On Saturday, April 13, we hosted our annual Easter Open House for 54 families and 187 children. With the help of 16 volunteers, including photographer Sacha and a group from Pledge to Humanity at San Ramon Valley High School, we were able to give every family a Safeway gift card, Easter baskets, photos with the Easter bunny, free books and Easter themed crafts. A special pizza lunch was made by our kitchen staff and Kitchen of Champions cohort. Our open house events are a great way to celebrate important moments of the year and bring our community together for a bright spot in our lives. Thank you to all who continue to support the open house events. Our next open house will be celebrating back to school in August. If you would like to sign up to volunteer or donate, please contact our volunteer team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Very Reverend James Vernon Matthews, Jr., rector of the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, passed away on March 30, 2019. He was ordained on May 3, 1974 and became the first African-American priest in Northern California. He cited his “unique” experience as a black Catholic priest as an impetus to bring communities together, which was a focus of his work. He was a key leader throughout the Diocese of Oakland and served as chaplain to the Oakland police and fire departments and as vicar and spiritual director of Black Catholics. He was the Parochial Administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Oakland, and the former pastor of St. Benedict, where he served for 25 years. He worked closely with the City of Oakland and in the interfaith community with the goal of unifying communities. St. Vincent de Paul would like to offer deep condolences for all who knew and looked up to Fr. Jay. We pray for his soul to see God, for his surviving loved ones and for the Christ the Light Conference members, who are mourning his loss. We are inspired by great people like Fr. Jay. May he rest in peace.
The Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a key local think tank, released a new study on homelessness in the Bay Area, and, at Mayor Schaaf’s suggestion, they wanted the study to be rolled out to the press and the community at St. Vincent de Paul. Executive Director Blase Bova was invited to participate in the roundtable discussion, along with some noted civic and corporate leaders including President and CEO of Kaiser Permanente Bernard Tyson and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Participants discussed the need for a regional plan to address homelessness, as well as unity amongst the entire Bay Area, including the Sacramento area, to support each other’s efforts in housing the unhoused.
The Bay Area has the third highest homeless population in the country with over 28,000 homeless residents, behind New York City and Los Angeles. The report says part of the problem is low income people are becoming homeless at a faster rate than communities can move existing homeless people into housing. “We can subsidize rents when they fall on hard times, we can purchase buildings and turn market rate housing into affordable housing, we can provide rental assistance, so they don't have to choose between medical payments and rent payments,” said Jim Wunderman with the Bay Area Council. St. Vincent de Paul thanks the work of our Vincentians across the county through their eviction prevention work. You are addressing a crucial aspect of the homeless crisis that needs more widespread support, and the Bay Area Council agrees.
Last fall, dining room volunteer Giorgio Tavecchio returned to our dining room in Oakland before he was brought on as kicker for the Atlanta Falcons. Tavecchio is a Bay Area native who played football at UC Berkeley and even played professionally for the Oakland Raiders. He began volunteering at SVdP because he was influenced by his father.
After leaving to play for the Falcons, he stayed in contact with us, sending well wishes to staff and volunteers. It was a great surprise to see him return to serve in the dining room on March 7. Tavecchio and our custodian Joseph (pictured) became fast friends, and were happy to see each other again. He even left a signed Falcons hat for Joseph to wear. We are so happy he kept us in mind, and was called to serve during this trip home. “I am in town visiting family, so I had to come back home to St. Vincent,” Tavecchio said. He has signed a two–year contract with the Falcons, and plans to volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul in Atlanta. We wish Giorgio the best of luck, and hope to see him again in Oakland soon!