Amidst Pandemic Holidays, Gratitude Thrives
“GLIDE does everything with a lot of heart. It feels nice to come here and be able to receive something and just be part of the community,” says Nelida. It was one of the first chilly and overcast days of autumn in the Tenderloin, but weather wasn’t going to factor into the celebratory spirit of GLIDE’s staff and clients. That’s because it was the day of the Harvest Dinner, a telltale signal of the start to GLIDE’s renowned holiday season.
In ‘normal’ years, the Harvest Dinner is held the week before Thanksgiving in Freedom Hall at GLIDE’s Ellis Street location. It’s a well-loved, well-attended event among the families that GLIDE serves. Guests get to enjoy a meal that mirrors a traditional Thanksgiving menu – complete with roasted turkey and all the fixings. Families have the opportunity to invite their extended relatives and friends to the meal, which creates the warm, convivial atmosphere that the Harvest Dinner is known for.
As we enter a second year of pandemic holidays, GLIDE’s celebrations are still happening in a modified fashion. This year, 100 families got their Harvest Dinner packaged to-go, along with the regular food pantry items – a box of produce, dairy and eggs – and a special meal option for Halal.
The holidays are always joyful at GLIDE, but this year is particularly special in celebrating the resiliency of GLIDE staff and clients in the face of an ongoing pandemic and economic turmoil. Amidst the hardships, there is the amplified need for love, connection, and empathy. The steadfast support of the GLIDE community has been pivotal for Nelida’s family, in more ways than one.
At the beginning of the pandemic, both Nelida and her husband lost their jobs. “It was a very scary time,” Nelida recalls, who was caring for her second newborn daughter at the height of shelter-in-place. She heard from GLIDE that they were beginning to distribute diapers and wipes to families, along with the Family Resource Center’s regular food pantry distribution. She began coming to GLIDE to help support the essential needs of her family.
As the pandemic wore on, so did her concern that her eldest four-year-old daughter was missing critical socializing opportunities with children her age. It was the same concern that parents have nationwide: How can children learn social skills in a world where socializing can result in a life-threatening illness? She reached out to GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center Director, Lanie Igtanloc, and the two spoke at length about the COVID safety measures that GLIDE was taking with its childcare programs. Now, her daughter, Alice, attends the preschool program at FYCC, where she’s blossoming. “When my daughter started going to preschool, she only spoke Spanish,” Nelida explains. Since beginning preschool with FYCC, her English skills have vastly improved, along with opportunities to safely socialize with her new friends.
“The staff at GLIDE are all very lovely and loving. They give everything without expecting anything back,” Nelida explained. On the same day that Nelida visited GLIDE to pick up her Harvest Dinner, she signed up for her first volunteer shift with the Daily Meals team. “It’s a way for me to give back and show appreciation,” she said. After all, GLIDE has always been more than the services it provides – it’s a loving, resilient community created by the people, for the people.