More than Meals in St. Mary’s Dining Room


Community Health

Despite the looming declaration of bankruptcy in their hometown, Direct Relief partner St. Mary’s Dining Room of Stockton, Calif., continues to respond to increasing poverty in San Joaquin County by providing free meals, health care, and other basic needs to people who have lost their home, are without insurance, and have financial burdens.

The need for their services is great. Named one of America’s Most Miserable Cities for the last several years, Stockton is a community where 20 percent of adults report not having eaten for an entire day and 26 percent have admitted to cutting the size of their children’s meal because there was not enough money to buy more food, according to a recent survey.

Since opening doors in 1955, St. Mary’s has expanded to not only offer three meals a day, seven days a week, but to also provide medical services at no cost to individuals and families that are in need. They are the only clinic in the city that offers free medical services including consultation, lab work and medication (if they have it in stock).

St. Mary’s sustains a Dental Clinic, Social Services and Homeless Court, and the Dr. Virgil Gianellli Medical Clinic. Currently, the clinics operate with only a few paid staff, relying on about 40 volunteer professionals to support the organization. Because St. Mary’s runs solely off these volunteers and donations, aid organizations such as Direct Relief are invaluable to the sustainability and growth of the organization.

“The doctors are very grateful that we have such an organization like [Direct Relief] for helping the safety net clinics,” said Mary Ann Soria, director of health services. “I don’t think we can continue doing this without all of your help.”

She said many of the patients have chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma that need daily, uninterrupted treatment. With medications from Direct Relief, Soria said the clinic can make sure the patient goes home with medication in hand.

Additionally, personal care supplies from Direct Relief help support the Clothing and Hygiene Center which allows people access to hot showers, hygiene products, and clothing. More than 80,000 women and children utilized the center in 2011. The center also offers men’s haircuts and clothing exchanges several days a week.

Since July 2012 – shortly after Stockton filed for bankruptcy – Direct Relief has distributed six shipments of medical supplies to St. Mary’s, valued at more than $300,000.

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