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Jesse Finds Joy in Her Volunteering Roots

When Jesse was in nursing school, she was introduced to the San Francisco Community Clinic’s Consortium (SFCCC) and their mobile medical program.

At the time, she had no idea that this clinic-on-wheels would change her life.

In 1998, the Street Outreach Services (SOS) program was housed in a cargo van. They delivered vital treatment and medicine to the growing number of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

The work perfectly fit Jesse’s compassionate nature, and she became a regular volunteer. She loved interacting with her patients and felt a sense of purpose by helping others in her community.

While volunteering, Jesse met a family living in a converted school bus. They developed a friendship over five years, and Jesse spent much of her free time with the children.

Their close relationship led to Jesse fostering the family’s oldest son. With Jesse’s encouragement, he built a relationship with his biological father and was eventually invited to live with him.

 “It was very life-changing seeing what was going on and being involved with the family,” Jesse shared. “In a lot of ways, it completely altered my life.”

Following her experience as a foster parent, Jesse was inspired to share her heart and home once more and adopted her eleven-year-old daughter from the California Foster Care System. To this day, she also fosters dogs that need extra attention they can’t receive at shelters.

The lessons Jesse learned from the individuals she met while volunteering at the mobile clinic motivated her to continue her nursing career for 30 years.

When Jesse’s mother fell ill, she packed up her life in San Francisco and moved to Wisconsin to serve as her full-time caregiver. This move led to a period of hardship in her life, one in which she lost her mother, her grandson, and her beloved dog of 16 years.

Dealing with significant loss was challenging. Jesse shared that she felt uninspired like she was “plugging away” at life. She needed help finding her spark once more.

When we heard Jesse’s story, we jumped at the opportunity to help her find joy again. And what better way than by renewing and celebrating her passion for helping others at the place where it all began?

We sent Jesse, age 67, and her longtime friend Jim to San Francisco so that she could reconnect with her volunteering roots.

It had been over a decade since Jesse had stepped foot in the city, but she felt right at home. She was warmly greeted by the current SOS staff and joined them in the field for a day of outreach.

Jesse was thrilled to see how the SOS vehicle had evolved from a van to a mobile exam room full of medication and equipment.

Together, they handed out health and hygiene supplies like socks, water bottles, and wound care materials, spoke to people at RVs and tent encampments, and helped to make referrals to needed social services.

“It was an amazing experience to go back and do this and to ride in the van again— that was really special,” she said.

It was clear to her that the SOS staff’s unique bond with their clients was unchanged. “People know and trust them in the community,” she said. Jesse was so happy to learn that the program also offers veterinary care.

During her wish experience, Jesse reconnected with Abby, a friend from her early volunteering days. Seeing Abby’s drive and motivation to continue volunteering at age 80 reinvigorated and reinspired her: “I want to be like Abby,” she said.

Finally, Jesse felt that spark of joy back in her life.

This got me out of the hole I was in,” she shared. “I know the goals I want to accomplish in life again. I feel inspired to get involved again. I can’t even tell you how joyful this made me!”

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