St. Anthony to herald new site

Foundation breaks ground on $25M facility to house expanded medical clinic

While most organizations see growth as a good sign, that’s not necessarily the case with San Francisco’s St. Anthony Foundation.

Begun in 1950, as a simple soup kitchen, St. Anthony’s dining room recently served its 33 millionth meal. In addition, the charitable foundation — which does not receive any government funds for its work — now has a clinic that provides free medical care, a job training and employment program, a counseling center and a free residential drug and alcohol recovery program. Foundation officials estimate that 3,000 people each day are served through its 11 programs.

And yet, the need continues to outpace the organization’s growth.

In 1999, the St. Anthony Foundation purchased a bigger building just down the street from its 121 Golden Gate Ave. location, with plans to move the entire operation into the roomier space.

With more and more people coming every day for food and services, the organization decided there was enough need to fill both buildings.

“We rarely had to turn patients away at the clinic before, but now we must turn away 200 people a month,” St. Anthony spokeswoman Lisa O’Neill said, adding, “The dining room serves 22 percent more guests compared to just four years ago.”

The foundation also decided to rebuild on the $3 million site purchased seven years ago, a project that is expected to cost an additional $22 million. So far, the foundation’s capital campaign has raised $13.3 million, from individuals, foundations and corporations, according to O’Neill.

Today, the foundation will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building, which is scheduled for completion in 2008. When it opens, the facility will house an expanded version of the existing medical clinic that will be able to serve an additional 5,000 patients each year, as well as the employment and counseling centers. The foundation also hopes to use the building for rental assistance workshops, parenting classes and an expanded emergency food pantry.

The foundation’s executive director, the Rev. John Hardin, said that although the work of St. Anthony has grown, and the building project become more complex, the organization was driven by its sense of purpose.

“There is a tremendous need,” Hardin said. “It’s not my work, it’s God’s work.”

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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