Almanac

Community - December 15, 2010

Holiday Fund: New center will provide nurturing environment for young people

Submitted by Sue Mitchell, administrative associate, St. Francis Center.

The St. Francis Center of Redwood City is bursting at the seams with pride. Not only did our tireless volunteers manage to unload, package and distribute food and clothing to more than 4,620 people in November, our community has come together in support of our exciting new project: The Siena Youth Center.

What's that, you ask? Quite simply, the youth center is the culmination of the thoughts and prayers of our community. Its purpose is to provide our children with a safe and nurturing environment, where they can gather for sports activities, after-school tutoring or mentorship, critical elements to the well-being of our youth, and factors that are currently lacking in our community.

The mission of the St. Francis Center is to help challenged Redwood City and east Menlo Park families in a multitude of ways that allow them to live in dignity and become self-supporting members of the community.

In truth, the North Fair Oaks neighborhood where we are based is challenged in many respects beyond economics. A strong gang presence leaves parents with little choice but to keep their children indoors, thus creating more obstacles and boundaries for them to overcome.

The fact that there isn't one park, gym or green space in our section of North Fair Oaks is especially challenging when you consider that the neighborhood is bordered by the railroad tracks, 5th Avenue, Woodside Road and El Camino Real — tricky pedestrian borders for youngsters to navigate.

Better yet, the Sheriff's Office has partnered with the St. Francis Center to change the paths of these young, impressionable kids. The office will, in fact, have an on-site satellite office that will be staffed with able and willing members of the Sheriff's Office. We know their involvement will help to bridge the gap that currently exists between the community and law enforcement.

The Siena Youth Center, which will be built in 2011 a block from the St. Francis Center, will also house our annual Holiday Toy Program. Since its inception 18 years ago, the toy program has been housed in various halls, warehouses and vacant store sites around Redwood City. What a great relief not to "hop scotch" in the future and have a permanent location for this wonderful program and other events held during the year.

Also on the design board is a new and improved version of our community garden. The former garden was demolished last month to accommodate Hetch Hetchy water supply upgrades. Once work is completed, we will expand upon our former site — which sustained 24 local families — and enhance its size and productivity.

The Holy Family School received an upgrade, as well. Our students will now have the benefit of learning from an interactive "Smart Board." Sister Susan is honing her skills on this technologically advanced support tool, where she can download curriculum directly from her laptop and engage the students in a new fashion. The advantages of this "Smart Board" are numerous and Sister Susan is pleased to be a part of this tech-savvy generation.

The St. Francis Center, in its mission to give dignity to and improve the quality of the lives of those we serve, is grateful for all of the support that we receive from our volunteers, the community and our benefactors. Quite simply, you make it happen.

Visit stfrancisrwc.org for more information. Donations to the Holiday Fund benefit St. Francis Center of Redwood City and nine other community-service organizations. St. Francis Center is located at 151 Buckingham Ave. in Redwood City. The phone number is (650) 365-7829.

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