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.
What does a Meals Navigator do?
Pamela: We help navigate clients into different programs that we have available here at GLIDE. Most people start off eating at GLIDE. Then they learn that we have so many different resources and so much more help that can be offered to them. So when they come in for help we speak to them, do intake and assessment, ask them about how they’ve been, where they’re sleeping, and if there’s something GLIDE can offer them to help them be better, then that’s what we do.
Does your work extend beyond the GLIDE dining hall?
Diane: We go to visit people if they need help, for example for translation in their building with the manager, we read letters to them. We take people to the DMV, Social Security; we help them with the green card process…. I translate for the [Unconditional] Legal [Clinic] team a lot. I’m also available if they need help on rental assistance, filling out housing forms, and applying for low-income housing. Also family domestic violence cases. All different things. We’re very busy!
I think this job at GLIDE is the job I’ve loved most in my life, because I have the chance to talk to people, address their needs and comfort them. I really love this job. — Diane
Pamela: We’ve got our hands in every department because our clients need so many different things. Whether it be the Walk-In Center, the Women’s Center, 5 Keys [the remedial education program, operating onsite at GLIDE], we help them get to where they need to be.
Diane: We also sometimes help people look for their loved ones. We worked with Miracle Messages to help reunite someone with their family.
Pamela: The Walk-In Center has included us on rental-assistance training and everything, so we can help with that too.
How do clients normally find you?
Pamela: We are with the people, either downstairs in Meals or outside. Diane usually helps seniors, and I help people with disabilities. We try to get everyone taken care of.
Diane: We go out into the community to help people find resources.
Pamela: Like last week, we pushed a man in a wheelchair from one building to the next because we were trying to find shelter and a doctor for him. We get out and be with the clients, holding their hands. We’ve gone out and gotten people wheelchairs.
Not everybody has this kind of patience and social skills! What led you to this work?
Pamela: Well, for me, I’m a people person. And GLIDE has been embedded in my family for forever. My mom used to work here. She was tight with Jan and Cecil. She retired in 2005, and she’s passed away now. I’ve been volunteering at GLIDE since I was a kid. You need to have a good heart, an open mind, patience.
Diane: You have to be listening, and looking, all the time. My background is that I used to be a supervisor on a production floor in Brisbane where I supervised about 600 employees. I had to deal with difficult people, sometimes employees would get upset. I think this job at GLIDE is the job I’ve loved most in my life, because I have the chance to talk to people, address their needs and comfort them. I really love this job.
Pamela: I really do too. I like making people happy, seeing if I can make your day brighter. You never know what people is going through, you know.
Diane: When someone I’ve helped says, “I just received a letter from the immigration center that says they will send me a copy of my green card!” it makes me so happy. There was one instance when I went to the SSI office and I helped someone get $910 a month, up from just $400. This person was so happy that they jumped up and down, crying and hugging me!
And the other day there was a woman who came here without a cane. I said, “Why did you come here like that, without a cane?” and the woman said that her walker was stolen. So we went out and got her a new walker.
I am just glad to be here and I feel good when I leave here every day. When I know I’ve done a good thing and helped as many people as I could, reaching people where they are right now. — Pamela
The language barrier is really serious. One time I went with a woman to her building to talk to the management. She had received three eviction notices because she failed to renew her lease agreement because she didn’t understand the letter. So I went with her to translate and she got everything taken care of. That is a very big thing. She could have been homeless.
Do you have anything that you’re currently working on?
Diane: I was inspired by the trip to Alabama and was glad to get involved with that group. I’m hoping that we can do some projects to help the Black community here.
Also, we have a senior social here every Monday morning. My dream is to continue bringing in a lot of activities for them. And now we’re working on how to get afternoon activities here but for all ages!
Pamela: They might play BINGO, chess, checkers, cards, something to keep them coming and to keep the people involved with each other… I am just glad to be here and I feel good when I leave here every day. When I know I’ve done a good thing and helped as many people as I could, reaching people where they are right now.
Diane: Even if I was retired, I would keep coming here to volunteer, because I can talk to and learn from people, everyone out there.