For 40 years, St. Mary’s Center tackles a wide range of community issues

A timeline of the history of St. Mary's Center

For the last 40 years, St. Mary’s Center has served two different communities in Oakland.

Since its founding by the St. Mary’s Parish in 1973, the organization has tackled issues faced by the city’s elderly population, from homelessness and hunger to addiction resources and medication monitoring. Now an interfaith nonprofit, St. Mary’s operates out of the center’s 925 Brockhurst St. location.

Just steps away from the center is St. Mary’s Preschool. About 50 children from the neighborhood attend one of the school’s two daily sessions each year at little to no cost to their families.

To track the four decades of St. Mary’s service, Oakland North has created a timeline that takes a look at the impact the center has had on Oakland.

Now an independent nonprofit, St. Mary’s mobilizes about 400 volunteers each year, coming from all across the community, to help serve meals, teach classes, or even provide services like acupuncture, estimates its Executive Director Carol Johnson.

From Dec. 1 through April 30 every year, the great room at the center’s current location becomes a winter shelter with 25 beds and additional daily meals for residents. Six rooms are also available for transitional housing year-round in a separate facility.

Programming, like art classes and recovery groups, are generally held in the mornings at the center year-round. Anywhere from 50 to 100 lunches are served at St. Mary’s each day, with additional meals for shelter residents during the winter season.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“Forty years ago, in this city, [homelessness] was not the problem that we see now,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping it will swing back that way, to where people can expect to be housed and live in dignity, and that the St. Mary’s Center will still have a role as a place for people to socialize and to be strengthened in community.”

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