My First Week/Introductions

Hello! My name is Claire Cooley and I am the XPLOR intern for St. Mary’s Community Center for the next 10 months. NBA XPLOR is a faith-based, 10-month, congregationally-hosted residency program for young adults age 21-30 looking to explore lives of care and service – giving them the opportunity to unleash their own potential, while positively impacting their community. At least that’s what the website says. I am only a couple of weeks into the XPLOR program, but for me, it is an opportunity to live with three complete strangers in a small apartment on the island of Alameda as we all try to understand our own calling in life and navigate a new city. It’s walking 8 miles through the streets of San Francisco. It’s arguing over the monthly food budget and who left the kitchen a mess. It’s figuring out our different shower schedules since we only have one shower. But most importantly, it’s getting to work in amazing non-profits like St. Mary’s or Christian Church Homes or Street Level Health. For some of my housemates, this is their first 9-to-5 job. This program allows us to not only live in a new city but to also work with an organization that we otherwise might never have thought of for ourselves and it helps us all to discern what it is we want to get out of life by seeing what we can give back to our own communities.

I have just wrapped up my first week at St. Mary’s and I already feel so welcomed. This isn’t the first homeless center I have worked at, I worked last summer at the Barrett Foundation in Albuquerque, which is where I’m from. The Barrett Foundation is a homeless shelter for women and children. As the intern there I filled in whenever someone called in sick or didn’t show up as well as working my own schedule. Because it’s a shelter that meant I was sometimes called in for the midnight to six am shift. While there are many similarities between the two centers, there are also many differences. St. Mary’s is the largest non-profit I have ever worked or volunteered with, except for the Red Cross. With over 30 employees, St. Mary’s is able to offer services that smaller organizations can’t. Because of this, they are also able to help so many more people. The hardest job I ever had at Barrett Foundation was having to tell the women that we were at maximum capacity and couldn’t help them. St. Mary’s is not only able to help the clients it already serves, but they also offer drop-in clinics to help those not in their system. I had the privilege to participate in the drop-in housing clinic that provides low-income housing information and applications for anyone who comes. Although we can’t help the clients fill out the application because of confidentiality reasons, we can ensure that they have access to anything they need to complete it as well as offer them other services provided by the community center.

On Thursday the 7th Alameda Country Public Transportation came to listen to the concerns of the seniors. I’m not used to living in a city with reliable public transportation, but it’s very clear how many people depend on AC Transit to get around, including many of the seniors who utilize St. Mary’s. It was a great opportunity to see the seniors voice their concerns with the recent rate increases, changes to bus stops, and safety of public transportation. I think seniors are often overlooked in their communities. St. Mary’s has Hope and Justice which helps ensure that the senior’s voice continues to be heard throughout not only Oakland, but the entire county and country.

The employees and volunteers here at St. Mary’s care so deeply for the population they serve and I look forward to my next 10 months here!


Peace and Grace,


Claire Cooley

XPLOR Resident 2017-2018


Claire is the 2016-17 XPLOR intern with our Resources for the Third Age program. During her time with us, she will be writing a weekly blog on her experiences with St. Mary's Center including insights into our programming, interviews with clients, and more. To see all of her posts, check out our XPLOR tag

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