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Fifty years ago, congregants from GLIDE Church organized a potluck for their hungry neighbors in the Tenderloin. Their pastor, Rev. Cecil Williams, GLIDE’s Co-founder and Minister of Liberation, requested fried chicken—a staple of any festive gathering in the African American community of his youth.

That’s the origin of what has come to be known as GLIDE’s “World Famous Fried Chicken.” Here’s how it has endured.

GLIDE’s church potluck grew popular quickly in a community stalked by hunger and, in many cases, also in need of compassion, understanding and fellowship. More people came, more food was served. In time, GLIDE transformed the potluck into what we now know as the Daily Free Meals program, the city’s only program serving three nutritious meals a day to all in need.

The Daily Free Meals program in action in the ’90s with Rev. Cecil Williams.

Countless dishes have made their way through the Meals program’s menu over the years. But one dish has remained a staple: our World Famous Fried Chicken, an affectionate label for a festive meal our community never tires of.

On Fried Chicken Thursdays, the lunch line in front of GLIDE extends farther than normal. In fact, two extra chefs come in to manage the demand. One chef prepares the chicken for lunch, and the other covers dinner. Meanwhile, the Daily Free Meals staff prepares the rest of the food and welcomes the guests. It’s a major production.

People sometimes ask, does GLIDE’s chicken boast some “secret recipe”? The truth is our fried chicken contains no unexpected ingredients. You wouldn’t think GLIDE’s fried chicken could contend with traditional restaurants. But it does.

Bobby and George, Daily Free Meals program staff.

“I’d put our chicken right up there with the best restaurants in the city,” says program director George Gundry, with understandable pride. “It might even outdo them.”

George was in the restaurant business 40 years before he joined GLIDE. In his time here, he and his remarkable staff, joined by thousands of volunteers each year, have gone out of their way to bestow on GLIDE’s Meals program guests the hospitality any customer would take for granted at the best restaurants. Meanwhile, George and team have helped GLIDE reach the milestone of 20 million meals served—a number that grows every morning, every afternoon, every evening. GLIDE’s World Famous Fried Chicken Thursdays only push that number higher.

As Thursday rolls around this week, it will be met once again by a great collective effort to welcome and serve hundreds of individuals and families in need, all ready to sit with good company and dine on the city’s finest fried chicken, prepared by some of the city’s finest neighbors—dedicated folks who, without knowing it, are keeping alive the spirit of a simple church potluck.


 

GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program is the only program in San Francisco providing three nutritious meals a day, 364 days a year, to anyone challenged by food insecurity (today, approximately one in four San Franciscans falls into this category). GLIDE’s Meals program serves more than 2,000 meals a day, while acting as a gateway to GLIDE’s full, comprehensive array of programs and services designed to help people stabilize their lives and move beyond crisis and insecurity. You can help keep the tradition going by donating to GLIDE today.

A dedicated volunteer whose legacy lives on through his bequest to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program

Longtime volunteer Jonathan Leong passed away on October 19, 2017, leaving a very generous bequest to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program. Just days after creating his living trust, he told his sister Bonnie, “A person dies. A great charity organization lives on and on, helping the poor and needy.”

A native San Franciscan who grew up in Chinatown, Jonathan gave his time and money to many nonprofits.

Jonathan was born near Vallejo and Mason streets, just one mile away from GLIDE. He attended Lowell High School and graduated from San Jose State University. He worked in San Francisco for the US Postal Service for nearly four decades.

Jonathan had a wide range of interests. He loved learning new languages and was fluent in Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish and German. Inspired by his father, Jonathan traveled all through Europe and Asia. He loved Montreal and went there annually to attend the International Jazz Festival. His favorite hobby was chess, and he was a frequent visitor to The Mechanics Institute’s famous chess room.

 

 

When Jonathan retired, he started volunteering at St. Anthony’s and GLIDE’s dining halls.

His sister Bonnie describes her brother as someone who was a big believer in community. He wanted to help those less fortunate, she explains, people who had less than he did. In addition to GLIDE and St. Anthony’s, Jonathan also supported the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, organizations that reflected his values.

“Volunteers like Jonathan are the heart and soul of what we do here in the Meals program, which is nourishing the body and soul every day,” says Daily Free Meals Program Director George Gundry. “We rely on them (up to 85 volunteers a day) for their generous donation of labor in getting food prepped and served for hundreds of folks a day, but it’s really so much more than that. The human connection made across this most fundamental social act, the offering of food to a neighbor, is a powerful experience for both sides. It’s impossible to measure, but you feel it here. I know Jonathan felt it. We all do.”

Jonathan completed his living trust and gave a copy to his sister, not knowing that he had only a year of life remaining. Jonathan’s legacy of love and support will live on through a substantial bequest gift he made to support GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program. We are extraordinarily grateful and humbled by his generosity.

 


Hallie Brignall is GLIDE’s Annual Fund Manager. If you would like information on making your own legacy gift to GLIDE, you can reach Hallie at (415) 674-6186, or HBrignall@glide.org. Or visit www.myglidelegacy.org 

 

GLIDE Volunteer serves a meal in Mo’s Kitchen

GLIDE’s blend of meals, celebration and social justice adds up to a delicious holiday feast for the community

When Rabbi Michael Lezak joined GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice last year, one of his main goals was to connect broader Bay Area Jewish communities to GLIDE’s dynamic work. And what a year it’s been! Michael has brought in hundreds of community members from local synagogues and schools to serve meals, engage in proximate justice training courses, and, with the help of a steady volunteer group and our Daily Free Meals team, bake challah to give out to GLIDE staff every Friday morning on the principle that “you need to feed the people who feed the people.”

