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Project Open Hand~ Nourishing the Sick and Elderly

Tuesday evening involved a lot of chopping, an activity that is far underrated for reaching a Zen state. It was spent at Project Open Hand, a 10-minute bike ride from home to gritty Polk Street. It’s on the Western edge of the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with a long history. As far back as the turn of the last century it was a haven for drifters, misfits, and immigrants, and has endured as a place for people who find themselves at the social margins. Today, the ‘loin is the most densely populated area in SF with the greatest number of social service organizations.

Before there was the Castro, the gay scene was here in the 70s in Polk Gulch, and the legacy of those days still lives on. The AIDS epidemic in the mid-80s in San Francisco devastated the gay community and no services existed for those who were sick and dying from the new disease. A grandmother in the neighborhood saw the suffering and malnutrition from the illness of those around her and started preparing food for seven of her neighbors who had AIDS. Thus began Project Open Hand.

This organization dispenses an impressive amount of food to sick and elderly people in the neighborhood and beyond, with the help of more than 100 volunteers a day. People who work with them deliver meals to the homebound and also provide them for pick up for people with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer. They also offer lunch to people over 60 at 23 locations and provide groceries to take home. And it all started with a compassionate granny 28 years ago.

For us newbie volunteers (a Canadian woman and myself), we were given an orientation and were fed before getting into latex gloves, hairnets, and aprons. We got down to business in the very clean industrial kitchen on steel countertops with about 8 other regular volunteers, peeling and chopping buckets of onions, then carrots, and finished with…broccoli. We were choppin’ broccoli.

Good company, new connections, and maybe a step closer to Enlightenment. Well, probably not, but there is something very cool about the early dusk light filtering in, the muffled madness from the street, and a group of veggie choppers who all work together in virtual silence.

Priming the Canvas: A Mural Project in its First Phases

Today’s opportunity presented itself through Volunteer Match. A muralist was in need of assistance way out in the Excelsior at the San Francisco Community Alternative School. I’m no muralist or painter, but I can scrape crusty old paint off a 65’ wall like an old pro, so I signed up and ventured out on two wheels. Josh Talbott, the fine artist visiting SF for the three-week job, was the only person on site and he was happy to have help and company (besides his little canine companion, who is great company but lacks opposable thumbs). We chatted and scraped, probably inhaling particulate lead matter from the decades-old layers of paint. Josh had been at it for two days already, so my contribution was small to get him to the next phase of priming the wall, which is the plan for tomorrow. We went for sushi when the wall was done and he showed me a collection of his works of art in a glossy publication. Wow. Whatever his vision is for this community mural, it is bound to beautify the neighborhood when the project is complete. I will be checking back in soon to volunteer another day, perhaps to block in color, which lays down the background. Here’s what it looks like now. Stay tuned for the transformation! 

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Habitat For Humanity

 

Thursday morning’s weather was not particularly enticing for an hour-long bike ride to the construction site where Habitat For Humanity is hard at work building housing units on a lot in South San Francisco. It wasn’t just foggy. It was drizzly. When I double-checked on their website and saw the words “rain or shine,” I figured that applied to me too. They needed a photographer to document the progress at their site and to capture the volunteers that make it all possible. After several climbs and descents on slick streets through neighborhoods new to me, a few wrong turns (thanks Google maps), and helpful directions from a cute old Chinese man who drew a map in my notebook, I found the work site.

About 20 volunteers were spread out, filling a wall with mortar, digging plumbing trenches, and surveying. I signed the waiver form, donned the obligatory hard hat, and started clicking with my digital point-and-shoot and SLR. Folks were friendly and having fun getting dirty and working hard. The project that will house several families is expected to take 2 years to complete and will require tens of thousands of volunteer hours. The photos were sent off when I go home and will be used on Habitat’s website. Here are a few:

Habitat For Humanity

 

Thursday morning’s weather was not particularly enticing for an hour-long bike ride to the construction site where Habitat For Humanity is hard at work building housing units on a lot in South San Francisco. It wasn’t just foggy. It was drizzly. When I double-checked on their website and saw the words “rain or shine,” I figured that applied to me too. They needed a photographer to document the progress at their site and to capture the volunteers that make it all possible. After several climbs and descents on slick streets through neighborhoods new to me, a few wrong turns (thanks Google maps), and helpful directions from a cute old Chinese man who drew a map in my notebook, I found the work site.

About 20 volunteers were spread out, filling a wall with mortar, digging plumbing trenches, and surveying. I signed the waiver form, donned the obligatory hard hat, and started clicking with my digital point-and-shoot and SLR. Folks were friendly and having fun getting dirty and working hard. The project that will house several families is expected to take 2 years to complete and will require tens of thousands of volunteer hours. The photos were sent off when I go home and will be used on Habitat’s website. Here are a few:

 

Habitat For Humanity

Habitat For Humanity

Thursday morning’s weather was not particularly enticing for an hour-long bike ride to the construction site where Habitat For Humanity is hard at work building housing units on a lot in South San Francisco. It wasn’t just foggy. It was drizzly. When I double-checked on their website and saw the words “rain or shine,” I figured that applied to me too. They needed a photographer to document the progress at their site and to capture the volunteers that make it all possible. After several climbs and descents on slick streets through neighborhoods new to me, a few wrong turns (thanks Google maps), and helpful directions from a cute old Chinese man who drew a map in my notebook, I found the work site.

About 20 volunteers were spread out, filling a wall with mortar, digging plumbing trenches, and surveying. I signed the waiver form, donned the obligatory hard hat, and started clicking with my digital point-and-shoot and SLR. Folks were friendly and having fun getting dirty and working hard. The project that will house several families is expected to take 2 years to complete and will require tens of thousands of volunteer hours. The photos were sent off when I go home and will be used on Habitat’s website. 

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