Inner-city church facility gets aid from Jewish donors

When Eugene Friend, vice chairman and director of the S.F.-based Koret Foundation, attended a fund-raiser at the city's Glide Memorial Church last year, the speaker that day was a tall, sharply dressed businessman from Chicago.

The speaker, a young African-American, had an office on the 63rd floor of Chicago's Sears Tower and had personally pledged $100,000 to the church. During his talk, he spoke of once being homeless, destitute and hungry. After receiving help from Glide, he said, his life completely changed.

"The people at Glide do one hell of a job," said Friend, who was so inspired by the speaker that he recently donated $10,000 to the church.

Friend is one of several Jewish contributors to Glide, a United Methodist church noted for serving San Francisco's needy.

Glide, located in the heart of the city's Tenderloin District, feeds thousands of people each day. It also provides computer training programs, clinical help and counseling.

Friend has known Glide's leaders, the Rev. Cecil Williams and his wife, Janice Mirikitani, for 20 years. "When it comes to helping people without expecting anything in return, Cecil and Janice lead the pack in getting the job done," he said.

Friend's $10,000 will go toward the construction of Glide's new Cecil Williams Glide Community House. After completion, the structure will shelter the homeless and people with HIV/AIDS, as well as adults in recovery from drug abuse and women and children overcoming hurdles of various kinds.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the $12 million building at the corner of Ellis and Taylor Streets took place last month. Speakers included Sen. Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

The nine-story building will house 52 units, including studio apartments and one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Williams described his vision for the housing facility as one in which a stable, clean and sober community works together toward recovery and personal betterment.

"We will help people out of the cycle of misery and poverty and empower them to become self-sufficient," Glide's minister said. "People who live in this home will be loved as they never have before."

Mirikitani, who is Glide's president, seconded that hope.

"In homeless shelters and single-room occupancy buildings, children sleep in one room on floors," she said. "At night, when the lights go out, they have to walk in the dark to go to the bathroom, and they can't take a shower safely."

From such conditions, she added, "people will move into somewhere with two bedrooms and a kitchen and a bathroom and a computer.

"And you don't have to share the bathroom," she added. "In this home will be light, warmth, windows, safety, comfort and nurturing. Can you imagine the difference?"

Another sponsor for the new home is Richard Blum. The investment adviser and husband of Feinstein, the San Francisco Democrat, pledged $100,000. In addition, the Koret Foundation pledged $500,000.

"This donation is consistent with our long-term relationship and support of Glide and everything they do for the community," said Tad Taube, president of the Koret Foundation. "And our support for Glide is a resounding vote of confidence for Cecil Williams and Janice for their great work in San Francisco."

Other major donors to the project include author Maya Angelou, the Susie Tompkins Buell Foundation, Chevron and Pacific Gas & Electric.