Each year, our Good Neighbor Awards honor some of the dedicated neighbors who volunteer their time to help seniors and people with disabilities get the resources and support they need to age and thrive in their own homes and neighborhoods. We are delighted to honor Saralyn as our 2017 Good Neighbor Honoree for the Oceanview/Merced Heights/Ingleside (OMI) Food Network.
Saralyn’s parents moved to San Francisco’s Ingleside district when she was two. Despite her daughter’s frequent appeal to join her in Sacramento, Saralyn has never moved from the family home on Montana Street. Why should she move, she asks her daughter? “It’s a blessing to still be here. I’m rooted to the street. I’m very secure; I’m familiar with the surroundings. This is my comfort zone.”
She lives across the street from the Minnie & Lovie Ward Recreational Center. And that’s how she became rooted in volunteer work.
One day, after seeing the crowd at the center, Saralyn walked over to find out what was going on. “I was getting my pantry bag one day when I saw Debra (Glen) in a room packing groceries.” Saralyn knew Debra and they started talking. “Debra told me she was doing the pantry for ‘our seniors’ and asked would I like to volunteer.” Saralyn became a steady volunteer, joining the OMI crew packing and delivering groceries every Wednesday morning. The OMI Food Network serves almost 70 families, delivering groceries from the San Francisco Marin Food Bank as part of the San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services’ Home Delivered Grocery program.
Caring for Neighbors, Wherever They Are
There are 19 families on Saralyn’s route, and she looks forward to seeing every one of them. She went to school with one of the women on her route, and they reminisce. But Saralyn connects even with those who are newer to the neighborhood. “I look forward to seeing their face, and they are looking for me. They’re my seniors. It’s a treat for me to be able to give something to people.”
Saralyn had been a switchboard operator before she retired. Her last job was at San Francisco General Hospital. When someone called for a name she recognized from the neighborhood, she’d visit the patient before she left work. The patients, doctors, everyone at General looked forward to seeing her. “They loved me, and I returned that love,” she said.
In addition to volunteering for the pantry, Saralyn walks with the OMI Fog Walkers, takes Always Active classes at the IT Bookman Center, exercises at Minnie & Lovie Ward, is active in her church, and talks often with her daughters. She also enjoys going downtown, and seeing friends – although many have moved across the Bay. When she visits a distant friend, Saralyn brings a plant with stones and sticks from the neighborhood stuck in the pot to “remind them where they grew up.”
It’s all about “human kindness,” she said, “being kind and giving to others. It’s a treat for me to be able to give something to people. I thank God every day. It’s a blessing to be alive and to be able to give.”