Loving Our Community Unconditionally

February 22, 2018

by Caitlin Garlow

At the intersection of Ellis and Taylor Streets, right the heart of downtown San Francisco, you’ll find GLIDE, a historic organization that has embraced inclusion since the 1960s.

Our group of  volunteers felt the significance of the organization’s history and acknowledged their foresight as we stepped inside their doors, ready to serve hot meals to more than 500 people in need.

Walls were filled with photographs, poetry, artwork, and newspaper clippings honoring GLIDE’s evolution.  It was under the guidance of young minister and activist Cecil Williams, and poet and programs coordinator Janice Mirkitani that GLIDE revitalized its purpose during the Summer of Love and began to focus on a new mission of “radical inclusion.”

They started to offer safe spaces to marginalized groups and help community members meet their basic needs. They first offered a weekly meal program and later expanded their services to offer healthcare, housing and recovery programs.

In a surprising and memorable appearance, Janice herself welcomed us to GLIDE and shared a bit of her own story, offering us a moment for careful reflection before we got to work.

The experience itself was a transformative one. It was immediately obvious that our work was critical to the operation’s overall success. GLIDE relies on more than 85 volunteers each day to feed more than 2,000 people during three meal services.  

As we served shrimp and grits, vegetables and ice cream at lightening speed, we met other volunteers and made many beautiful human connections with our neighbors.

Today GLIDE’s mission is just as critical as it was decades ago. The 30-square blocks that surround the building are home to some of San Francisco’s poorest residents. The challenges in the neighborhood—high rates of homelessness and addiction and an exorbitant cost of living—often feel difficult to confront.

So, we were glad to stand with GLIDE at the front, pushing for inclusion where it’s not yet been won. Their rallying cry stuck with us as one to remember and support: love unconditionally.