Woman giving back at church, at home

June 6, 2008 7:39:08 PM PDT
We've all heard the expression, "practice what you preach." It literally applies to a Bay Area woman who's ministry doesn't end when church service is over.

Reverend Nina Pickerell leads the Sunday morning service at Grace Cathedral, an Episcoal church in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood. She's cathedral deacon, ordained to serve others. But she takes her mission far beyond the house of worship -- she takes it to her house in Bayview-Hunters Point. There, Reverend Pickerell is simply known as Nina.

She's transformed the Victorian that once belonged to her grandparents and where she spent much of her childhood. It's now an oasis in the neighborhood -- the site of a food pantry she and her volunteers operate every Monday.

"Why did you want to do this?" asks ABC7's Carolyn Tyler.

"To fill a need, simply put, to fill a need," says Reverend Pickerell.

"Promptly at 1 p.m., her staff here... you always have something to eat. Every Monday, right on time and it's beautiful," says Leonard Colvin, a Bayview-Hunters Point resident.

Hector Gonzalez always drops by to recycle the pantry's cardboard and pick up food for his family.

"So they help you with groceries and things for the kids and you try to help them?" asks Tyler.

"Exactly," says Gonzalez.

Nina started her mission in 2004 serving 18 families. Now it's grown to more than 300 families every Monday.

Nina tried unsuccessfully to set up something like this 15 years ago, but it wasn't until she actually moved into the house that she slowly began to build trust with her neighbors.

"It took two years before anybody would even talk to me. Now it's, 'hi, how are you, how've you been,'" says Reverend Pickerell.

Nina's Bayview Mission is run with the help of volunteers. Most are parishioners at Grace Cathedral. She's helped open the eyes of her congregation to the need in their community.

"[They] live up on Nob Hill, just up from the Tenderloin, and they do not have a clue what's happening in Bayview-Hunters Point and I get to be the tool, the messenger," says Reverend Pickerell.

Donations from church members and other individuals, as well as grants, allow Nina to buy organic produce and non-perishable items from the food bank. She also collects clothing that anyone in line can take.

There are special supplies for the homeless, for the elderly and bags with books for children. ID's are checked to make sure the help goes directly to those who live in Bayview-Hunters Point.

Nina's outreach includes turning her yard into a safe place for neighborhood kids, like brothers Delphino and Marino.

"Do you come over to her house from time to time? Have you come to summer camp?" asks Tyler.

"Well yes, we do," says one of the brothers.

At Nina's summer camp, kids learn arts and crafts. There are even pony rides. She has holiday parties.

Not many are aware that in her other life Nina is Reverend Pickerrell, an Episcopal deacon. One neighbor who does know says Nina and the Grace Cathedral volunteers have given her foster son much more than diapers and food.

"They all came around him and they blessed him and since that day we've been receiving blessings ever since. So Nina to me is like an angel," says Alexis Alexander, a Bayview Hunters Point resident.

"I feel it's a privilege to be in both places, to have one foot here and one foot at Grace," says Reverend Pickerell.

And so ABC7 Salutes Reverend Nina Pickerrell for living the life she preaches.

If you'd like to know more about her ministry, visit: http://www.ministriesofgrace.com/bayview/


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