On February 10th, StoryCorps San Francisco paid a return call to St. Anthony Foundation, deep in the heart of the City’s Tenderloin neighborhood. St. Anthony’s responds to the needs of poor and low income people and has done so for the past six decades. By providing for basic needs like food, clothing and healthcare, the Foundation’s programs are a gateway for people to take significant steps toward a more stable life.
Our previous visit was arranged by StoryCorps Facilitator Alex Lyon, who also works at the Tenderloin Tech Lab. Every year the Lab aids nearly one thousand homeless and low income clients to overcome barriers to accessing technology. (Check out Alex’s Post from 10/19/09)
For our second day of recordings at the St. Anthony Foundation, Alex coordinated with Lydia Bransten of Guest Services, who helps to manage the dining room at the Foundation. At noontime each day, a meal is served to hundreds of neighborhood people. It was among this group that Lydia selected the day’s StoryCorps participants.
Having arrived earlier that morning, I had been greeted on the sidewalk by an uniquely attired man, Joseph Plamondon. Joseph was busy, as usual on weekday mornings, escorting uniformed schoolchildren to their nearby De Marillac Parochial School. Joseph makes a little money by posing for photos at the nearby Cable Car terminal with tourists who want to take home a snapshot of themselves with a colorful local. With a bit of eye makeup and his top hat, Joseph bears a striking resemblance to Heavy-Metal star, Alice Cooper.
Charles Houston told stories about growing up in New York City and the trips he made to visit his grandparents in the South during the turbulent 1950′s and 1960′s. He had to learn to deal with the reality of the Jim Crow mentality for the first time in his life.
Later in the day we had the opportunity to record a conversation between two of St. Anthony’s staff members, Lydia and her colleague Ken Humphrey. They shared memories of their first meetings, working together, and the subsequent friendship that developed as they both became parents and their families grew close.
St. Anthony’s is a special place that not only serves the vital needs of it’s clients, but does so in a manner that honors the dignity of each individual and assists them in taking positive steps toward a more stable life. Thanks to the Dining Room, many who otherwise would not be able to eat that day leave with a full stomach and leftovers for later. For the day’s StoryCorps participants, there was a chance to share their stories with attentive listeners.
We look forward to our next visit to record more conversations at the St. Anthony Foundation.