The Story of a Sai Service Center: San Bruno, CA
Taking their inspiration from Sathya Sai Baba’s message “Hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray”, the Sathya Sai Center of San Bruno established itself as a service center, undertaking numerous service projects since its inception in March 1990. Even though the Center did not have more than 40 members at any one time, the members never lost faith that they could make a difference in their community.
Center members have been preparing and serving lunch on Saturdays at three different shelters. For nearly 30 years, the Sai Center members cooked and served about 200 meals on the first Saturday of each month for the residents of the Samaritan House in San Mateo, California. They also delivered packed food to 25-30 homebound families in the area. The Samaritan House service has had a deep profound impact on the Sai volunteers. For instance, a child volunteer saw her classmate in line for food. This incident left her so heartbroken that she began serving regularly. Her example inspired many other children at the Center to sacrifice their time and join in the service at the shelter.
Members of the Center have also served home-cooked meals every month to 90 residents at the Safe Harbor shelter in South San Francisco. On special occasions, they handed out clothing, blankets and toiletry items. The service began with very few volunteers but soon became a family activity that included spouses and children. The children not only became aware of their own privilege, but became very engaged, motivated by the parents’ example. The parents felt gratified that they were setting their children on the path of service, knowing that as their children got more engaged, service would eventually become a lifelong habit for them.
For about 15 years, the San Bruno Sai volunteers also served home-cooked food at First Step, a shelter for battered women and children in San Mateo. They frequently distributed essential items such as baby diapers, wipes, clothing and shoes, and supplied bedding sets for 60 beds in the new shelter building. A Center member reminisced, “One time, the Center supplied and decorated 15 live Christmas trees at the shelter. The joy and smiles on the children’s faces said it all.” Finally, a few members of this Center who were trained in Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) initiated a value-based mentoring program for the children.
For their dedicated service, the San Bruno Sathya Sai Center has been given an award every year by the City’s Mayor and recognized for being the ‘Longest Serving Community Group'. In March 2020, they were recognized for 30 years of service to the San Mateo Community.
Center members also take part in the annual San Bruno community event, Operation Clean Sweep, where they join the public to clean and sweep streets on the first Saturday of May. Over the years, they also organized four blood donation drives in the San Mateo County, including one that was held after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, which was patronized by the San Francisco 49'ers. A record 45 pints of blood and plasma was collected. In addition, the Center collected clothing, medicine, canned goods, and other items for tsunami victims in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004. The Center also held medical and dental health fairs for senior citizens in the community in 2008.
Over the years, the San Bruno Center has received numerous awards including recognition by the late US Congressman Tom Lantos, US Congresswoman Jackie Speier, California Senators and California Assemblymen, Mayors of San Mateo and San Bruno, the Blood Center of the Pacific and San Francisco General Hospital. One of the Center members also received the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year award in 2014 in San Francisco. Another Center member founded the Hope of Home, setting up 15 different orphanages all over India serving 100,000 children. When one of the Center members was asked what he learnt from his service, he replied, “Service has helped me realize that that we are all One, and in serving our fellowmen, we are serving God.”