San Diego Organizing Project

Social Justice

The Downtown Community

The Third Avenue Charitable Organization (TACO)

So the story goes, in 1975, First Lutheran devised an evangelism program to offer freshly baked bread and coffee to people on their way to work in downtown San Diego. Apparently, those on their way to work were too busy to stop. Remarkably, however, many homeless, working poor, and senior citizens stopped by for this delightful respite. Such were the beginnings of Bread Day, the program that has offered a warm free meal to all who come by First Lutheranís patio every, single Friday morning since 1975.

That little evangelism idea has expanded significantly since its humble beginnings. Today, two meals are served every week on First Lutheranís patio (Friday morning at 9 and Monday afternoon at 4); approximately 200 meals are served at each of these meals.

In 1996, as the needs of the homeless and working poor in San Diego grew, First Lutheran created its own 501(c)3 called The Third Avenue Charitable Organization, Inc. (TACO). TACO operates FREE medical, acupuncture, dental, and legal clinics to all comers. Our fine social workers, under the direction of our Executive Director and First Lutheran member Jim Lovell, offer a host of other services to those seeking help. The TACO Board, with members from a number of area churches, is made up of a majority of First Lutheran members.

Michelle Steuber, TACOís volunteer coordinator, oversees the nearly 400 volunteers from local congregations and organizations who assist in serving meals, handing out clothing and hygiene kits, and providing for other needs.

In 2008 alone, TACO provided:

TACO has recently created Going Home End of Life Services, a program overseen by social worker Nance Lovell. This hospice program is for those who are living on the street and experiencing terminal illnesses. Through Simonís Walk, volunteers are trained and supported to walk with dying homeless people so that they never die alone. Through this program, people have been able to find housing so that they might die gentle deaths--and not on the street. If desired, memorial services are held in the First Lutheran Church sanctuary and a personís remains may be placed in the churchís chapel columbarium.

Click here for more information about the wonderful work of TACO.

TACO's "Going Home" Program

Nance Lovell writes: No one desires to die alone, yet every year approximately 100 people will die alone on the streets of San Diego County. To add to this tragedy, these persons were homeless, many died of an untreated terminal illness, with no family to claim their bodies, to bury them, or to remember them. TACO sees some of these faces and stories through the clinics and meal program, and participates in the annual vigil to remember those who died on San Diego streets. Yet this was not enough . . .

Going Home is a new branch of the TACO collaboration. Going Home is an end- of-life support program for homeless persons who are terminally ill. Two years of research, consultations, program design, hands-on experience, grant writing, and networking preceded Going Home's innovation. Pastor Bill Radatz, Pastor Wilk Miller, and Pastor Noel Estergren, along with Community Professionals: Dave Clark - Hospice Chaplain, Kathleen Sorahan - MFT/RN, and Ana de Vedia - one of the Principles of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, served as wisdom and grace to these efforts.

Going Home is designed to meet the individual needs and wishes for homeless persons who are terminally ill. The part-time staff will form a team with the patient and seek to relieve their needs regarding housing, insurance, medical care, spiritual care, companionship, family contact and reunification, end-of-life care, memorial service and burial needs. A small group of volunteers will be trained, mentored, and supervised to provide one-on-one patient care and companionship. The volunteer component is named Simon's Walk. The name comes from Simon of Cyrene who, in all four gospel stories, walks with Jesus in the final hours of his life, helping to carry the burden of his cross. As much as finding a model of service in Simon, this story also inspires us to see Jesus in the face of the homeless persons we intend to serve. This ministry of presence element will compliment medical, social service, and advocacy elements being provided by other partners in Going Home and TACO. The Simon's Walk project is made possible, in part, through a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries (www.wheatridge.org). Wheat Ridge is Lutherans seeding new ministries of health and hope in the name of the healing Christ.

Grants awarded to TACO from Johnson & Johnson (providing a portion of the part time Director and Social Worker positions) and Wheat Ridge Ministries (providing a portion of the part time Simon's Walk Coordinator position and volunteer training) will allow Going Home to launch as a 2-year pilot project. Jim Lovell, TACO's Program Coordinator, will also direct Going Home Services. Nance Lovell will fill the Simon's Walk Coordinator position.

Personal donations to Going Home are a welcome and necessary avenue to providing quality care. Your gifts will directly aid in bringing dignity, mercy and compassion to our terminally ill patients. For donation information, please contact Jim Lovell at 619-235-9445 ext. 1 or at jim.chacha@firstlutheransd.org. Donations may be payable to: TACO, 1420 Third Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 (memo: Going Home).

Going Home was made possible through the prayers of many. Please continue to "pray without ceasing" for God's will to guide this new ministry.

Use Escrip to Support T.A.C.O.

Did you know that there is an easy and convenient way to support TACO? Escrip is a company that works with stores and merchants nationwide, providing donation services to various charities. Here's how it works: go to http://www.escrip.com and register your credit cards, check cards, or store cards (such as a Vons card) with Escrip.

Now, every time you use that card to make a purchase at any of the participating merchants, such as Vons, Safeway, Henry's, and many others (a list is available at their website), a portion of your purchase will be donated to the charity of your choice.

TACO is one of the many charities enrolled in the escrip program. To support TACO, simply type in "Third Avenue Charitable Organization" when the site asks for your group name after you click on "sign up," or enter the group ID, which is 9557002. All contributions are tax deductible.

So, for a fast and convenient way to support TACO, join other members of First Lutheran in enrolling with escrip! If you would rather register through the mail, or want more information, contact Lois Case at 858-481- 0384.

New:! You can also use a vehicle donation program to help T.A.C.O.; click on the icon at the right for more information.