San Francisco Continuing Day Laborer Program During the Pandemic

14 May, 2020

By Sister Maire Sullivan
Photographs by Sister Rosina Conrotto

For almost 21 years we have been able to serve breakfast to the vulnerable population of day laborers in San Francisco, and as with everything else, we could not have done it without the support of others. When the virus broke out and we were asked to keep our distance, we decided to make sandwiches, add fruit, cookies and drinks and serve the food safely housed in bags to be given out from the trunk of the car in front of Saint Anthony’s Parish Hall in the hard hit Mission District. For the first two weeks, Sisters Anita Torres, Kathy Sickly, Lucia Lodolo, Sylvia Llerena and I made over 200 peanut butter and jelly and cold cut and cheese sandwiches. Then came a very welcome call from Sister Rosina Conrotto asking if the sisters in the motherhouse could make the sandwiches every other week.

Twice a month now, the sisters residing in the motherhouse gather to make more than 200 sandwiches to be shared with persons on the street in San Francisco who are without shelter. Each time the competition soars between the tuna sandwich makers and the peanut butter and jelly makers. The tuna sandwich makers always seem to finish first, but the peanut butter and jelly makers contend that it’s only because they make more sandwiches.

Team Tuna Fish (from left to right): Sisters Judith Cunningham, Denise Bourdet, Joanne O’Shea, Pat Davis and Christina Pizzorno race to complete tuna sandwiches for distribution to day laborers and others in need.
Team Peanut Butter and Jelly (from left to right): With an eye on their competition, Sisters Rosemary McKean, Helen Matosich, Bernice Gotelli, Judy Romero, Rachel Pinal, Darlene Terry, and Toni Martinez (not pictured) rush to complete peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for day laborers and others in need.

All the finished sandwiches are then placed into the bags and picked up on Monday afternoons to be delivered to Dudley Smith at the Parish Hall at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. One by one, or two by two, following proper social distancing precautions, the men receive their bags from Dudley. At around 6:45 a.m., we then drive around the neighborhood giving out the leftover bags to those on the street or in tents. Life on the street is sad at any time but, with things the way they are, it is harder still. Our prayers go out to those who are on the street with little or no help going their way.

We have so many to thank as we continue this ministry. Our prayers of gratitude go out to all who have been part of the Presentation Day Laborer Program for so many years. The Tuesday Morning Team: Sisters Anita Torres, Denise Bourdet, Judy Cunningham, Ellen Cafferty, Rachel Pinal, Sylvia Llerena, Virginia Espinal, and Rosina Conrotto; Associate Pat Hageman; and, our intrepid volunteer, Dudley Smith. The Motherhouse Sandwich Makers: motherhouse sisters; St. Andrew’s volunteers; Sionie Del Rosario and family; Presentation kitchen staff; SF–Marin Food Bank; St. Teresa Parish donations; Presentation High School, San Jose; and the Presentation Sisters leadership teams who have supported this program for almost 21 years.

We look forward to the day that we will be back in the parish hall – serving the breakfast in style. Gracias.