturday from 5:00 - 7:00 from January 26th onward
  • hosts for the Friendship Banquet Tuesdays beginning on January 15th  
  • a group to provide simple lunches for 100 people for Open Cathedral Civic Center January 13th or February 10th or 17th
  • a group to bring simple food for Open Cathedral Mission for 60 on any Thursday evening except the fourth Thursdays of the month
  • folks to come weed and plant and other gardening tasks at the Free Farm any Wednesday or Saturday anytime between 10:00 - 2:00 from January 12th onward
  • Crises Line Counselors for the Night Ministry willing to serve one night a month from 9:45p.m. until 2:15a.m.

You can click on the highlighted text above (or just scroll down in this blog) to get a more full description of any of these opportunities.  We hear from our volunteers all the time that they get more than they give as they serve with us and we are working on even more ways to nourish our volunteers to do all the wonderful things they do in the new year.  So come out to get your soul fed and to help us continue Christ’s work in the world.  You can contact us at or 415-673-3572.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Volunteers Needed For Foot Washing At Project Homeless Connect Next Week.

This time it is way better.  This time we have nearly a week to find people to serve washing feet at Project Homeless Connect   Last time when the group that was signed up to do it cancelled, we only had a day to find people.  I worked the afternoon shift and it was actually a lot of fun, even though it was hard work.  This time is better, this time we have time to find three or four people to cover each shift instead of only two, like we had last time.

This service is vital to the folks who come to Project Homeless Connect and there is very high demand for it.  It gets people ready to see the podiatrist, as well as starting them back out into the world with clean feet - a real luxury for those who live outside.  Healthy feet are vitally important to people who have to walk all day, every day, too.

Plus, there's the whole emulating Jesus thing. 

We'll have all the equipment ready for you, and you get to get trained by Angela Guida, the director of Project Homeless Connect, herself.

(Angela is also the newest member of SF CARES Board.  Help us look good for her, people.)

So come to do some good, come to feel good or come to make us look good, but come.

We need three or four people to cover each of two shifts, one from 9:45 to 12:40 and one from 12:30 to 4:00 on Wednesday, December 12th.  If you can help, please email Angela  directly at  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful For All Of You

I have a practice of writing at least one thing that I am grateful for each day in my journal each day.  With Thanksgiving coming up day after tomorrow, I'd like to share some SF CARES specific gratitude with you all.

Today I am greatful for all the volunteers that have allowed SF CARES and all our collaborators to do our work this year.  I’m grateful for the forty some odd folks who have served as Crises Line Counselors for the Night Ministry, taking calls from the lonely and the desperate every single night of the year.  I’m grateful for the churches that make lunch to serve after Open Cathedral.  I’m grateful for the many many folks who’ve come out to the Free Farm to plant, water, weed, harvest, and fertilize and especially to the dedicated core group who make lunch for each Wednesday and Saturday workday.  I’m grateful to the many churches and volunteer groups who have come to Old First Presbyterian on a second or fourth Saturday to set up, serve, and clean up after the Community Dinner we feed to 200-300 people on those nights and especially grateful for those who come early to bring ingredients and cook the meal.  (One dedicated pair cooks every single second Saturday and we have several groups who trade off to cover most fourth Saturdays.)  I’m grateful, too, for the folks who come each week to serve the smaller Tuesday afternoon meal and chat with our guests.  I’m grateful for the groups who buy groceries and cook for the Friendship Banquet we serve to folks living with HIV and AIDS each Tuesday.  I’m grateful for all the folks who have come out for a street retreat, or one of the many other opportunities to learn offered by the Faithful Fools.  I am grateful for all of the wonderful donors to all of our collaborators and the few SF CARES itself has attracted that, along with our volunteers, allow us to continue our work.  I’m grateful for all the socks and blankets and toiletries we’ve been able to hand out because so many good folks donated them to us.
We can always use funds and volunteers for all of our programs,(not to mention socks), but today I’m not going to ask you for anything.  Today I just want to say, ‘THANK YOU! and wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.  May you each have much to be grateful for in the coming year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blankets, Toiletries, Socks

The short version: 

We are very much in need of blankets, toiletries, and socks.  Demand is high and our supplies are low.  You can help.  The last two paragraphs of this post tell you how.

Some of last year's bounty, long since handed out.
 The slightly longer version:

Imagine going without soap, without toothpaste, without shampoo.  This is the reality faced by many of the folks we serve.  We can really use sample sizes of toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion.  Small sizes are best so they are easy to carry for folks living outside.  We can hand out 50 or more hygiene kits with these items at one Community Dinner with no problem.  So if you have little bottles left from your last hotel visit, if you have those novelty soap bars someone gave you last Christmas and you still haven’t used, if you feel moved to go on a shopping spree at your local dollar store or the sample aisle at the drug store, we will gladly take all the toiletries you can offer us.  One enterprising friend asked her dentist for samples and gave us over 50 tubes of toothpaste and packages of dental floss.  Maybe you dentist has samples they’d like to be rid of, too.

