Pay a visit to the cafeteria during lunchtime at the Mission Creek Senior Community Center, and chances are pretty good you’ll easily spot Gloria Hernandez from across the room. She’s the one with the million-dollar smile, which expresses her glowingly positive outlook on life.
It’s been a long journey for this spunky mid-westerner. She grew up in Chicago, got married there, had three sons, and eventually divorced in the early 70s.
“I was a single mom for many years…then my boys all moved out, and come 1994 I decided it was time for a change, so I moved out too!” she said. “I came to San Francisco for better weather and a new outlook on life.”
The first few years in San Francisco went well for Gloria, but in 2006, she lost her job and her apartment. With just days to go before she would end up living on the streets, Gloria was referred to a new senior center, located just around the corner from AT&T Park. One of the first perks of living there was receiving free food at the on-site pantry, courtesy of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.
“The food is a godsend,” Gloria said, continuing to beam. “My social security income is $915 a month, and nearly half of that goes to rent. After I pay my heat and utilities and get my toiletries and such, I sometimes have $6 left in the bank!”
In her married days, Gloria never worried about money. But after the divorce, she moved between a few jobs to try and get on her own feet.
“I never quite built up my retirement,” she laments. “But believe it or not, I feel richer now. Not financially of course, but because I’m surrounded by loving, caring friends, and staff members here.”
What does she like best about weekly groceries from the Food Bank?
“The food is so balanced. It helps feed the mind, body and spirit of the seniors living in this building,” she said. “A good home and good food – if you have one without the other, you just don’t survive. So you’re really saving lives over here.”