Doug Shoemaker speaking

Bridging the Divide Succeeds Beyond Expectations

On May 19, over 500 supporters around the country got into the Mercy Housing spirit at Bridging the Divide, Mercy Housing California’s (MHC’s) 2021 celebration. MHC’s first-ever all-virtual gathering easily surpassed goals for both revenue and attendance, bringing together attendees from near and far and raising close to $500,000 to support Resident Services.

woman holding keys upEmceed by Doug Shoemaker, president of MHC, the evening’s program provided a glimpse into the lives of four residents who each shared the ways Mercy Housing is helping them to bridge divides in their own lives and to use the foundation of a stable and affordable home to achieve their goals and dreams.

  • Tyreca, who moved her six children and grandchildren from Skid Row to an MHC apartment in Los Angeles, now volunteers leading programs for other residents in her community.
  • Susan, a veteran who overcame her addiction in partnership with MHC’s Resident Services, recently purchased her first home in the Sacramento region.
  • Lucia lost her income during the pandemic but was able to keep her family stable thanks to MHC’s emergency food security and rent relief programs.
  • Larry serves as a “bridge builder” to young people in his own Sunnydale neighborhood in San Francisco, providing them with opportunities he didn’t have growing up.

Bridging the Divide also celebrated the visionary advocates who bring our shared visions to life. MHC Board Chair Janet Ruggiero presented the Sister Lillian Murphy Housing Justice Award to NFL star Arik Armstead, defensive end for the San Francisco 49’ers, for his accomplishments in helping to close the remote-school digital divide for Sacramento area youth residents. As the event’s presenting sponsor, the Salesforce Foundation brought together supporters to confront the gaps residents face in terms of healthcare, education, technology, and income, and to celebrate MHC’s achievements in helping to close those gaps.

“It’s been an incredible honor to watch Mercy Housing grow,” said Suzanne DiBianca, Salesforce’s chief impact officer, who spoke at Bridging the Divide. “In many ways it’s been a heartbreaking year – a year that has shown us, time and time again, that those with the least often bear the greatest burdens… But we’ve also seen vital organizations like Mercy Housing really step up and show us what true community impact, leadership, and compassion look like.”

On top of the divides and disparities wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the year leading up to Bridging the Divide brought into focus a national reckoning over systemic racism. To close out the night, Dream Corps founder and CNN correspondent Van Jones spoke to the urgent need to find common ground across differences in our collective movements for racial equity. He was joined in this discussion by Doug Shoemaker, Mercy Housing, Inc. CEO Ismael Guerrero, MHC board member S. Monica Soni, MD, and MHC youth resident from Sacramento, Shamar Knox.

“That’s the dance,” said Van Jones, who was himself also a founding board member of the Salesforce Foundation. “How do we hold people, while still holding them accountable?” Van also spoke to California’s incredible diversity and vibrancy, and to the immense potential residents hold, saying: “You have no idea who you are helping when you give money to support this organization.”

From resilient residents who work in partnership with MHC every day to keep our communities healthy, to sponsors such as the Salesforce Foundation who make our work possible, Bridging the Divide participants each have an ongoing role to play in the push for a more equitable California.

For a complete list of our generous Bridging the Divide sponsors, click here.