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GLIDE’s President and CEO Karen Hanrahan on Today’s World San Francisco

GLIDE’s President and CEO Karen Hanrahan recently spoke with radio host Sue Hall on her show, Today’s World. You can listen to the interview here.

Read the transcript below as the two discuss GLIDE’s Forward movement, and how you can support GLIDE’s work during the holidays.

10/21/2021 – Transcript

Sue: This morning we have with us Karen Hanrahan. She is the CEO and president of GLIDE and, Karen, welcome to the show.

Karen: Thank you, Sue, for having me.

Sue: Let’s talk a little bit about you and your background and what brought you to GLIDE.

Karen: I’ve been working in the field of human rights, social justice, and poverty for over twenty years. Most of that work has been on the global front, around the world, sometimes on the frontlines of human rights advocacy, sometimes as a donor, or a policy maker. I worked in the Obama administration for about seven years. A few years ago, I really began to turn to the domestic challenges that we have when it comes to human rights and social justice and racial equity and poverty and homelessness. It led me to GLIDE, and I had the great fortune of being asked to come on to lead this incredible organization about four years ago to help build the next generation of GLIDE.

Sue: Excellent. Thank you for all of the good work that you do. With that in mind, let’s get a little bit of history of GLIDE.

Karen: GLIDE, although it’s been around for about one hundred years, it really became an iconic social justice organization and point of light in the city of San Francisco about sixty years ago, under the founding members of Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani. For decades, GLIDE has been lifting people up, feeding people, inspiring people, serving people across the city, fighting for racial equity for decades. Now, after years of serving in this role, we’re in the process of building the next generation of GLIDE. We’re really focused on deepening impact, changing systems, and changing lives. Every day, we’re doing more to get more people off the streets for good – across this city that we all live in, that is experiencing an unprecedented crisis in homelessness, and poverty, and hunger, and addiction. We’re advancing racial justice and social justice every day at a systems level with companies and institutions of power in San Francisco as well. We continue to be that organization in the Bay Area that welcomes everybody, serves the most marginalized, and increasingly we’re now going to more neighborhoods. The landscape of need in San Francisco has expanded and grown; GLIDE is growing and adapting to that as well. So, we have been serving the city for so many decades and we’re now doing more than ever to help the city in this moment of crisis.

Sue: Especially when you put on top of that, that during COVID, mobile outreach that you do, and COVID testing, and vaccines in the Tenderloin, more than 10,000 free nutritious meals, weekly. And, to do all of this, you need volunteers and donations, I’m sure. How many volunteers currently are helping with GLIDE?

Karen: Every year we have many thousands of volunteers that we rely on very heavily. It acts as a force multiplier. It allows us to feed more people, to help more families, to help more women and children. It helps us do all that we are able to do for the city. During the pandemic, we have modified our volunteer program in the interest of safety for everybody – our clients, our volunteers and our staff. We’re bringing that volunteer program back up to speed, but it’s still not quite up to the thousands of volunteers that we’ve had, historically.

Sue: If you’re reaching out to our listeners right now, what would you tell them about GLIDE’s mission and purpose to gather those around to assist?

Karen: Our mission and our purpose is to break cycles of poverty, to lift more people up off the streets for good, to help people find success in their lives in a sustainable way. We work with individuals, we work with families and children. A core part of our work is fighting for racial justice and social justice. We change laws and policies. We work on building empathy with leaders of companies and public institutions so that they can drive change on equity and inclusion in their own organizations. Our mission is more critical than ever right now. The work that we do is more critical than ever, because the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the poor, not just in San Francisco, but across the nation. Our lines are getting longer, literally and figuratively. We are serving more people every day than we ever have before. A lot of what we’re doing right now is helping prevent people from falling into homelessness. Some families have to choose between feeding themselves and paying their rent, so we are serving – on one level – a safety net to pull people up and keep them where they are. On another level, we’re trying to help people get their lives together, become stable, stay in housing, find housing and stay in it and improve their lives in a way that they want to. We’ve got a lot on our plates. There is so much work to do. We are hopeful because we know that it can be done. Across the city, I know everybody – all the residents in San Francisco and the Bay Area – are struggling with these issues of homelessness, and poverty, and hunger. A lot of people wanting to help but not knowing how. We offer a platform where people can come to help and be part of a solution, whether it’s making a financial donation, whether it’s donating your time, whether it’s coming in and participating in Sunday Celebrations. There is so much to do at GLIDE for people across the city. People just need to come and we will make you part of our community, part of our family.

