Tag Archives: Santa Maria Urban Ministry

30th Anniversary SMUM Community Ministry


On 15 September 2013, Santa Maria Urban Ministry (SMUM) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a “Fiesta for the Future” hosted by St.Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino. SMUM was founded in 1983 as an outreach ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, to provide emergency food to the residents of San José’s inner city. In addition to continuing to serve the needs of clients and promote their self-sufficiency, SMUM has developed transformative programs (pre-school, homework and computer lab, English as a Second Language, VITA tax services, backpack and Christmas present distribution…) to serve the needs of and promote self-sufficiency within the San José community.

The evening included a worship service lead by the Right Reverend Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, a silent auction, folk dancing, music, and dinner with thanks to honor to the hundreds of donors and volunteers who have made this generous program a long-term success.






Images Copyright 2013 by Alfonso Mendez and Katy Dickinson

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Non-Travel Diary 3

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While my husband John is in China on business for Huawei, I am keeping a non-travel diary. This weekend has been packed with activities:

  • Saturday morning, my mother and I picked up our new glasses from Visual Eyes Optometry in Willow Glen (San Jose CA). She was fitted with her new lenses and frames (and I got new lenses for my sunglasses).
  • Saturday afternoon, my son Paul and I went to the amazing Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival, then took an evening class from Jeanne Fishback at TechShop San Jose on the wood lathe. We had a great time – and will take a second TechShop wood class this coming Friday night.
  • This morning at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Channing Smith announced that next week is Backpack Sunday – we will collect school supplies and backpacks for the children of Santa Maria Urban Ministry (no red or blue – gang colors).
  • Paul and I went to the Clay & Glass Festival again this afternoon. In the last two years, he has taken most of the ceramics classes offered by the excellent Foothill College art program.  So, Paul was fascinated to see the finished work of so many superb creative potters. The artists also had fun talking to Paul – many of them know his teachers at Foothill. I bought some amazing pots. After seeing the art, we went to see the latest Ice Age animated movie.




Images Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson

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Non-Travel Diary 2

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John is still in ShenZhen, China.  He takes the high-speed train to Hunan Province tomorrow. Here is what I am doing at home in San Jose, California, while my husband is traveling on business for Huawei:

  1. Wednesday night, I went to the BarBQ dinner at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, CA. I was partly there because it is a fun summer event, and partly representing the Board of the Santa Maria Urban Ministry to introduce our new Executive Director, Omar Torres, and Operations Manager, Alfonso Mendez, to St. Andrew’s parish. The parish has always been very generous to SMUM and the new staff wants to become better known.
  2. Thursday was the big concrete pour day at home. The floor is now flat and smooth, the dry rot is gone, and my son Paul has a new pad in the side yard for his potter’s wheel. Everything is still drying today.  Thursday night, I went shopping for jeans and summer clothes at Coldwater Creek.
  3. This morning I got my hair cut – at the Scandalous Salon in Willow Glen.  My meetings ran into each other at work, so I missed lunch.
  4. Tonight, I went to a surprise birthday party for Mary, one of the most vivacious members of the Willow Glen Lions. Mary’s sister Sylvia planned the event in deepest secrecy.  Mary was pleasantly shocked when a crowd of friends sang Happy Birthday from her doorstep.
  5. Tomorrow, I am running errands with my mother in the morning.  After lunch, Paul and I are going to the Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival, then taking a wood working class together at TechShop San Jose.

John and I are encouraging each other to exercise by comparing number of steps registered on our Fitbit activity trackers. Thursday was my high day with 13,640 steps and 24 floors climbed. Today was my low day with just 5,468 steps and 16 floors climbed.  The Fitbit also tells us about our daily sleep patterns.  Once we have a month of data, it will be interesting to see what patterns emerge.


Images Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson

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Driver’s License and Independence

The myth is: California teens want to get their driver’s license as soon as they turn 16.  It’s not that simple. I got my license when I was 22 (living in San Francisco and Berkeley, public transport is good and it is impossible to park, so why bother?).   My son-in-law has a license but neither my 23-year-old daughter nor 19-year-old son have progressed past the permit stage. Like me, my daughter graduated from college without a driver’s license.  In contrast, my husband got his license at age 14-1/2, growing up in Kansas farm country.

