St. Mary’s Center is a place in the heart of Oakland, California where anything seems possible. Working with extremely low income seniors, children and families, St. Mary’s focuses on basic needs so people have food, housing, an education, health resources and the support of a community.

People’s humanity figures prominently. Those helped by the program stabilize their life and improve their well-being. Many become mentors to others and advocates for justice.
Offices are clean and accessible. The outdoor space incorporates a vegetable garden to supplement the food program, a courtyard with benches and shade providing safe respite to seniors and a gathering space for community celebrations. Dedicated staff and an abundance of volunteers give a sense of a village where the spirit of a community encourages healing, engagement and the prospect that change is possible.


St. Mary’s Center started in 1973 at old St. Mary’s Church at 7th and Jefferson. As the parish school was closing, the Sisters of the Holy Name wanted to stay to help respond to the community that was torn apart by the freeway development and extreme poverty. Going door to door to understand the hopes of the people lead to the development of two distinct programs that have been sustained to this day: Sunday Dinners for low income elderly and a preschool for children in the area.
Over more than three decades, St. Mary’s Center has emerged as a full service program addressing the needs of homeless and isolated seniors and offering a state licensed preschool for children who otherwise would not have the opportunity. The organization was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization in 1992.
In 2005, St. Mary’s Center mounted a capital campaign to purchase a permanent home. The successful effort has resulted in the renovation and purchase of four buildings that include Senior Services, a Community Center, Preschool and Transitional Housing and the development of a courtyard, garden and landscaped parking.