Holiday Fund: St. Anthony's helps its neighborsBy Patricia Papalian, development committee volunteer, St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room.
Since 1974 the mission of St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room has been to provide a hot, nutritious meal to anyone in need. There are no fees, no questions, and no one is turned away.
Six days a week this bustling Menlo Park soup kitchen serves 600 guests a complete hot meal while providing take-home groceries, health services and a free clothing store.
The Dining Room is not only a place of refuge, but also a community resource hub where patrons can network and share important information concerning social services, training and job openings.
Who do we serve?
Guests include working and non-working singles, families, seniors, the homeless, newcomers to the Bay Area, the disabled and others.
Nan, a former guest, recently shared the harrowing story of how she escaped Communist Vietnam in the 1970s. She will never forget the meager provisions and wretched conditions aboard the boat in which she sailed toward her uncertain future.
When pirates raided the vessel, the terrified young woman, fearing assault, hid in a crevice, slathering mud on her face to "make herself as ugly as possible."
Noting the austere conditions aboard, however, the marauders promptly fled.
In California, Nan — already traumatized — was now in the throes of culture shock. St. Anthony's offered her much-needed stability while she struggled to assimilate.
In the years that followed, she learned English, made friends, gained citizenship and found work. Three decades later, Nan lives an edifying life of employment, family, and giving back to the community that helped her.
Not every guest at St. Anthony's has a story as dramatic and far-reaching as Nan's, but each, like Nan, has great vulnerability and desperately needs sustenance. Noting her experience, Nan expresses how comforted she is "to know a place like St. Anthony's exists" for those who have fallen on hard times.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are among the busiest days of the year, when the Dining Room serves as many as 1,000 meals. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District collects toys throughout the holiday season for St. Anthony's to distribute to underprivileged children at Christmas. This heartening collaboration results in some 2,000 poverty stricken children receiving toys at St. Anthony's annual Christmas giveaway.
St. Anthony's is funded by donations and grants from many individuals, local businesses, and foundations. The cost of serving over 175,000 meals this year is enormous. Donations are welcome and needed.
At St. Anthony's — "We do not believe in miracles. ... We count on them."
Donations to the Holiday Fund benefit St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room and nine other community-service organizations. St. Anthony's is at 3500 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Go to paduadiningroom.com or call (650) 365-9664 for more information.
To give to the Holiday Fund online, go to siliconvalleycf.org