Driver’s licenses have been more a passionate subject for discussion with my parents than with my kids.  Before he passed away last year at age 85, my father lost his license after medical tests indicated that he could no longer driver safely.  He was bitterly resentful of this, and we in his family were grateful that the consulting doctor took some of the heat of my father’s anger and frustration. My father saw the license suspension as an assault on his independence.

It is surprisingly difficult to revoke a driver’s license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has many web pages about senior driving safety and complex formal rules about how to evaluate driving competence. Clearly, there are many (unlike my kids) for whom a driver’s license is an essential indication of maturity and freedom.

If you are concerned about someone’s driving and want to request a formal evaluation, what Not To Do:

  • Phoning the DMV gets you into a phone-tree-hell from which nothing results.
  • Informal notes from doctors (even on doctor’s office stationary) get ignored – the DMV only responds to official forms and evaluations.
  • Going in person to the DMV just gets you into long lines – where you eventually are told that the DMV does not perform driver’s tests at the request of concerned family members.

What finally worked: a doctor submitting a signed “Request for Driver Reexamination” form to the DMV.

In considering this blog entry, I found a listing of over 100 songs about cars and driving. For fun, listen to Joan Joffe Hall reading her poem Driver’s License, one of many creative tributes to this complex public document.

Nowadays, I am the happy driver of a tiny Smart Car with a wrap that looks like party streamers. Recently, the kids at SMUM decorated around my car with sidewalk chalk, as if my car design was dripping onto the asphalt – the best kind of graffiti!

Smart Car with chalk drawings - SMUM - March 2012

Image Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson

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31st Episcopal Convention

El Camino Real Convention Sign Salinas

Today is the second day of the annual convention of the Diocese of El Camino Real, in Salinas California. We are honored to host two guest Bishops, the Right Reverend Sadock Makaya (Diocese of Western Tanganyika) and the Rt. Rev. Michael Perham (Diocese of Gloucester). Our own Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves has been exchanging visits with Bishops Sadock and Michael in their home lands in Africa and Europe. This is a continuing process of Indaba, talking things through slowly and building relationships with a focus on respect. The bishops’ visit is part a remarkably successful long-term communication between very different areas of the world and of the Anglican Communion.

My husband John Plocher is sitting in Geek Central, hidden behind the big screen at the front of the hall, as a member of the technical team lead by Rev. Stephenie Cooper. When I am not being a technical roadie, I am sitting at the table with the delegates from the parish of St. Andrew’s (Saratoga).

See my 2009 blog entry How to Run a Church Convention for details on what John and Stephenie were doing.

Bishops Makaya Perham Gray-Reeves

El Camino Real Convention

Images Copyright 2011 Katy Dickinson

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Last After School Session

SMUM Studio kids with backpacks

For the last three years, my husband John and I have been after-school teachers on Thursday afternoons for the Santa Maria Urban Ministry (SMUM) Studio program. There is another group of volunteers who offer Studio on Tuesdays. During the summer, the Studio kids enjoy monthly activities.

Last week was our final session for this school year. My daughter Jessica is home from college so she was able to join us. We had a party with cake and pizza. The kids posed with backpacks for a picture for the SMUM Canticle Newsletter. In 2010, over 800 backpacks were distributed at the end of the summer to grade school, middle school, and high school students in the SMUM community of inner city San Jose. Backpacks and their contents are donated by churches and community service groups like the Willow Glen Lions.

SMUM Studio cake . Jessica at SMUM Studio

Images Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson

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Sue Fliess reads to kids

Sue Fliess at SMUM Studio

Last week, childrens’ book author Sue Fliess came by Santa Maria Urban Ministry (SMUM) in San Jose to drop off a donation. She stayed to read her new book Shoes for Me to the Studio after-school program kids.  She described to the children how a book got made. The kids were fascinated while Sue Fliess was there and took turns reading the new book after she left. Then, they went outside to play.

SMUM kids reading Sue Fliess Shoes for Me by Katy DIckinson SMUM kids playing

Images Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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