SAN FRANCISCO - After years of serving meals outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Thursday Glide served its first meal indoors, marking a significant milestone for the church and nonprofit.
During the pandemic, Glide served three meals a day, rain or shine, outside its building in San Francisco. Some people took the food to go, but there were also tables and tents set up on the sidewalk.
The reopening of the indoor dining room program is being hailed as a "return to community" by Glide, signaling the start of a six-month campaign aimed at reopening other programs and welcoming people back in person. To commemorate this achievement, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place with one of Glide's founders, the CEO, and city leaders.
"At Glide we are referring to this moment in time as setting the stage for the next 60 years. It was 60 years ago that a young pastor from Texas named Cecil Williams arrived at Glide," said Glide interim CEO Malcolm Walters at the celebration.
Walters said Williams would go on to create a movement of "unconditional love and radical inclusivity" that still guides Glide’s work today.
Glide will also be adding mobile services via a van to help people all over the city. And it will focus on helping clients find stability in multiple areas of their lives, including housing, food insecurity, mental health and physical health.
Karl Robillard, a representative from Glide, expressed his enthusiasm for this long-awaited development.
"March 19 of 2020 is the day we actually obviously closed due to the pandemic, which means it's been over 1,200 days since we've been able to fully reopen the dining room," he said. "So this is a big deal, and you can imagine all the prep work that goes into this. From all of the logistics and everything you're seeing on the screen. Our staff, our team. Our volunteers have literally been working around the clock."
Robillard acknowledged the commendable efforts of Glide in providing meals throughout this challenging period. However, he emphasized that dining outside on the sidewalk in the cold is far from a dignified experience, highlighting the significance of returning to a dining space that feels like home.
Andre Thomas, a volunteer and patron at Glide, said dining outside was nice, but he also liked being able to "come in and reap some of the social aspects of being around all the people."
Glide serves approximately 1,500 meals indoors each day, coinciding with National Fried Chicken Day. In honor of the occasion, more than 650 pounds of fried chicken will be prepared.
The move indoors also requires more volunteers and Glide is looking for people to help with its efforts.