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Longtime benefactor donates 679 turkeys to St. Anthony's Dining Room in S.F.

Longtime benefactor donates 679 turkeys to St. Anthony's Dining Room in S.F.
Longtime benefactor donates 679 turkeys to St. Anthony's Dining Room in S.F. 02:52

SAN FRANCISCO -- For many, the holiday season is a time for giving to those who are less fortunate and that's especially true right before Thanksgiving.  In San Francisco's Tenderloin District, one donation has risen above the rest and shows what one committed individual can accomplish.

On Saturday, the St Anthony's Foundation building was once again bustling with activity after a long COVID hiatus.  This time, volunteers were putting together hundreds of hygiene kits to hand out to the people who call the Tenderloin home.

"Feels good. It's good to treat people well," said volunteer Chris Wibfli.

As he watched them work, St. Anthony CEO Nils Behnke said neighborhoods take on the personalities of the people spending time there.  He said people doing positive things in a place like the Tenderloin can literally push out more negative, anti-social behavior.

"So, everybody who comes here and does something good is actually helping us transform this neighborhood in San Francisco," he said.

If there is one person who epitomizes that example, it would be Pierre Smit.  In 2012, he collected 19 turkeys from his neighbors to donate to St. Anthony's holiday food drive. Things have grown since then.

"I had no idea this was going to be where I'm at now," Smit said.  "But, I started something!"

Turkey Donation
Pierre Smit (left) donates Turkeys to St. Anthony's Dining Room in San Francisco KPIX

On Saturday, Smit drove up in a U-Haul truck to deliver 679 frozen turkeys and he'll do the same thing again right before Christmas. His donation is so large that, beyond the holidays, it will help provide food for St. Anthony's kitchen throughout the year. It's an amazing example of what can happen when one guy commits himself to a simple idea.

"I'm not extraordinary.  Actually, I'm not wealthy," Smit said. "I felt a need to put food on the table of those who don't have the food, number one.  And, number two, I wanted to do something for my community."

"To me, he serves as a great example to all of us of what we can get done," Behnke said.  "He's just a normal person who decided he wants to do something good and he's done it for such a long time with such great impact."

Throughout the year, Smit sends out thousands of flyers to the public requesting holiday turkeys and he said his success has taught him first-hand the power of an individual to get things done.

"Everyone can do anything they want," he said. "You just have to start one day.  And once you start, it's fine, you just keep going."

Beyond the food drive, Smit sees a larger potential for committed individuals to affect real change throughout the city.

"I see a lot of people complaining about the status of San Francisco and I say, 'well, you have to do something,'" he said.  "That's the bottom line: Help others, help the city where we are and it'll be better tomorrow!"

St. Anthony's is hosting a neighborhood block party on Tuesday. They say the more the community embraces the Tenderloin District, the more positive change can occur there.

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