The Story of SF CARES


Ministry among the neglected and discarded people of San Francisco must be both multifaceted and integrated; it must be present and hopeful; it must be real and mean something.  SF CARES through its three core member organizations (San Francisco Night Ministry, Welcome Ministry, and Saint Paulus Lutheran Church) champions such ministry throughout the night and day, feeding the soul and the body, sharing the street and the heart.  How do they achieve this? Its ministers walk the streets at night; celebrate Holy Communion in open public spaces and in congregational settings throughout the week; offer free eye tests & free prescription glasses to the poor, serve restaurant and community style food depending on the settings to the needy; provide specialized food products for people with HIV at the regular Friendship Banquets; engage elected officials by way of organized advocacy efforts throughout its extended network; and grow and give away vegetables from its farm to those that can’t afford food. That’s the focus of SF CARES.

Not only are its hands ministry absolutely worn, honestly dirty and persistently open, SF CARES seeks to draw others into such living mission through volunteer opportunities via service related experiences, educational materials, personal reflections and challenging venues.  Urban life with all its bumps and bruises and blessings are offered for those who seek to discover themselves in the midst of unscreened urban life and death.  Hope is given meaning; understanding is tested; dignity is realized, both in oneself and in the neighbor. We care, we act, we produce and we repeat until everyone’s taken care of.

There is so much more – not merely to do, but to become.

For years, these three institutions which comprise SF CARES have served in their own particular ways among virtually the same population and the same geography.  Over the years they have deepened their commitment and resolve in the exercise of showing dignity and honor for and among those with whom they lives and work.   And now realizing the wisdom of it, they have magnified their strength, resolve and delivery by coming together in collaboration within the acronym SF CARES:- San Francisco Compassion, Advocacy, Resilience, Education Services.  Officially established in early 2012, SF CARES, first and foremost, seeks to support and strengthen the partners particularly through the coordination of volunteers upon whom depend and with whom these organizations thrive and by pooling resources available from partner assets.  Each organization sustains its own identity, its own budget, its own Board, but demonstrates through material support, personnel exchange and mutual visioning that the ministries represented in these partners are deeply inter-related and inter-changeable.

SF CARES is designed to support and invigorate the individual ministries and activities of each partner without assuming its own identity or soliciting its own operations.  This is not to dismiss commonly created ventures among its partners, but is to address these as an organic development of collaboration.  As its common life continues to develop they are open to emergent opportunities to strengthen and extend the ministries which are presently operating.

In addition to the solicitation and placement of volunteers among these partners, the collaborative partners have celebrated the sharing of staff time and coordination in support of ongoing work among the partners; material support has moved among these nonprofits; expertise and insights have been shared; and effective public relations operations have been created.    Collaboration is given meaning in the actions and spirit of nonprofit organizations seeking not self-advancement, but the advancement of the ministries which bind them together in serving the neighbor.  To this, SF CARES dedicates their efforts by supporting the trio of member organizations and ensuring their combined efforts results in a multitude of events and policies that help the poor.

In addition to this basic organizational support, SF CARES is beginning to develop, from the creative energies of these partner organizations, unique programs and opportunities which weave together the diverse gifts of these partners.  Our Vision Event which has provided free prescription glasses & eye tests to thousands of San Franciscans will be a model for other locations in the US, namely Hawaii and Oregon; targeted food deliveries for impoverished HIV/AIDS folks are allowing them to take their medications properly;  seniors are brought together with food and fellowship opportunities; homeless are fed on Sunday mornings opening a doorway for participation in the liturgical life of the local congregation; leadership responsibilities are shared evenly for congregational vacancies and emergencies; fiscal sponsorship of SOS (Singers of the Street) a group of homeless individuals who come together to sing is shouldered by SF CARES rehearse at Saint Paulus Lutheran church each Monday and perform at dozens of charitable events throughout the year, including the famous Tenderloin Tessie cabaret banquet holiday dinners.