Imagine how your feet would feel if you were stuck in the same pair of socks day after day.  For folks living outside, clean dry socks are gold.  When one has no place to wash them, socks become disposable items.  Combined with walking many miles each day to access services and often being stuck with ill fitting shoes, the lack of clean socks contributes substantially is damaging to people's feet.  Would your church or organization like to have a sock drive for us?  Would you be willing to contribute a package or two?  We’re especially interested in white athletic socks as they hold up best.  There is no such thing as too many socks.  There is no shortage of people grateful to have them.

And it’s getting much colder now.  Especially at night.  As with socks, blankets get dirty quickly when one has no place to wash them, and stay soggy when one has no place to dry them after a damp night on San Francisco’s streets.  Imagine sleeping outside with nothing but a soggy blanket to keep you warm.  Do you have a spare sleeping bag you haven’t used in years?  Have any blankets that have been sitting in the linen closet unused?  Care to organize a blanket drive at your church or other organization?  We can take all the blankets you can give. 

You can drop any of these items off at 950 McAllister St., (between Laguna and Webster) Monday through Thursday during business hours.  Items can also be dropped off at the Faithful Fools at 234 Hyde (between Eddy and Turk), just call 415-474-0508 or email to arrange a drop off time.

If you organize a drive and would like us to pick up what you collect, we are happy to do that in San Francisco, the Peninsula, or anywhere within fifteen minutes driving of the Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge.   Just drop us a line at or call us at 415-673-3572 and we’ll work out the details.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Links!

Ok, so adding links to the blogs of our collaborators isn't all that exciting, but I wanted to highlight that they're right over there in the sidebar now.

You can read up on the Bible Study That Doesn't Suck.  You can see what's going on at the Faithful Fools or Welcome or the Free Farm.  You can see the DIY Guide to addressing Poverty and Injustice.  All right here from our little side bar.  (Ok, I do get a little excited when I figure out anything tech.) 

A table set and ready for the Friendship Banquet
In other news, we still need hosts for all of November for the Friendship Banquet and a group to cover lunch at Open Cathedral on November 11th.  So drop us a line at or give us a call at 415-673-3572 if you'd like to come meet some really cool people and have a chance to feed them, too.

Service at Open Cathedral

Reading the blogs is informative, and hopefully inspiring, and coming out to help is a lot of fun, so enjoy the blogs listed over there on the right and then come on out to join us.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vision, Faith, Abundance

This picture

highlights the abundance at the Free Farm that I’ve been wanting to write about recently.

I’ve also been wanting to write about this passage from the Gospel of Mark for a while now.

“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’"

So here’s my chance to do both.

This scripture shows us a pretty wild vision of the kingdom.  Usually, in similar stories, we see the sower as God or maybe Jesus.  How wild is that?  God out scattering seed without taking any kind of control over how it sprouts - whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed does its thing.  God scattering seed and watching it grow and not understanding how it all works.  What kind of faith does that show?  God happy to take in the harvest, joyful over what has been given even is God doesn’t know exactly how it came to be.  It gives us a pretty different idea of God that what is usually preached.

Tree and the other good folks who run the Free Farm are not like the God represented in the passage I quoted in that they do know just what they’re doing.  This kind of plant will flourish best in this location, here’s how you harden off a seedling that’s been in the green house to get it ready for planting outside, this is how to make the best compost.  And everything is well planned at the Free Farm, this plant will go in this bed, here’s where we need more irrigation, time to take down the beans because we’re done harvesting them and we can put something else there now.  Unlike the God of this passage, Tree can tell you exactly how a seed sprouts and grows.  Unlike the harvest in the passage, the produce of the Free Farm does flourish under the abundant care of our many volunteers, not regardless of whether they sleep in or come to the Free Farm on workdays.

And all that knowledge and care results in the kind of abundance seedlings in front of Pancho in that first picture represent.  Abundance that goes to feed people in need who otherwise have limited or no access to good, fresh produce. 

But there is some faith involved too.  The faith of the folks who started the Free Farm that an old abandoned and littered lot that even after cleaning up looked like this:

could one day look like this:

Faith that each Wednesday and Saturday we can get enough volunteers out to do all the work required to get those seeds from sprout to harvest.  Faith that we can find someone each workday to bring the vegan lunch we always serve to our volunteers.  And, these days, faith that we can find another parcel of land equally as suitable to the Free Farm’s needs when we have to move in a few years to make way for development.

So come out some Wednesday or Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2p.m. and help us keep the faith.  We’ve got plenty of friendly people to show you around and a good lunch to share.  Chances are we’ve got a task or two suited to your ability level.  But best of all you’ll have a chance to help us grow some faith that as wild and wonderful a vision as the Free Farm can have a viable place in San Francisco.