The Dali Lama once said, “My religion is kindness.”
Over 40 years ago, we became teamsters for the poor by picking up free fresh produce from the South San Francisco Produce Terminal. For the past 35 years, the Catholic Worker House has made a weekly food run: gathering and distributing about 10,000 pounds of produce each week. These food pick-ups were possible because BILL SOMERVILLE (and eventually PHILANTHROPIC VENTURES FOUNDATION) arranged for us to be given a succession of three large 15,000 pound trucks to haul the food. Most of this food now goes to Padua Dining Hall (i.e. St. Anthony’s in Menlo Park). But in the early years, with the help of Catholic Charities, our truck and drivers became the first official “Food Bank” in San Mateo County. That small food bank morphed into what is now “San Mateo County Second Harvest Food Bank” — a multi-million dollar outfit. It was Bill Somerville’s vision and seed money for a truck that made it possible to feed thousands for decades in the past and into the future.
Over 25 years ago, Sr. Monica came to us with the idea of St. Francis Center. For her first project, she organized an eye clinic for elementary school age children and held it at the Catholic Worker. U.C. Berkeley student optometrists tested children selected by school nurses. If glasses were needed, they were supplied free of charge. Bill Somerville established this connection with U.C. Berkeley and funded the entire program. He then supplied the Redwood City Catholic Worker with seed money to buy a small two bedroom house. That tiny house became Sr. Monica’s “St. Francis Center” which distributed food and clothing to desperate families. This mustard seed money morphed into the largest housing program for the very poor in San Mateo County, thanks to Sr. Monica, Sr. Christina and hundreds of supporters of St. Francis Center!!
Almost 10 years ago Bill Somerville and Philanthropic Ventures Foundation gave the Catholic Worker seed money to purchase a 2 bedroom house in Redwood City for “Day Laborers.” For the past ten years, The Multicultural Institute (Father Rigo, Cesar et al) has managed that building and 6 day laborers have lived there on the cheap!! Their garage is an office, a computer lab and an English Language School for the extremely poor. The Multicultural Institute now owns the building and will develop it as their center in Redwood City. Their contacts with the city, county and surrounding community are similar to Sr. Christina’s and insure a long and wonderful future. What a great program. The sower sows good seeds.
Last year Bill Somerville and Philanthropic Ventures Foundation did it again. This time we purchased a home (with their seed money) in Oakland to house men coming out of San Quentin State Prison. Kate Chatfield, a Catholic Worker from San Bruno, went to law school and her first year at USF school of law was paid for with a grant from PVF. This new house is managed by “Re:Store Justice”, with whom Kate works not only to house ex-convicts, but also to draft and pass new laws in the state of California assembly to change our system.
While all of the above breakthroughs were happening, Catholic Workers in Redwood City, San Bruno, San Jose, and Santa Maria California were feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating the very poor by the thousands. Bill Somerville and Philanthropic Ventures Foundation has supported each of those Catholic Worker Houses in magnificent ways. Easter celebrates LIFE. This Easter we share with you part of the life of Bill Somerville. He is great, humble, dedicated, and serves the poor with deep, deep kindness. He is very religious
Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Jan Johanson, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd,
Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane, J Arthur White.
P.S. At the end of our Peace Retreat in March, sixty of us non-violently demonstrated at Lockheed and eleven were arrested for simple trespass. We have a May 20th court appearance scheduled in Santa Clara. All is well.
- Food in any amount.
- Household needs: laundry detergent, Clorox, bikes, food carts with strong wheels for the elderly who receive food at our weekly distribution, reusable shopping bags, dish soap, an ipad or lap top computer, a 6 X 10 shed (or $3,000 to build it), toilet paper, paper towels, a bedside radio etc.
- Transportation: Bikes, cars, trucks and R.V.’s.
- Day Laborers: If you need a worker call Cesar at (650) 339-2794
- A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker Center. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee (650) 366-4415. Seed money is always the hardest to find. Or call Bill Somerville at Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (510) 645-1890.
- Shower Program: volunteers to help on either Tues. or Wed. mornings, laundry detergent, tents, sleeping bags, socks, foot powder, etc. Call Susan or Larry (650) 366-4415.
- Your ongoing love and support. One of our teens is graduating and will have a senior prom, pictures, a year book and other expenses. She just won a 4 year full scholarship to college. Gift cards are gold.