Question: Is Welcome taking over the Hospitality Hour and Seniors Programs?
Answer: No. Welcome is working in partnership with St. Francis’ pastor and the St. Vincent de Paul and Seniors committees with recommendations from the personnel committee, and at the direction of the St. Francis council, to help St. Francis’ programs become more self-sufficient, to find more grant support, to become
better stewards of food, volunteer and financial resources, to become safer, and to help the whole congregation become better able to respond to the mental health needs and addiction issues confronting St. Francis and other congregations across San Francisco.
Question: Is there buy-in from both the St. Vincent de Paul and Seniors Committees?
Answer: Yes. The St. Vincent de Paul committee, the Senior Center director, and Prs. Pamela Griffith Pond of St. Francis and Megan Rohrer of Welcome met to flesh out the terms of the partnership and were unanimous in their recommendation to the council.
Question: How did this come about?
Answer: Initially the St. Vincent de Paul, Seniors, and Personnel committees met together with Pr. Pamela, assessed needs, and made a joint, unanimous recommendation to the council to create a new position to oversee food, kitchen and dining safety and to make appropriate referrals to other ministries and agencies. Budget constrains made creating a new position infeasible, and the council directed Pr. Pamela to explore opportunities for collaboration. Prs. Pamela and Megan explored ways that St. Francis and Welcome could partner to further the missions of both organizations, increase access to grants, and have Welcome assume responsibility for the duties originally envisioned for the new staff position. The St. Francis council authorized the partnership at an emergency meeting on Sunday, January 20th, and Prs. Pamela and Megan crafted a covenant in accordance with the council’s decision.
Question: Will there be changes to St. Francis’ long-established programs?
Answer: Yes and no. There will be some changes, but existing staff and volunteers will not be displaced. Changes involving food, kitchen and physical safety of guests and congregation members will be implemented quickly. Other changes will evolve over time through conversations between leaders of St. Francis and Welcome, and with volunteers and guests of Hospitality Hour, the Senior Center, and the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. As St. Francis and Welcome work together to help those programs obtain additional funding, it is likely that supplemental programs and new projects will be started by mutual agreement. Such projects will make a great deal more funding available to support the programs and mission of St. Francis and help St. Francis be a good neighbor to the surrounding community. Any additional programs or projects will be scheduled to avoid impacting the many groups that utilize church facilities throughout the week.
Question: How are things staying the same?
Answer: Both St. Francis and Welcome offer more than just food to hungry people. Like the St. Francis staff and volunteers, Welcome staff and volunteers eat with people, listen to their stories and offer resources that help them improve their quality of life. At the heart of our partnership is a desire to affirm that all individuals are children of God, worthy of care and equal in the eyes of God.
St. Francis’ staff and volunteers will continue to serve St. Francis’ programs. The current director will continue to direct the Senior Center’s program, but will not have to deal with shopping or safety responsibilities – responsibilities she never wanted and is happy to give up.
Question: What are the goals of the partnership?
Answer: The result of the partnership will be: 1) faithful care for local seniors and low income individuals; 2) stewardship of the resources and property of SFLC; 3) safety; and 4) resources and training to support ushers, worship leaders and others who support program participants who may choose to participate in Sunday worship.
Question: What is in it for Welcome?
Answer: Through its collaboration with St. Francis, Welcome will live into its mission more fully. As a faith-based organization, Welcome seeks respond faithfully to poverty and to improve the quality of life for individuals in our community through hospitality, education, food, housing referrals, health care, and drug and alcohol treatment. Welcome lives into its mission by feeding the homeless and hungry in the Polk Gultch district, growing and giving away free produce at its Free Farm in the Western Addition, preaching and teaching in communities of faith across the country and providing online educational opportunities for faith leaders. Increasingly, Welcome collaborates with congregations to maximize effectiveness.
St. Francis’ monthly contribution to Welcome of $1,500 will increase the scope of Welcome’s services while modeling collaboration to other congregations interested in feeding low income people of all ages, educating ushers and other urban congregation volunteers. The collaboration will also increase both Welcome’s and St. Francis’ ability to obtain grant support.
Question: How will the current volunteers and committee members be integrated into the collaborative model?
Answer: Current volunteers and committee members will continue to be the core of the programs. Welcome will be like a consultant to the programs, bring feedback from the congregation, neighbors, participants and information about best practices to the committees. Together, the committees,
St. Francis’ pastor and Welcome will decide on and have opportunity to evaluate changes each month. When there are disagreements or emergent safety issues that need to be addressed between committee meetings, the executive director of Welcome and the pastor of St. Francis will find interim solutions.
Question: How can the Welcome do all these things at St. Francis so inexpensively?
Answer: Caring for those on the margins is only part of the ministry to which congregations are called. In contrast, Welcome is able to focus all its resources on that work, and so benefits from an economy of scale. Welcome keeps costs down through community-building, partnerships with congregations and good stewardship. Welcome leverages the support of volunteers and donations from congregations around the Bay Area. For example, another congregation received more potatoes than it could use for its weekly community meal. St. Francis’ Hospitality Hour and others can make use of those potatoes. Meanwhile, several boxes of produce were left over from St. Francis’ Hospitality Hour. Pr. Megan delivered them to other programs, which made good use of them later on Sunday and early in the week.
With one paid staff person and more than 350 volunteers, Welcome has maintained, for over a decade, a weekly Tuesday meal that feeds about 45 individuals and a Saturday Community Dinner that feeds between 200 and 300 individuals every two weeks – all at a cost of about $600 in food costs and $1,500 in paper products and kitchen supplies each year. Now new collaborations are allowing Welcome to expand the services it provides.
Question: Will Welcome provide security only for certain programs, or will there also be security during worship?
Answer: Welcome will provide security for every one of St. Francis’ public program, event, meeting or worship service. (This applies to St. Francis’ own events only, and not to outside groups using St. Francis’ facilities.)
Question: How are the Welcome people qualified to oversee food safety? To provide security? Answer: Welcome’s Executive Director, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, is trained in the care of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and drug dependency, and nonviolent communication. She has created best practices for working with individuals with severe mental health issues for the Department of Public Health in San Francisco, is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has been working with the members of Old First Presbyterian Church to help ensure their worship and public meetings are safe and unexpected by the participants of Welcome program for over a decade. Outside facilitators will be utilized as necessary to ensure that cooks, volunteers and congregation leaders are trained in food and kitchen safety, understand common mental health and addiction issues, and receive other education helpful to their work at St. Francis.
Question: How will the Welcome assist the Senior Center, which is functioning well now?
Answer: Welcome will support the Senior Center program by providing additional kitchen volunteer support and by listening to the wisdom of the leaders who have created such an excellent program. Welcome will help the program obtain seek grant support and perhaps (if the participants and leaders of the program are interested) create supplemental programming to support the needs of the seniors who already participate or seniors new to St. Francis’ ministries, and obtain additional funding to support the existing ministry to seniors.
Question: When will the partnership begin?
Answer: The partnership officially began on Friday, January 25th. With those who have been overseeing Hospitality Hour away on vacation, it was imperative that the partnership be in place and Welcome staff and volunteers present for Food Runners and Hospitality Hour on January 26th and 27th.
Question: Will members of St. Francis have opportunities to ask questions?
Answer: Yes. Prs. Megan and Pamela will hold an informational meeting during adult forum on Sunday, February 3rd, in the St. Francis conference room. Additional questions may be sent to Pr. Pamela by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or left in her mailbox in the office. Answers will be published in the newsletter and sent out in the weekly e-announcements.