Board members Sally Slyngstad, Romi Hall, Kent Donahue (Chair), Mallory Trevigne, Kathy Gannon-Briggs, Sonya Simril, Sr. Marilyn Medau and program Director Phil Clark celebrate the naming of the Carol Johnson Community Center, November 28, 2018.

Leadership change will continue vision and values of St. Mary’s Center

December 3 (Oakland, CA) – St. Mary’s Center thanks retiring executive director Carol Johnson for two decades of service, and welcomes Sharon Cornu to the leadership role.

Carol Johnson has led a significant expansion of programs and facilities, including the operation of Friendly Manor, 24 units of SRO-style housing; Closer to Home and Presentation House transitional housing; and acquisition of a parcel on San Pablo Avenue for development of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness.

The agency’s Board of Directors named the Community Center in Carol’s honor at its meeting on November 28, 2018.

“We thank Carol for her strong leadership and accomplishments,” said Kent Donahue, Board Chair. “She has prepared St. Mary’s Center for growth as well as a sustained commitment to our core values as a community of hope, justice and healing.”

Sharon Cornu comes to St. Mary’s Center from an Oakland-based consulting practice focused on public policy and leadership development in housing, transit and workforce. An instructor at Mills College, she previously served as Oakland Deputy Mayor and Director of Advocacy at the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, where her work was recognized as the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s organizer of the year in 2017. Her first job after college was at a settlement house, in Providence, R.I. much like St. Mary's Center.

“Our motto is ‘everybody needs a place,’ and I am excited to find mine at St. Mary’s, and to lead an organization addressing homelessness and housing at this critical time. St. Mary’s service, advocacy and innovation are urgently needed to help Oakland and Oaklanders thrive. I look forward to working with our Board, Staff, Clients and Partners to lift up the voices of the people we serve every day, and help build momentum for urgently needed solutions,” said Cornu.

About St. Mary’s Center

St. Mary’s Center has served West Oakland since 1973, providing vital social and cultural resources. In 2017, SMC served more than 18,000 meals to low-income seniors, including its famous Sunday dinners; offered 3,120 shelter bed nights; helped more than 1,000 seniors pay bills on time, access recovery services, apply for and secure housing; and sheltered hundreds of women and domestic violence survivors. Its Seniors for Hope and Justice organizing program trained leaders to hold 55 legislative information visits. SMC’s Preschool helped 40 children and their families overcome trauma, acquire language and social skills, and prepare for kindergarten and success. St. Mary’s employs 40 full- and part-time professionals with a budget over $3 million.


St. Mary’s Center is a long-time leader in the social justice movement and in advocating for basic needs and the rights of all people. We value educating ourselves and our community about issues important to the people we serve. Many of our advocacy events are featured in Street Spirit, a publication of the American Friends Service Committee.