Kent first came to GLIDE as a homeless teenager in search of a hot meal and assistance navigating San Francisco’s affordable housing system. Today, he returns every Monday and Thursday morning to volunteer in the kitchen, which comes easy to him – he has years of experience in the restaurant industry! He believes little things, like a smile or a warm greeting, can make a big difference – two things he provides plenty of each week during his breakfast shifts. Thank you for getting up early and making breakfast a wonderful experience for our community, Kent!
What brought you to GLIDE?
When I was 18, I came to San Francisco homeless, and this was the first place that helped me – gave me a meal, gave me lunch, gave me direction where to help myself find housing and secure housing. I did that 10 years ago. I’ve just been working at my other job, and I decided this would be a good place for me to volunteer as well to give back—because without GLIDE when I first got here, it probably would have been a lot harder. I mean I would have got it done, but definitely the direction, and the food, and just the small help that they gave me was a big help in the end. So I thought if I could just come back and help out in any way…
I’ve worked in the restaurant business for 15 years, so anything behind the kitchen I can do. I’ve also been a barista for, like, five years and they’re like, “Hey, we need someone to do the coffee” and I was like, “Alright, I guess I can do that!” That’s pretty much it; I just wanted to come back and help. I also live in the neighborhood so, you know, any time you can help your own neighborhood out is important.
I’m a firm believer that housing, food, and healthcare should be available to everyone, for nothing.
On those early mornings, how do you get yourself in the mindset to serve?
The thing is, you know you’re helping, right? At the end of the day you’re tired, you might have been up too late, or whatever it is. But everybody feels good when we leave here. Like you did good, helped people out, and they’re [stomachs are] full. It’s not the biggest thing in the world—but it’s not the smallest.
What’s the best part of the volunteer experience?
Just knowing that all these people are going to walk out of here with a full stomach. I’m a firm believer that housing, food, and healthcare should be available to everyone, for nothing. I mean those are just essential things to live, so to be able to give a thousand people one of those necessities is essential!
Just the comfort that I can give them, in any way, is pretty cool.
Do you have a favorite story from volunteering with the Daily Free Meals program?
Yeah! I mean, there are a lot of older gentlemen and women that are just thankful, and just want to stop you, and talk about things, and there’s also the craziness that happens sometimes – you know we’re dealing with a lot of mental health issues and things like that. So you get the good stories of just being able to talk to people, and brighten their day, and sometimes you get the bad stories. But a person like me who’s been in the same kind of struggle can relate. I think they find that comforting. Just the comfort that I can give them, in any way, is pretty cool.
The ticket person is probably the most important, if not the most important, because they’re the first person (someone in the meals line) sees. A lot of them are having shitty days, and some of them are having good days, but the hope is that if you’re demonstrating a good mindset, it’ll rub off. And it always does. Just like one “How you doin’?” can make somebody’s day.
What’s it like working alongside GLIDE staff every week?
Every single person has their own personality—just like anywhere. But these people [the staff] have extremely high-energy personalities. It’s good—even if they’re mad or they’re sad, it’s always high energy. I like that because I tend to be high energy myself. It’s cool, the conversations are fast, they’re good, movin’. A lot of these people, you can tell, they’ve been here 15, 20, 25 years. It’s not that they can’t get another job, they want to be here. And that’s more important than anything for a job like this. So I appreciate all of them. Even if they’re havin’ tough days, they’re all good people that try to help. And that’s what it’s all about, really.
GLIDE relies on 75-85 volunteers every day to ensure that we can serve three hot meals to everyone who walks through our doors. To serve breakfast with Kent, sign up online. Hope to see you soon!