After joining the St. Anthony Foundation in 2010 as its executive director, former Sister of Mercy Shari Roeseler brings more than 20 years of experience in helping those less fortunate. Roeseler, 48, is continuing the foundation’s “hands below the safety net” motto during this holiday season. For more info on volunteering or various programs, visit www.stanthonysf.org or stop by 150 Golden Gate Ave.
What’s your underlying goal during this holiday season?
We closed out our 60th anniversary year and turned 61 on Oct. 4. Our main goal throughout the whole organization and programs is to be a gateway of stability and hope. As we have done for all of our 61 years, we are really a place that meets people exactly where they are. Many are people who are struggling, have really hit an economic bottom. So with the holidays, it becomes more emotionally challenging for a lot of folks. A lot of people who come to us are very alone. We really provide that place of community, support and help.
Can you tell us about the knitting program that you are continuing from last year?
That’s the beauty of Facebook and going viral. We started last year with a new initiative and we invited people to knit scarves to give to our guests at Christmas. In October, we had about 250 scarves and we were a little nervous. We put it on Facebook ... and by the time the holidays were here, we had 7,000 scarves. We’re doing scarves and hats this year. What was really touching were the personal notes that people wrote when they sent in the scarves.
Was there a note that stood out?
For me, it was one that was from a group of children who had learned to knit. They talked about how their parents bundled them up to keep them warm, and how they didn’t want somebody else to be cold.
How can people donate?
We hold our annual curbside donations event [before Thanksgiving and Christmas]. It’s every day of the week. Folks can drive and pull up alongside our building. People bring turkeys and other canned goods. That helps one stock up. People bring newer, gently used clothing. We get about 70 percent of all our contributions — both monetary and in-kind — in these months. It’s a really critical time and we’ve seen our numbers continue to go up, pretty much 10 to 15 percent. With other organizations seeing their budgets cut, we’re seeing a bump in our numbers for folks using our technology lab, dining room and clothing program.
You are in the process of building a new dining room that will open in 2014. Can you tell us about that?
To me, that is my main focus here is raising the money for the new dining room. I see it as a sign of our commitment to The City for the next 60-plus years. We’re in the original dining room still. It’s woefully old and inadequate and very crowded. It was an old auto body repair shop. We’ve done all the reconfiguring we can do, but it’s not built for people with disabilities and all that. Our new dining room is going to be built as a dining room with efficient modern equipment. Our mission is not to just provide clothing or food, but to also gives people a sense that they matter.