Vera Haile was a force for compassion, inclusion and justice that shaped organizations in San Francisco for over 55 years. She was an inspiration, role model, friend and colleague to a most diverse following.
Many of her friends and admirers will come together to celebrate Vera and her work on Thursday, July 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 at St. Mary’s Cathedral Conference Center, 1111 Gough Lower Level. Now that this noble leader is gone, we are called to come together and continue her work.
I met Vera Haile when she was the Director of North of Market Senior Services (now Curry Senior Services) and I had started organizing Planning for Elders in the Central City (now Senior and Disability Action). At Planning for Elders, she became a board member and led the IHSS Task Force for more than two decades. While those organizations have changed and evolved over time, she imbued them with a set of values that continue to guide their work to this day. Her perseverance, her willingness to speak truth to power, her compassion for the most isolated and alone among us are legend.
In 2009, Gay Kaplan interviewed Vera about her life as a part of StoryCorps and we hear stories of her early days that help us understand her courage and her willingness to keep asking “why” things can’t change. It begins with Vera, the 9th grader in Appalachia who was inspired by discussions in her civic class to write a letter to the editor of the local paper. In the letter, she explained why she thought integration was the right thing for the country – and that letter generated threatening calls from the Klu Klux Klan to her and her family. When she and her family did not back down and nothing bad happened, she knew she had done the right thing.
Her college studies in philosophy helped her think about ideas – the importance of taking a moral stand, of being guided by a sense of fairness, and of taking the long view in the fight for human rights and justice. She was a part of the civil rights movement, working to integrate lunch counters, bowling alleys, and other public places. She continued her education at places like the Highlander Center, a Tennessee training center that educated union organizers and nurtured civil rights activitists like Rosa Parks. Her journey included work with the American Friends Services Committee, serving both youth, and elders with mental illness and dementia.
She traveled to countries including India before coming back to settle in San Francisco. She worked for the Department of Social Services as a Social Worker. Not surprisingly, her social work degree from U.C. Berkeley included an emphasis on community organizing. She left her job with the City to became “second in command” at Self-Help for the Elderly and then moved on to be the Executive Director of North of Market Senior Services. In “retirement”, she did even more as the President of the Aging and Adult Services Commission, a long time and active member of the Aging and Adult Services Advisory Council, the Mayor’s Long Term Care Coordinating Council, a dedicated and respected member of the Immigrants’ Rights Commission and a host of other community and civic activities.
We were fortunate that Vera agreed to help us start the Community Living Campaign – one more step in broadening the base for social change around senior, disability and caregiver issues in San Francisco. She reminded us of what was important at every annual board retreat and was chair of the Program Committee and an active board member right up to the end.
Of all the things that Vera did, I think I was most grateful for her willingness to tell her story — about the challenges she and other older adults face trying to make ends meet in this increasingly expensive city. Just like Vera the young girl who wrote to the editor way back when, she knew the importance of using the press to raise awareness and to provide a “call to action”, no matter what the personal cost. You can read her article, that appeared in the San Francisco Chroncle, and learn more about Vera at a wonderful website that is being created by her daughters. Go to www.verahaile.com.
Please add your own comments reflections about Vera on this blog or on that website so that they can be shared with others. The CLC Board of Directors is continuing to reflect on how to best continue Vera’s work going forward and will be sharing a decision soon.
We hope to see many of you next Thursday evening as we remember and celebrate Vera Haile.
Join the Community Living Campaign and others at the San Francisco Public Library’s Senior Tech Expo this Friday. We’ll be there with information on upcoming classes plus iPads, tablets and assistive technology devices for you to test out.
Who: For tech users of any level who are 50 or older
Where: San Francisco Main Library (100 Larkin St.) in the Koret Auditorium and the Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room on the Lower Level and the Computer Training Center on the 6th Floor
When: July 25 from 12:15 to 5pm
What: Plenty of programs, interactive presentations, and hands-on activities throughout the afternoon:
- Learn how to use the latest electronic devices to download ebooks, videos and music.
- See demonstrations of popular Library databases.
- Get hands on practice with the newest tech gadgets
- Receive giveaways for interactive participation in the expo, and enter to win a free printer!
For more information, contact 415.557.4251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re looking for information on caregiving situations and needs, try visiting the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)‘s new website. They’ve organized the site by types of situations and care needs - from new caregivers to those facing a loved one’s advanced illness and complicated care demands and decisions. You’ll find resources, publications, advice, research, policy reports, and more.
According to FCA Executive Director Kathleen Kelly, “We were one of the first social service organizations in the country to have an online presence, and we continue to make every effort to keep up with caregiver needs and new technology so we remain trend-setters in this area. We have thousands of pages of content that span the spectrum of caregiving, and we’re proud of our reorganized site that makes all that information easier and faster to access.”
Some of the information you can find on the site includes:
- A free Family Care Navigator database with information on caregiver programs and services throughout the country.
- A National Residential Care Search of assisted or independent living facilities, continuing care communities, home health care agencies, etc.
- Plenty of learning options, including: Checklists and Tip Sheets offering practical advice on common caregiver concerns, instructional videos, webinars, training manuals, and research and policy reports.
- Caregiver statistics and other demographic and statistical information.
- Fact Sheets on health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and brain injury, as well as detailed information on caregiving strategies, residential options, end-of-life decisions, caregiver stress, legal/financial information and more, in multiple languages.
- Caregiver Connect - a place for caregivers to share with other caregivers, as well as to connect to FCA and other resources.
At the end of June 2014, Bill Haskell retired from the Department of Aging and Adult Services. He may be retiring, but has left quite a legacy. Bill was the staff guru behind the Long Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) and the development of its many and diverse projects and work groups. Looking back even further, he has been a mainstay in the movement to plan and develop home and community-based services and support in San Francisco. This includes work to develop the first residential care hospice program for people with AIDS, Coming Home Hospice.
Read more about the Long Term Care Coordinating Council History (thanks in part to Bill’s hard work) in his “last memo”.
Last week, friends and colleagues of Captain Bill joined together to applaud Bill’s leadership. We look forward to seeing what he does as an encore. Happy travels, Captain Bill, our Superhero!
The Food Network in the Bayview would not have been possible without the commitment of Having Pride UNITI, so we want to tell you a little about them. We had heard about their special “Queen for Today” event. But it wasn’t until we went to their event on April 27th at Southeast Community College that we realized the extent of their commitment to the community. In a lovely dinner, they honored 6 strong, committed women – including CLC Connector Deloris McGee. Other honorees included LaVaughn Kellum King, Cathy Davis, Patricia Earby-Banks, Rene Ford Underwood and the late Mildred Elizabeth Armstrong. Highlights of the evening included vocal and music entertainment by D-Jay T.C., Stephanie Woodford, the United Body of Believers Choir, Keynote Speaker William Wesley, and recognition to Jacqueline Norman for make the hall look spectacular, Oscar and Pat James and assistants for a truly delicious dinner, and Bay Copy and Vernice Ross for graphics and printing. Some of these engaging photos are by Bayview Community Connector Etta Jones. We thank UNITI leaders, including President Randolph James, for their support of the Bayview Food Network as well as Veronica Shepard of Bayview Health & Wellness Center.