Connecting Across Communities: How SFV is challenging racial inequity and building a diverse membership - San Francisco Village

When we created our Strategic Plan for 2022-2026, we envisioned an expanded and inclusive community that represents all San Franciscans. As part of this vision, we knew we needed to challenge our biases and meet the needs of members from different ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds.

Our commitment to challenging racial inequity led to a collaboration between Kate Hoepke, Executive Director of San Francisco Village, Felisia Thibodeaux, Executive Director of Southwest Community Corporation, and Carlene Davis, founder of Sistahs Aging with Grace and Elegance (SAGE). After receiving funding from SCAN Health Plan in 2023, the Connecting Across Communities pilot project came to fruition. 

Connecting Across Communities is a collaborative effort aimed at decreasing social isolation and increasing social engagement and connectivity among older adults 55+ in the Lakeview/OMI communities of San Francisco. We leverage the power of storytelling, cross-cultural exchange, and intergenerational relationship development to create a stronger sense of community and support the overall well-being of elders at San Francisco Village and IT Bookman Community Center. 

Our pilot project included six gatherings centered on sharing life stories, breaking down barriers, and exploring ways that we can work together to benefit all older adults in the city. Above all, we wanted to ensure that we centered Black voices, culture, and experiences in these conversations.

Each gathering involved storytelling, a warm meal, and shared activities facilitated by Carlene Davis. We explored themes of ageism, intersectionality, eldership, legacy, and love. We listened actively, held space for each other, and acknowledged the diverse experiences that make us all human. With each meeting, we saw bonds and genuine connections grow between members of both communities.

At our final gathering in February, the elders were eager to discuss ways that they could keep their interactions going, even outside of scheduled gatherings. They’re excited to attend each other’s events, work on service projects together, and continue to learn more about different cultures.

Though the Connecting Across Communities pilot has concluded, we’re thrilled to continue this initiative as a long-term partnership between our communities. We’re already seeing members of IT Bookman join SFV and explore a new side of the city! Similarly, SFV members are actively identifying opportunities to join IT Bookman programs and invite their new friends into their social gatherings, programs, and circles.

“After being sheltered at home, it was an adventure outside of my home to meet my peers from different neighborhoods. We’re working on being phone friends or even meeting up with coffee dates.” – Connecting Across Communities participant

San Francisco Village is cultivating a multi-generational, multi-racial, and multi-cultural community that is rooted in equity, social justice, and healing. We’re proud that we’ve built an infrastructure for delivering social care to older San Franciscans that we can share across communities. Our work is not done until all elders have access to high-quality relationships, resources, mutual support, and a sense of belonging. 

Thank you SCAN Health Plan for investing in this community-building work that is so enriching and fulfilling for elders across San Francisco.