A SF Love Story: Emily Cohen Shares How She Gave Her Heart to GLIDE
“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” – Henrik Ibsen
I often tell people that I fell in love with GLIDE by accident. Just over a year ago, still (and hopefully forever) a tourist in my own city, I offered to take my father’s friend to observe a Sunday Celebration service. It was on my long list of things to do in SF anyway. So I met them for an 11a.m. service in late January of 2013. And like they say about love at first sight, I was swept away, blown away, totally hooked.
I love San Francisco. And I think that when you love something (or someone) the most important thing you can do is give your heart to it. Be brave, take a chance, and offer yourself up in whatever ways you can.
So, after attending Sunday service for a few months I finally took the next step and began volunteering once a month on Sunday mornings in the GLIDE Daily Free Meals Program. This resulted in me falling in love with GLIDE all over again. Through their Sunday services I was hearing about their impact on the city and our community. In the kitchen, I was seeing it. And in a small way, I was a part of it.
When I tell people that I volunteer in GLIDE’s kitchen once a month they often offer up a response along the lines of “good for you,” “that’s so great” or “what a nice thing you’re doing.” What I want to tell them is how much more I get out of it than I give. But that’s a cliché and can be hard to explain. You have to experience it for yourself. And I suggest you do.
GLIDE has given me a way to connect with my community, and to contribute in a way that I would otherwise not be able to. GLIDE is a vehicle to help you contribute to something meaningful; to help you open your heart and open your mind. And in the short year I’ve been involved with GLIDE, it has taught me some wonderful lessons:
1) When you keep your eyes open with a desire to give back, you’ll find opportunities everywhere:
One morning I was serving in the kitchen on a typical chilly SF day when one of the GLIDE staff members mentioned in passing that they used to serve hot coffee with all three meals. Now, due to budget cuts, they could only serve it with breakfast. After seeing first-hand how important hot coffee and a warm meal was to the hundreds served each morning, that small statement resonated with me. Coffee – a small thing – made a huge difference to the people in that room. People I cared about. And I wanted to do something.
2) Make a difference where you can, however you can.
After serving that morning I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that I could be doing more for GLIDE. So I decided not to get rid of it. Instead, rather than letting the inspiration fade away, I decided to take a chance and act on it the best way I knew how – by calling on my friends.
My greatest blessings are my friends. They are also my greatest resource. So I reached out to 8 amazing people; each of whom I trusted and each of whom had their own strong network of friends. I asked them to do something I knew we could all do very well – throw a party. But this time it would be for GLIDE. A few of them were unfamiliar with GLIDE, but it didn’t matter. They were willing to trust me – One of the best parts of friendship. I asked each of them to commit to bringing a minimum of 10 people to the party. And I asked them to reach out to their own network of resources to help make the event happen. One Eventbrite website for guests to register at, A Facebook event page, a secured venue, a couple of sponsors, a photographer and a caterer willing to donate their skills, and just like that, we were in business.
3) When you do something with love, when you give with love, you’ll be surrounded by love.
The night of the event more than 120 young people from SF, many from different networks, came together for a party. Some came in groups. Some came alone. Similar to walking in to GLIDE, it didn’t matter. We wanted everyone to have a good great time, meet new people friends, feel comfortable, feel inspired, and come away with a desire to give back and get involved with GLIDE.
There were a lot of highlights from that evening; A sold out venue, an opportunity to educate people about GLIDE, and raising money for the organization. But, in some ways, the brightest highlight for me was seeing 120 young professionals come together; making new friends – meeting new people and having a great time for a great cause. We’ve been asked by many of the guests if and when we plan to do it again. So we will.
4) I am somebody. You are somebody.
Hosting your own fundraiser for GLIDE is an opportunity to remind people that if you love San Francisco, contribute to it. And if you want to give back, connect and engage in a meaningful way, get to GLIDE. We are all one person. But one person, when connected to GLIDE, has the opportunity to give back to our city and the community we seek to connect with in boundless ways.
Sometimes, during Sunday services, I take notes. There are some things said that I just don’t want to forget. A few months ago, during his sermon, Reverend Cecil Williams said, “Take action for justice and righteousness and because you believe people should take action. Say ‘I’m here, I’m taking action!’ Shout out ‘I am somebody and you are somebody.’”
I hope that the event we threw that evening, above all else, was a reminder that when you’re inspired to do something – to give back, to connect, to educate, to advocate – that you do it. Use your resources, however great or small, in whatever ways you can, to create something good. To start something. Because you are somebody. And I am somebody. And we can all do great things.
With gratitude for the opportunity to give back to GLIDE I must thank the people who helped make it happen: My great friends Alfonzo Collazo, Anna Leff-Kich, Rachel Leff-Kich, Scott Lewis, Hilary Mattis, Brian Maestretti, Emily Mcdonald, Jason Sommers, as well as The Office private venue,
Schoenberg Family Law Firm, Haya Hon Catering, Max Claus Photography, ByeJoe Liquors, Alice Engstrom and Ben Rosenfield of GLIDE for volunteering for us that evening, and each of the amazing people who came, danced, donated and gave back with us that night.
For those interested in hosting your own fundraiser for GLIDE, you can check out our event page at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-karma-kick-off-party-tickets-9195687549.
Emily Cohen is the Director of Government Relations for a union-affiliated contractors association headquartered in the East Bay. She lives in San Francisco's Cow Hollow district and has been a member of GLIDE for just over a year, attending Sunday services and serving breakfast monthly in the kitchen. In addition to GLIDE, Emily is a supporter and/or member of multiple other local charities and advocacy groups including SF's LGBT Center, SF Food Bank, and various animal rescue organizations, including San Francisco's Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. She has two spoiled rescue dogs, Sam and Biscuit.