Second Chances Give More New Beginnings

In 1999, Johny Galvez was homeless and living in his truck along with his dog. He was hungry, but too embarrassed to ask his family members or friends for help. Eventually he found out about the services at St. Mary’s Dining Room. One day, he was hungry enough to swallow his pride and come in to St. Mary’s Dining Room for a meal. Johnny recalls that he was treated with respect by the staff. He ended up utilizing services for about 5 weeks. When Christmas came around, he still had no money, but he desperately wanted to get a gift for his son. He let Mercedes Moreno, the Director of Social Services know about his situation. She had a solution for him and made him feel no shame in sharing his request with her.
Soon after, things started to look up for Johny. He enrolled at the University of the Pacific and would go on to earn a certificate that would help him counsel people who had the same problems that he used to have.  “I always knew that if I had the chance, I wanted to give back to St. Mary’s Dining Room,” said Galvez. “About a year ago, with 8 years of sobriety, I decided that I wanted to help others and become a substance abuse counselor. I asked my professor if I could do my internship hours at St. Mary’s Dining Room and explained why it meant so much to me.”
And Johny Galvez did just that. He came back and began his internship in the Social Services Center at St. Mary’s Dining Room. It was the very same place, where he had first received respect and hope for his own future. He used his experience coupled with the newly acquired knowledge from his schooling at Pacific to help others in need and in the process was blessed again.
A client came in to see Galvez, who needed help with paperwork to continue his medical treatment in San Joaquin County. Galvez made him the appointments that he needed and the client returned the following week to have lunch and thank the staff and volunteers for all of the help he had received. Then he handed Galvez a business card. On it was the name of the treatment center he was attending. He thought it was a great resource to share with other clients and thanked the client for giving it to him. He also thought it would be another great place to complete the hours he needed to fulfill for his degree at Pacific. Galvez gave the treatment center a call.
“They said that they weren’t accepting interns, but agreed to talk with me. When they learned that I had been volunteering at St. Mary’s for my internship program, they agreed to take me on as well, said Galvez. “Once again I have been blessed by my association with St. Mary’s Dining Room – I was helped when I needed it so I was able to help a client in need. He then turned around and helped me by providing a new resource which will help me be a better case manager. People often say that they get more out of volunteering than they give and that is true for me.” Johny is now a substance abuse counselor and has been sober for ten years.
St. Mary’s Dining Room exists to serve the homeless and struggling families in San Joaquin County. St. Mary’s has 6 different programs including a hygiene center, medical clinic, dental clinic, social services facility, head start pre-school, and dining room, where 3 hot meals are served each day of the year.    Restoring human dignity to roughly 500,000 through services provided campus wide to San Joaquin County’s less fortunate every year is made possible by the generosity of members of the community.
Would you like to make a positive impact on someone’s life? If so, St. Mary’s would love to have your support. To learn more about St. Mary’s Dining Room’s “Friend & Ambassadors program,” please contact America Zunigua at (209) 467-0703 ext. 3109 or vist St. Mary’s Dining Room on the web at

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