Some of you know her, some of you may have heard of her, and those of you who don't, I introduce you to an amazing woman, Sister Christina Heltsley, a member of the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame.
"Sister C" as many of us call her, is the Executive Director of the St. Francis Center in North Fair Oaks. She's been a teacher of all grade levels, a principal, a superintendent for Catholic Schools, and became the executive director for the St. Francis Center in 2000. Her primary mission is to help low income children achieve success.
She provides a safe learning and recreational environment for kids and teaches them self sufficiency skills. The location of the St. Francis Center and the Siena Youth Center, a part of the St. Francis Center, has a history of gangs and street violence. The Siena Youth Center is wonderful - it's has a beautiful gym, a computer lab, a commercial kitchen, an afterschool homework lab and all kinds of classes. The kids go on field trips to county parks, on biking outings, and participate in cross country activities, and more. They learn leadership, sports, compassion for one another, conflict resolution skills, and the value of education, cooperation and each other.
The St. Francis Center is dedicated to meeting the needs of the poor working class. They provide housing, food, community garden space, clothing and laundry and shower services.
Sister "C" and her Board are managing the construction of a 15-unit very low income apartment building that will open in June 2017--a project that the San Mateo County Department of Housing is helping fund. She will tell you how hard it is to have to tell to families who are desperate that she has no units available to rent. She gets a minimum of five calls a day from families hoping and praying that she will be able to take them in.
Lastly, if you visit the St. Francis Center, which hums with the help of hundreds of volunteers, you will see the mission statement on the wall. It reads: “Compassion, Not Judgment" This sums up the essence of Sister "C" and her contributions in the North Fair Oaks community.