For so many years the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhoods of San Francisco have been forgotten. Far from City Hall, and without the benefits of mercantile tourism or panoramic views, the political leaders of these and adjacent neighborhoods such as New Mission Terrace, Cayuga Terrace Neighborhood, Silver avenue residents and many more were resentful of a lack of city services or acknowledgement of their specific needs.
These were not residents and merchants in search of a handout but rather a personification of hard working lower and middle class residents who had an ethic of adherence to their religion, striving for success economically and bonded in their desire to make a better life for their children and grandchildren.
They were and are the epitome of the San Franciscans of many generations and values. They are the soul of the City.
They are multi ethnic from Italians, to Hispanics from many countries, and from the Middle East, Eastern Europeans, African Americans, Anglos and every Asian group you could ever identify as well as so many others.
They wholly support the traditions of the United States of America and support the San Francisco Police Department.
Year after year they vote to support issues near and dear to the rank and file of the San Francisco Police Officers' Association.
The youngest of their children recently achieved a victory, along with their parents and grandparents, that shows that the City does care about the forgotten neighborhoods.
This victory is a textbook of success for the working poor. It is what San Francisco can be about and in this instance IS about.
The Mission Child Care Consortium was founded in 1969 at 4750 Mission Street in the heart of the Excelsior. As the decades inexorably wore on more and more children took advantage of the range of child care services at the Consortium.
The property was rented by a non profit and over 250 children every day attended the facility. The ages of these children is three (3) to five (5) years old.
Over the years thousands of these youngsters matriculated through the Consortium moving on to public and private schools and adulthood.
The programs offered in terms of recreation, art, and culture, as well as the amazing staff, are paramount in child care.
The Trial and Tribulation
However, the landlord continued to raise the rent at the Consortium so in 2006 the dynamic leader, Executive Director Joe Martinez, along with his Board and staff attempted to buy the building as the rent was approaching $42,000 per year.
The patchwork deal of contributions, City money and foundation support fell short due to toxins and logistical concerns at the facility.
Problems in the nearby neighborhood resulted in more police presence from nearby Ingleside Station to protect the children in pedestrian safety and other police issues in a neighborhood replete with gang activity and crime.
But Joe Martinez, his colleagues and staff as well as the parents and grandparents were not deterred that the Consortium would eventually survive any financial obstacles.
I was Captain of Ingleside Station from 2004 until 2008. For those years one of the most important personal forays to the community were visits weekly to the Consortium. In my entire career those visits were the most important in my connection to the community. To see almost three hundred (300) children between the ages of 3 (three) and 5 (five) of every ethnic background enjoying their stay at the Consortium was heart rendering.
I did the unthinkable and handed out hundreds of SFPD stickers to all of the children, whether inside the classrooms, outside in the recreation area or after they were waking up from their naps. This craziness continued for every week. Many of the children would recognize the gray haired Captain in his late 50s handing out stickers so the staff and selected children would call out the "Captain is Here". One little girl was five (5) years old in 2005. She and her mother to this day correspond with me and I remember her birthday. She lives on Naples nearby.
The Leaders of the Effort
Well, you probably know what's next. Two leaders and one current dynamic Captain saved the day and continue to revere the Consortium!
The long time Executive Director Joe Martinez hobbled together a community loan fund, large grants from the Hellman and Haas foundations and as well as city grants and loans to recently buy the building at 4750 Mission Street. 5.7 (five million seven hundred thousand) dollars was raised to complete the deal.
Joe is amazing.
Sliding scale child care, bilingual services as well as an English language program, a completely safe setting, and magnificent innovative services are now available to families with limited means. It is a God send.
A catalyst of getting this done was newly elected Supervisor Ahsha Safi, a resident of the neighborhood.
Supervisor Safai has been an indefatigable believer in his district and it started well before his election to the Board of Supervisors. As a member of the Mayor's office, other City Departments and a union leader, he has toiled in all of the areas of his district to improve the lot of the merchants and residents.
This guy walks the walk and works closely with the local police. He is a credit to the people he represents as well as to the law enforcement community.
Captain Wonderful Aka Joe Mcfadden
There are ten (10) district police Captains in San Francisco. A poll of anyone would result in McFadden being nominated as the most community policing advocate of all of the patrol Captains. That is without a doubt.
From Westwood Park, to Miraloma Park, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Ocean Avenue, Cayuga, Sunnyside, Alemany, Bernal, New Mission Terrace, St. Mary's Park, Outer Mission, Excelsior, Sunnydale, New Mission Terrace, and lots of other neighborhoods, this guy is in charge.
His officers respect him and most importantly when a community organization or member asks for assistance, no matter how trivial, or even when a pain in the butt, McFadden takes care of the problem. He is the proverbial real deal.
Joe knows Ahsha Safai and he knows Joe Martinez. He is there to protect the kids and the staff at the Consortium. He empowers his officers to do the same.
The words of the venerable Captain says it best:
"The most valuable resource of the Ingleside District is the children and their representative diversity. The Excelsior has a large African-American, Asian and Latino community. It is the melting pot of cultures unlike other districts."
"Joe Martinez is an outstanding member of our community. He has a great heart. He is a native of the district who has dedicated his entire life to making the city safer and more viable for children. Joe offers children a safe and comfortable learning establishment that fosters the spirit of the City of Saint Francis of giving to those who need services the most."
Please---when you see Joe Martinez, Supervisor Safai and Captain Joe McFadden thank them for their fortitude, leadership and caring for children.
And visit the Consortium---it is one of the great institutions in the vibrant Excelsior!