We Are the City Spotlight on Mission Neighborhood Centers
By Richard Ybarra, Chief Executive Officer of Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) serves over 45,000 individuals annually by providing a continuum of educational programs and integrative services to San Francisco’s children and families most in need. We deliver culturally sensitive, multi-generational, community-based services which develop and promote leadership skills to empower families, in turn building strong, healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. Our services span across five different programs targeting the city’s at-risk youth, disenfranchised young and older adults, underserved immigrants, working families, and low-income households. We provide early care and education; educational enrichment and recreational activities; job training and workforce development; and independent living for older adults and adults with disabilities. MNC operates 15 campuses throughout San Francisco.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, our senior community members drastically withdrew from their usual life activities, causing social isolation and increasing depression and loneliness. MNC’s Healthy Aging & Disability (HAD) developed programs to integrate older adults and adults with disabilities into the digital age through a pilot program called Health Journal 4U. Upon acclimating our participants to technology, we went completely virtual with activities. We were able to maintain that integration and now offer a hybrid system of in-person and virtual programming. Through the pandemic we changed our in-person meal distribution to delivery, bringing meals, groceries, essential items, and Covid-19 resources to our participants.
The clients of our Workforce Development Department were greatly impacted by the pandemic. Because all of our programming involved working in small to large groups which were field based, our robust programming model greatly declined. Our clients who thrived in the areas of environmental service and construction now had no viable on the job training, or employment support. MNC and our workforce development team, determined to support the community and remain responsive, began providing essential work support through management of 24-hour Pit Stops that supported homeless populations by providing safe, clean and sanitized public bathrooms. Workforce Development Staff also began working with our Senior Services, Family Resource Center, and Children’s Services Teams providing emergency response support to families and by delivering meals to seniors and adults with disabilities. The workforce group would continue to provide case management, working directly with various unions and city departments to place individuals in private sector positions while also employing 70 individuals in-house.
As we transition back to a sense of normalcy, the temporary Pit Stop contract has become a permanent staple of our program. MNC’s ability to remain nimble resonated with us internally and with our external relationships, increasing our impact and ability to provide quality service. It resulted in two new areas of significant work, with Public Works cleaning the Tenderloin 365 days a year since November and a new Homelessness prevention partnership with The City. I am excited for MNC to continue to expand the reach of our programs to serve the people and communities of San Francisco.
San Francisco is an incredibly diverse and culturally rich city, which makes acceptance and inclusion one of its strengths. The City recognizes its heritage in many ways, such as the ethnic neighborhoods across the city; festivals and street fairs celebrating the many diverse communities that represent the city; unparalleled art and architecture in museums and galleries, as well as on streets, in parks and atop our buildings; and of course the food! You can travel the city of SF and find the best coffee, pasta, tacos, seafood, and even desserts. To live and grow up in San Francisco can feel like you are experiencing the whole world, in your own backyard.
A foundation of health and education is a necessity to promote strong futures for families and communities. The City’s education system must be centered around growth with our children’s futures in the forefront of everyone’s mind, making a steadfast commitment to the success of each and every child. The advancement and achievement of all schools, especially in underserved communities, is vital. The work of nonprofit organizations like MNC is critical, and the City’s on-going support is vital. It is imperative that San Francisco ensure nonprofit organizations and service providers receive continued funding in order to meet the critical needs of our families.
Mission Neighborhood Centers just celebrated 125(!) years of serving San Francisco’s children and youth! Congratulations! What do you believe has contributed the most to MNC’s success, and what do you predict for MNC’s future?
MNC’s successful history, from the start, has been fueled by a passionate commitment to standing by, up, for, and with immigrant working families. Over the years, as each era has evolved, a welcoming culture of inspiring success in and for those we serve has remained consistent. Starting with the sisters who founded us in 1897 — Eva and Rachel Wolfsohn — thru the 40-year leadership and advocacy of Santiago “Sam” Ruiz, the people who’ve formed our service-providing teams have thrived on serving more people as part of an ever improving and higher performing team.
The future of MNC will see us continuing to work innovatively and passionately. We will continue developing future leaders for MNC, as well as for the broader community. We will add greater focus to wealth building and wages and benefits for the families we serve. We will put an emphasis on college preparation while serving more youth, we will continue our efforts to make food service an economic and workforce initiative, and we will become engaged with more housing related services, including affordable housing development. We will do all of this while strengthening partnerships and building an even higher performing organization. The future of MNC is as bright as our energy and dreams can imagine.