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.”
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.
Before the pandemic, St. Anthony’s served around 2,200 meals daily. 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.
“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.”