Continue reading “Challah for Christmas!”

Ryan Clark is one of our GLIDE Emerging Leaders interns this summer. Joining us from Boston College, Ryan took an immediate interest in food justice, education and volunteerism, and has spent the last several weeks working on a campaign to increase and retain the number of volunteers in the Daily Free Meals Program. Though the internship is quickly coming to an end, Ryan took some time to reflect on the connections he has made with GLIDE staff and the people we serve. We are so appreciative of the care and enthusiasm he has shown in his work and for GLIDE!   
Continue reading “What Makes Me Volunteer”

In August, 2017 GLIDE introduced two full-time Meals Navigators to the Daily Free Meals program, which is GLIDE’s largest and longest running program, offering meals three times daily to all in need or some 750,000 meals a year. Pamela Brown and Diane Truong help connect people in our community to other services at and beyond GLIDE. Pamela specializes in assisting people with disabilities, while Diane offers English-Cantonese translation to our many Cantonese-speaking community members.
Continue reading “Meet Diane and Pamela: GLIDE’s Meals Navigators”

Eddie is a Meals Program Team Member who first walked in the doors at 330 Ellis looking to volunteer. Two and a half years later, Eddie can do just about everything in the Meals Program – coffee house, prep room, main dining hall, opening shifts, closing shifts and everything in between. He does it all with a big smile and a heart of gold! And because he speaks FIVE languages, including three dialects spoken in China, he’s adept in communicating with our guests who come from other cultures and countries, particularly our senior community.

We are grateful to him for sitting down to talk about volunteerism and daily life in Meals and for sharing some stories from his time working alongside clients and volunteers. Eddie, we’re lucky to have you around! 
Continue reading “Giving Back to San Francisco with Eddie”

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!
Continue reading “It's Never Too Late (Or Too Early!) to Make a Difference”

Welcome to our Volunteer and Staff Highlight Series! Throughout the next five weeks we will be shining the spotlight on a few of our amazing volunteers and staff members in the GLIDE Daily Free Meals program. These people pull off something miraculous every day — three times a day. If you’ve ever joined us for mealtime you know it’s a major operation, requiring nearly 100 people a day to get right. But the real mark of success is when our guests don’t have to think about anything except enjoying their food, a welcoming atmosphere, some friendly and familiar faces, and a sense that they belong.
James Sampaga is a Meals Program Shift Lead in his 13th year at GLIDE. Everybody knows James. Recently we caught up with him in the middle of closing a lunch time shift. Amid the clamor of clanking dishes and soul music over the dining room speakers, James offered his thoughts on the importance of the Daily Free Meals program as well as the incalculable value of volunteering.  
Continue reading “Serving Lunch (and Love) with James Sampaga”

Maddi is a young man who is multi-lingual, a talented visual artist, and now homeless. He’s been coming to GLIDE frequently, and we have enjoyed getting to know him better. He graciously shared his story with us.  

I was born in Kuwait, but I was born as a non-citizen, without documents. My mom is Kuwaiti but in that country they don’t give you citizenship even if your mom is a citizen. Very unfair. So we emigrated to New Mexico.
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I got my B.A. in foreign languages — French, Spanish, and Italian. I came out here to get my master’s at the Academy of Art University for illustration and fine arts. I recently became homeless and just found out about GLIDE and I’m very thankful for it. I became homeless after living in the Sunset in a house with two other housemates. I feel like I have a problem with organization and foresight.

I was actually just going to the DMV to get my ID when I came by GLIDE again to get some food. I’m very thankful for it. Not that getting food out of the trash is that bad. You know, it’s San Francisco so they sort everything out so it’s easy to get the food without the trash and people have been really loving and open. It’s an eye-opening experience, more than anything, these last 20 days. I’m finding out about all the resources and programs the City offers, and just how it is to live in the streets. I’m planning to put it all into a graphic novel.

I’m painting outside at Fisherman’s Wharf and I’m also painting in the Mission. My friend led me here after we were hanging out in the Mission. Mostly I have just been eating here. I’ve also been trying to locate a residence, but I have a tarp so it keeps the ground dry. It’s been okay not to have a shelter of any sort because I usually end up feeling like I’m imprisoned because I can’t leave a room once I sign a lease. It’s been nice to be out and about and painting in public.

Maddi_outside GLIDE
A sketch of Ellis Street in front of GLIDE.

Eating at GLIDE has been really good. It’s been a resource when I just cannot find food. Honestly I’ve become accustomed to eating out of trash cans, and a lot of times someone will come up to ask you if you want some food. I’ve been eating here a couple times a week, while I’m out and about, trying to put my portfolio together. One application goes to Germany, the other goes to Florence. It’s been easier to not have a residence and do the things that I’m doing because when I had a residence it was so hard to just leave the house and see what I could see. In a lot of ways, you have to lose everything to look around and see what’s available.
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An example of Maddi’s work: “Mock advertising illustration for Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream done in acrylic paint.” You can find more of Maddi’s work at http://theartofmaddi.com/ as well as on Instagram @hamad.ani

Iona Lewis is a Case Manager with GLIDE’s Men in Progress program. Thanks to her father, Iona has been a part of the GLIDE community her entire life. Now, she and her husband Raphael are both employees here and their son, Carlo, attends GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) during the day. Iona and Raphael were part of the GLIDE contingent to the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, in April.

In the following lightly edited excerpts from a recent conversation, Iona shares some memories of her father and growing up near GLIDE. With this offering from Iona, we wish everyone everywhere a loving Father’s Day weekend. 
Continue reading “A Father’s Gift”