Jonathan Fennell has worked at GLIDE for over 17 years, and seen a lot of changes during his time here. As San Francisco celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, members of GLIDE staff are reflecting on how the Church and Foundation have evolved over time. We were thrilled to catch up with Jonathan after the lunch shift one day to hear his thoughts. Many thanks to Jonathan, a dedicated employee and integral member of the GLIDE family, for taking the time to talk about his life experiences and the values he shares with GLIDE!
I have been at GLIDE for 17 years. I came here in 2004. I was on GA [General Assistance], and I knew about GLIDE because my dad used to work here. My dad was here for 10 years way back, when it first started. He was a right-hand man. He did accounting. In fact I met Cecil when I was eight or nine. I really didn’t know much about GLIDE, so one day I decided to come and volunteer. I was here for four days, just volunteering. They asked if I wanted a job and I have been here ever since.
I am a shift leader/supervisor in the Meals Program. I am responsible for cooking, making sure the kitchen is set up, making sure everybody is here on time, making sure everyone knows what they are doing. If someone is late, they call me and let me know that. I make sure everything runs right.
I was born and raised in San Francisco, in 1960, at St Luke’s Hospital. When I was born I was 90 days premature; I only weighed one pound and 14 ounces. I died three times. The doctors brought me back to life three times. That is one reason my parents named me Jonathan, because it means gift from God.
I’m from Pacifica, but I live in Excelsior now in the family house. It was my aunt and uncle’s first, then my mother and father moved in. Now my cousin owns it and my mother and I are in it, as my cousins are in Texas. My dad has gone on to bigger and better things.
Changes over the years
Here at GLIDE, I have seen security change over the years, each year getting better and better. It’s similar to the Meals Program. When they first started frying chicken back then, they were only frying chicken thighs and you could only eat one time. As the years progressed and the money got better, the food got better and GLIDE’s programs have gotten a thousand times better. Back then everyone was on crack, everyone was on drugs—the programs have helped people 100%. They really didn’t have the medical program back then like they do today. Programs like the Women’s Center—when I first came it wasn’t here. Our programs have helped people in the Tenderloin or wherever they live at in San Francisco. I have seen tremendous progress. And I have seen all the employees grow and become better people, seen them learn and respect people for who they are.
Proud moments at GLIDE
I made a one-week job turn into 17 years—that was my proudest moment. This is the longest I have ever been at one spot, and I am 57 years old! I have had jobs—three years here, four years there, but this here is a place where I have seen myself grow and I have become a better person. I could cook a little bit then but now I’ve started cooking for my mother and grandmother. I have seen myself progress. Some of my best moments were right when I first got hired.
I saved someone’s life once. He was choking on a chicken bone and I had to do the Heimlich Maneuver. It took about 30 seconds but it came out. That is probably my greatest accomplishment, saving someone’s life. It’s just the struggles I have been through, since I have been at GLIDE. I have been to an alcohol program twice. You get struck down sometimes but I have learned from it. Straight road to recovery.
All I can do is thank God that I have a job, thank God we all have a job. I just want to grow with GLIDE as long as they are here. Because all good things must come to an end and nothing lasts forever. But I just take it one day at a time, take a personal interest in how I can better myself or how I can help better someone else. Whether it is a client or somebody that works here, if I can help with their growth and help them understand that once you walk in these front doors, let outside stay outside, and let GLIDE be GLIDE.
I have done it all. Fried chicken is GLIDE’s mainstay, but I really love spaghetti. I made spaghetti here one day and they loved it.
We made it out of ground turkey. When you cook ground turkey it can be watery so you have to let everything reduce down. And we have brisket for the Mother’s Day celebration. I think actually my favorite thing is cooking for the holidays, when they have the special parties.
GLIDE has been around 54 years. This is one big happy family. Without GLIDE, a lot of these people wouldn’t know what to do, and that is why I love this place.