Sue: In order to do this, it takes a lot of people, a lot of coordination, and a lot of funds, quite frankly. And, coming up this year, once again, is GLIDE’s annual Holiday Jam benefit concert, returning. It’s going to be at the Masonic in San Francisco on Thursday, November 18th. Let’s talk about the event, Karen.

Karen: It’s going to be another year of celebration and soul. As you know, GLIDE is known for this event. It’s always fun, it’s always soulful. People are up and dancing. The performers are incredible. We’ve had people from across the spectrum of well-known artists and singers, and emerging artists. This year, we have Bobby McFerrin coming. We have Oakland’s own Fantastic Negrito, and GLIDE’s Ensemble and Change Band. We have Renel Brooks-Moon who is our emcee, who always makes it fun. What we do at our Holiday Jam is we bring together a truly diverse crowd, from people who are struggling in their lives, to people who want to be part of the solution. You’ll find people from all walks of life in the audience and our community. This year, we’re returning to our Holiday Jam in person. Last year, we had to do it online because of the pandemic, but this year we’re back. We are in person. We’re taking a lot of precautions. We are requiring vaccinations for people attending in person. There’s going to be good food, good music, good company, and we are excited.

Sue: Full disclosure, Renel Brooks-Moon is a dear, dear friend of mine from way back. We’re both radio girls, and grew up together on the radio. I know her and love her and know that this is one of her big passions – GLIDE and this event in particular, and all the services that GLIDE provides. And Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry Be Happy. That’s fantastic! And the GLIDE Ensemble and Change Band is world-renowned. That alone would lift you up and get you motivated. How can people get involved?

Karen: People can, first of all, buy a ticket and come to the gala. It’s fun. I think we all need some fun right now. We all need to celebrate. We need to find community. And that is what the gala can do. So please come, and just get a sense. If you haven’t been to the gala before, come and just see what it’s about, because it’s inspiring, and it changes lives. In addition to buying tickets, you can also donate. We are always in need of financial assistance to help serve the city better, to help address the issues of homelessness and hunger, and families who are struggling. Those are different ways to get involved. I should also mention – it’s an important point about this gala: It’s dedicated to our beloved co-founder and Holiday Jam creator, Janice Mirikitani. She passed away recently. Janice is an icon herself. She is a poet. We miss her. We find opportunities to celebrate Jan, regularly, and this is going to be one of them. Her incredible support for women and children has changed the city, it’s influenced GLIDE. We do a lot of work supporting the youth and family, educating children at early ages, supporting families to be stable and to become financially independent. This is a gala that is a tribute to her. It’s going to be fun and soulful in the spirit of Jan. She always liked to infuse fun and celebration. It’s also going to be about serving the city. It’s a way for people to come and help us do more to serve the city of San Francisco.

Sue: People can get involved at glide.org/holidayjam. Tickets are there and you can donate if you can’t attend. It’s Still We Rise: the Holiday Jam for GLIDE. This is happening on Thursday, November 18th at the Masonic in San Francisco. There’s also a virtual version. Tell us a little about that.

Karen: It is possible for people to view online. You’ll still get a sense of the fun and the soul from the comfort of your own home. It’ll be a little different than joining in person, but I think we’re all at different places in what we’re able to do right now in terms of our health and safety. We love all of it. We want people to come and join in person, we want you to join online, and all of it will support what we’re trying to do in the city. As I mentioned, we have other ways in addition to the gala. We’re entering our holiday season and we have a lot of events coming up. We have a grocery bag giveaway, where we’re helping to address issues of hunger in the city. We have our Thanksgiving tradition, a special meal, not just at GLIDE, but increasingly throughout the city. We’re going to multiple neighborhoods across San Francisco to bring people, not only food and a meal, but also GLIDE love and the GLIDE experience of feeling the warmth and welcoming treatment that GLIDE likes to provide as part of its services.  We’ve got a toy bag giveaway. We’ve got multiple ways of contributing, particularly during the holiday season, and we really need folks to join us. Join the fun, join the sense of purpose and meaning, and join our efforts really help serve the city.

Sue: Glide.org is the place to go for information. You can find all of these wonderful events coming up, including the Holiday Jam. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Karen Hanrahan, GLIDE’s CEO and President. Thank you so much for joining us this morning and all that you do with GLIDE and GLIDE, in general, does for the people of San Francisco. It’s a mighty task and we appreciate your work very much.

Karen: We’re honored to do it. Thank you for having me. I look forward to seeing you there at the gala.