A volunteer prepares freshly cooked meals for curbside pickup at St. Anthony Foundation in the Tenderloin. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A volunteer prepares freshly cooked meals for curbside pickup at St. Anthony Foundation in the Tenderloin. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The turkey is takeout this year but ‘the caring and smiles are all genuine’

St. Anthony’s Foundation’s traditional Thanksgiving feast will be served curbside

Matt Traywick, who began volunteering with St. Anthony’s Foundation after feeling lonely living in a single-room occupancy unit, says the experience of giving back has brought him friends and made him a better person.

“My sister had said, ‘It looks like you guys are practicing your faith instead of talking about it,’ because all the caring and the smiles are genuine,’” said Traywick, who started working with St. Anthony’s about five years ago. “I’ve never been around a group of people as fine as the people who volunteer.”

St. Anthony’s staff hand out bags of warm and cooked meals at the curbside at St. Anthony’s Foundation in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

St. Anthony’s staff hand out bags of warm and cooked meals at the curbside at St. Anthony’s Foundation in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

As the holiday season approaches, Traywick and other St. Anthony’s volunteers and staff are preparing for their first socially distanced Thanksgiving feast for disadvantaged Bay Area residents.

Although the organization can’t hold its traditional free Thanksgiving meal in the dining hall, St. Anthony’s Director of Development Suzie Sheedy said it will stick to city-mandated restrictions and serve turkey curbside. To continue the tradition of gathering in gratitude, guests have the choice to enjoy their freshly packaged meal at outdoor tables.

According to Sheedy, many of the people served are housed in places like SROs. The food they get through St. Anthony’s could be their only meal of the day.

People line up to pick up warm and cooked meals at St. Anthony’s on Golden Gate Avenue. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

People line up to pick up warm and cooked meals at St. Anthony’s on Golden Gate Avenue. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

“They have to choose between paying rent, electricity bills and food,” said Sheedy.

Before the pandemic, St. Anthony’s served around 2,200 meals daily in its dining room. With the recent surge of new diners, the foundation now serves around 2,600 to 3,800 meals a day. Although the rise in the number of meals is slight, the cost of food has risen 40%.

Facing a shortage in food donations and the recent cancellation of the annual curbside donation drive, the foundation is turning to the community to help continue their work.

A St. Anthony’s staff member hands out water from a tent. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A St. Anthony’s staff member hands out water from a tent. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

“It’s been different, you know? I miss the guests,” said Traywick. He and the other volunteers now work in the dining room on a conveyor belt that serves the pre-packaged meals, away from guests. “In five years of volunteering there I’ve done the curbside donation three out of the five years. And you learn that St. Anthony’s is San Francisco.”

Sheedy said, “Because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the safety on our street to keep providing programs curbside,” St. Anthony’s decided to go the virtual route, allowing the community to donate online. On its website under “Ways to Give” individuals can click “Virtual Curbside” and choose to donate items like a Christmas ham for $60 or a pack of 60 socks for $24.

St. Anthony’s staff hand out meals from the curbside. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

St. Anthony’s staff hand out meals from the curbside. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Franciscans also can give back by donating their time to volunteer at the foundation. Prior to COVID-19, the foundation had between 75 and 100 volunteers a day, but that has now gone down to six to eight. With the rise in guests, St. Anthony’s is seeking volunteers and invites those who want to contribute to sign up on its website to set up a date and time to help out.

“We’re such a quiet and humble organization. But we do so much and when people make donations to St. Anthony’s, especially at this time of year, they’re investing in San Francisco,” said Sheedy. “They’re not only feeding people who are hungry; they’re clothing them, they’re helping find resources and they’re helping them find work.”

(Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

(Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

St. Anthony’s Curbside Meal Service

Where: 150 Golden Gate Ave., S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. for seniors (age 60+) and families with children

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for all guests

Contact: stanthonysf.org

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