At St. Mary’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, one of a series of planned events honoring the work of volunteers at SMC, members of the St. Mary’s community got the chance to give a little back to long-time Winter Shelter Dinner and Sunday Dinner volunteers and celebrate those who share their time, resources and compassion to feed our Seniors and provide fellowship to help address isolation. At the event over 30 organizations and individuals were honored with a luncheon and awards celebration, sponsored by BBI Construction, Crane Pest Control, the Pleasant Hill Community Foundation, L.J. Kruse Plumbing, Sugar Bowl Bakery, and Scott’s Seafood. Guests were served by SMC staff, friends, and clients.

According to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America, an estimated 5.5 million Americans 60 and older faced food insecurity in 2017, meaning they lacked consistent access to adequate food for an active, healthy life - a number that has more than doubled since 2001. This has put many seniors in the position of choosing between eating and paying rent.

St. Mary’s Center started serving Sunday Dinners in 1973 in response to a need identified by an overwhelming number of West Oakland residents to provide a meal for the elderly on Sundays when neighborhood stores and restaurants were closed.  More than 40 years later, volunteers still bring dinner on Sundays for our senior participants.  With the help of these volunteers, last year we served more than 18,000 hot meals.

The event was held on Saturday, September 21 at St. Mary’s Community Center, and began with a light lunch and opening remarks by St. Mary’s Executive Director Sharon Cornu, as well as an invocation by SMC Board Member Sister Marilyn Medau. The keynote speech was delivered by retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco, a longtime supporter of St. Mary’s Center. Judge Baranco discussed the epidemic of food insecurity among seniors in the East Bay, detailing his experience volunteering in food distribution centers and founding the Alameda County Homeless and Caring Court. The Alameda County Homeless and Caring Court provides extra services to try to stop the cycle of homelessness.

Representatives from the Piedmont Community Service Crew, St. Mary’s College of California, The Muffin People, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church’s Hunger Task Force, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, St. Columba Catholic Church, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Montclair Presbyterian Church, The Knights of Columbus, and St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Catholic Church attended the event (see a full list of honorees below). Also recognized were individuals who have been regular volunteers including Ken McNamara, who has volunteered at SMC for 24 years, and Patricia Schroeder, the former director Outreach of Advocacy at St. Mary’s Center. Julie Merrill, SMC’s Sunday Dinner Coordinator and one of the presenters at the event, commented “volunteers return year after year because sharing a meal warms all hearts”.

We would like to thank our Sponsors of the event for helping us honor our volunteers, as well as the youth and staff of the MLK Freedom Center. Without their generosity and hard work, the services that St. Mary’s provides to the most vulnerable in our community would not be possible.

Retired Alameda Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco

left to right: Sharon Cornu, Jack Dice (The Muffin People), Sr. Marilyn Medau, Julie Merrill

Volunteers from the MLK Freedom Center


The below groups/organizations provide love, substance and support to our Seniors by purchasing, preparing and serving meals for our Sunday Dinners and Winter Shelter Dinners.


Catholic Daughters of the Americas
Corpus Christi Catholic Church
Oakland Fire Department, Station Five
Girl Scouts, Troop 30822
The Knights of Columbus
Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
Montclair Presbyterian Church
New Revelation Community Church
The Order of Malta
Piedmont Community Service Crew
Saint Mary’s College of California
Skyline Community Church
St. Benedict's Church
St. Bonaventure Catholic Church
St. Columba Women’s Group
St. Isidore Catholic Church
St. Joan of Arc Parish
St. Paul Lutheran Church
St. Pauls Episcopal Church
St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Catholic Church
The Muffin People
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation


Dana Wiltsek
Gentry Smith
Ken McNamara
Patricia Schroeder
Sherry Tauton
Tomas Santos
William Feliciano
Sharon Gentry