To Our Neighbors
At The Richmond Neighborhood Center, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthy, fulfilling life in the community they call home. But in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led many Richmond District residents to lose their jobs, access to childcare, and even food security.
These are exactly the kinds of critical needs we meet every day. Our youth programs provide school-day and after-school enrichment to over 2,000 students. Our food pantries provide groceries to hundreds of seniors and families each week. Our community initiatives help foster deep, lasting connections between neighbors.
But this year posed unforeseen challenges. How do we support working parents when schools are closed? How do we keep youth engaged on a video call? How do we scale up our food pantries to meet skyrocketing demand when so many are out of work? How do we address the isolation and disconnection that residents of all ages experienced as a result of sheltering in place created?
In this 2019-2020 annual report, you’ll read about how our staff adapted to these challenges in the early days of the pandemic. But I want you to know this: none of it would have been possible without the support of our community. Our donors, volunteers and partner organizations never hesitated to generously give their time, money and expertise in support of our mission.
Thanks to all of you, we have been able to continue our work throughout this historically difficult time. I can’t possibly express my gratitude in words, but I hope this annual report will give you a glimpse of just how much of an impact your support has made in our community.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
In 2019, The Richmond Neighborhood Center Beacon at Presidio Middle School worked with the school to develop the Presidio Wellness Center, a restorative, student-centered solution to mental health and wellness concerns that were on the rise even before the pandemic.
When students felt overwhelmed or upset in class, they were given the option of making a ten-minute visit to the Wellness Center to get themselves in a better headspace. Our Student Support Services team, in collaboration with school social workers, were available to offer students distractions and fidget toys to help them calm down, guided breathing exercises, a sympathetic ear, or simply a shoulder to cry on. The results were promising, and disciplinary referrals in classrooms dropped precipitously.
In 2020, however, schools closed due to the pandemic, and our Beacon team was faced with new challenges. Students were suddenly stuck at home, away from their friends, teachers and counselors, left to face a whole new set of stressors with very little support. For many students, a lack of access to technology or stable internet connections made distance learning impossible.
To get a sense of their students’ needs, Neighborhood Center staff quickly implemented a wellness check program. By making phone calls to families in those early days of the pandemic, they were able to connect them with food security services, provide technology for distance learning, and determine what kinds of virtual wellness and enrichment offerings would be most useful. This helped lay the foundation for robust supportive programming in the months to come, and kept students plugged into their school community during a chaotic time.
According to a 2018 study by our partners at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, more than 19,500 people in the neighborhood are at high risk for not being able to afford all the food they need.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically exacerbated food insecurity all across the city. Countless Richmond District residents faced layoffs, reduced hours, and other hardships that put their ability to feed themselves and their families at risk, and seniors who rely on our weekly grocery deliveries for food and social contact became more isolated than ever. The wait list for our food programs grew immediately.
Our food programs had to adapt quickly. First, our team devised a series of health and safety measures to protect our participants, volunteers and staff. Food pantry pickups were relocated to allow for outdoor social distancing, reusable bags were replaced with single-use, masks and gloves were provided to all pantry workers, and all grocery deliveries became no-contact drop-offs. We also transitioned 200 of our highest-risk food pantry participants (age 65+) to home deliveries, allowing them to stay safe and avoid transportation hassles caused by limited transit service.
Next, we had to address the increase in demand. Partnering with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, we opened a new, weekly pop-up food pantry with capacity for over 300 new participants. We put out a call for new volunteers to expand our existing capacity, and in just a few weeks we were providing free, healthy food to more than 1,000 people each week. With so many people newly unemployed, we also fielded a record number of requests for assistance applying to the CalFresh food assistance program—at one point, our weekly appointments more than tripled, but fortunately we were able to accommodate the increase.
Food insecurity was one of the most insidious and often invisible ways that the pandemic impacted our community. Though there is always work to be done, we’re proud to be able to reach so many of our neighbors in need every single week.
Community is what happens when we build deep, one-on-one connections with the people around us, breaking down barriers and learning to take care of one another.
One Richmond is a community-driven initiative and neighborhood identity that works to bring the Richmond District together. Beginning in 2019, neighbors could drop by our Clement St. office to learn about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, community meetings and neighborhood goings-on.
When the COVID-19 pandemic came to San Francisco, many of our neighbors, local businesses and partner organizations were struggling, trying their best to make ends meet in a frightening and ever-evolving situation. One of the biggest challenges people faced was a lack of information about closures, public health orders, and ways to support the people and organizations they cared about. We saw an opportunity to help.
The One Richmond website quickly became a virtual hub for Richmond District residents to stay informed, with postings from the Department of Public Health, information about online shopping, curbside pickup, and takeout and delivery options from 125 local shops and restaurants, and volunteer opportunities with 30 community organizations supporting neighbors in need.
Thousands of people visited these pages each week, giving their time and money to good causes and helping their favorite local businesses keep the lights on. Though our office doors were closed, we were delighted to be able to facilitate so much good work in our community.
All the work you’ve read about in this annual report is made possible by the generosity of our donors and sponsors. Every youth enrichment program, every meal delivered to a senior in the neighborhood, and every community initiative is thanks to your support.
In the 2019 holiday season, our donors raised over $50,000 for our annual Give Local campaign, setting a new record for the event. This is one of our most important campaigns of the year, bringing in new supporters and helping us finish the year strong. Every dollar raised goes towards our youth and community programs.
When the pandemic closed down San Francisco public schools in early 2020, our school-day and after-school programs had to adapt quickly. With so many families facing financial hardship, we decided to waive our usual tuition for all of our newly virtual youth enrichment and academic support programs. This posed its own challenge, as tuition revenues normally cover a portion of our operating expenses—but once again, our community stepped up, and many families donated their usual tuition payments to support this initiative.
2020 also marked the 40th anniversary of The Richmond Neighborhood Center, a historic milestone that called for a big celebration. But when San Francisco issued its shelter-in-place order, we had to get creative.
Thanks to our wonderful supporters, the fully-virtual Golden Gate Gala at Home was a huge success. Between our online silent auction, sponsorships and individual donations, the event raised significant funds at a critical time for our organization, helping to ensure that we could keep our staff employed through the uncertain early days of the pandemic.
The 2019-2020 fiscal year saw the Neighborhood Center form a large number of new and expanded corporate and foundation partnerships, and individual leadership gifts also grew significantly. These partners believe in our work meeting emerging needs in the community, and saw that we were well positioned to make an impact where it was needed most.