Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral
We invite you to gather with good intentions at Yoga for Change on Saturday, September 23, at 10 am, for a morning of yoga benefiting The Community Preschool, the cathedral’s vital and transformative early childhood education program. Led by our beloved Yoga on the Labyrinth teachers and musicians, Yoga for Change raises funds for tuition assistance and preschool operational expenses, including teacher training seminars, meals, revitalizing indoor and outdoor classrooms, and our dreams of opening a parent resource center.
Learn about Loren Smith, our Director of The Community Preschool, and her story with Grace. Adapted from a speech given by Loren at Carnivale on February 21, 2023.

I’m not supposed to be here.

I grew up in the Bayview, and I became a mom at 18. My father worked in city services. He knew the system, but he discouraged me from applying for subsidized housing and helped me forge a path outside that box. I graduated high school early, and my now-husband and I created a life for our son and daughter to thrive.

My parents raised me to believe in my potential. My mother enrolled me in Catholic schools to give me opportunities not available in my neighborhood’s public schools. I had access to the arts and enriching field trips. My grandmother was a teacher. She spent her own money to make sure her students were exposed to everything that they deserved. Early on, she sparked my passion for serving children and families.  

I began my career in early childhood education 12 years ago. Last year, I learned that my school was closing.  I applied to jobs in the Bayview and The Mission, where women of color were commonly found. Then, through Brooke Geisen, who was leaving the position as the director of The Community Preschool, I learned about the opening. 
Here’s when my bias got in the way. I didn’t think I should apply. I looked at the grand cathedral and thought I would be overlooked. Just the neighborhood alone discouraged me from applying. I thought I should stay in my comfort zone.  

My supportive family and my mentor reminded me that not only was I qualified, but also that my unique background would add value to the program. When I interviewed, I found that the conversations were authentic. I didn’t feel that being a Black woman was a disadvantage here.

My experience was valued.  

I was soon asked to lead a preschool that championed the potential of each one of its students. Our program offers them a place where we celebrate their uniqueness, and their creativity is nourished. Half of our students are low-income, and we give them the resources they need to flourish. 

Just like my family did for me. 

Last year, after we hosted a family appreciation breakfast, a single mother walked over to me crying and asked for a hug. She was so grateful. She told me she’s been so used to pouring from an empty cup that she forgot what it felt like to be appreciated. Another family, whose home language is Arabic, came to the school worried about whether their child would feel lost. Through sign language, visuals, and literacy instruction, this child is learning English and beginning to communicate with her teachers and peers.  

When I reflect on what impact I want to make in the lives of the children and families I serve here at Grace, I think about each moment I felt valued, heard, loved, respected, seen, and pushed to be a changemaker.   

With the support of this community and others, I realize now that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, here at Grace Cathedral, helping to transform the lives of children in The Community Preschool, one day at a time. 

Join us for an uplifting Saturday morning of Yoga on September 23, at 10 am. All funds raised will support The Community Preschool at Grace Cathedral to provide accessible, equitable, and high-quality childcare for all.

As of today, our drive has ended, and we are now reflecting on the number of people we were able to support because of YOU!

We would like to express our endless gratitude for the support we received from everyone. Thank you to our Congregation Council for supporting this effort in so many ways, from spreading the word to contributing and making beautiful cards. Special thanks go to Lisa Wong, Moira Dowell, Phoebe Campbell, Wai-Kit Ho, and Alison Hills for spearheading this effort.

Thank you to our staff and community partners for also supporting us, with a special shout-out to Ramona Draeger and friends for sharing this with our yoga community!

Thank you to our Board of Trustees, staff, preschool families, and congregants for their extraordinary support and generosity. We receive so many items of clothing, toys, food, and hygiene supplies.

Thank you to everyone who helped us pack and wrap the gifts!

With a special thank you to our preschoolers for making cards to go in the bags!

We were able to take over 50 bags filled with essential items and food to GLIDE and the surrounding community.

We were also able to extend this offering to 15 preschool families. Santa and our preschool teachers delivered educational toys to 15 very excited children!

The drives were a complete success, and we couldn’t have done any of this without you. Thank you for helping us bring our mission to fruition by supporting children and families at the preschool and the surrounding community with their basic needs.

We plan to continue to work in partnership to continue to support our community in the new year. Thank you for making the holiday season so much brighter for our families and community.

Christmas is a time when our thoughts turn to giving. We want to share what we have with others and bring joy and comfort to those for whom the holidays may be a challenging time. At the same time, it can be hard to know what we can do that will have an impact. We want to do more than just send goods from a distance. We want to be good neighbors, build relationships and be supportive partners and allies to groups in our community. 

The Grace Cathedral Community Preschool is organizing two drives this holiday season that will significantly impact the lives of people in our community. The preschool is holding: 

  • A toy drive: All of the requested toys have been given to us – thank you!
  • A food and hygiene kit drive: Essential items are sought for fifty food and hygiene kits. These will go to a) Community Preschool families in need and b) GLIDE, to be given to individuals and families in need in the Tenderloin and “Tendernob” areas. 

These two drives reflect the outlook of the cathedral’s Community Preschool and its brilliant director Loren Smith, who is leading the initiative. The requested toys highlight the preschool’s deeply thoughtful celebration of diversity and the importance it places on every child’s emotional development. The drive for food and hygiene kits demonstrates the preschool’s philosophy of supporting and caring for the community within which it is situated and draws its students from. As Loren Smith writes: 

Through this drive, my vision is to raise awareness about the individuals within our preschool community and surrounding communities that are in dire need and encourage everyone to get involved in supporting them. My hope is for all members of the congregation to see the value and impact in being a resource of support in this community.  

My goal as a leader has always been to offer quality education to children, but over the years, I’ve learned that to support a child, it starts with educating and supporting the entire family. Children and families need to be supported on a deeper level with their basic needs. Our preschool focuses on educating children about emotional literacy, a valuable skill that they will need to carry with them through life. The toys that we are asking for support our mission to bridge the gap between home and school and provide families with the tools that we use at school at home.  

When we can look within our own community for support and resources, that is when we know there is power in shared values, community, and numbers. No matter the size of the donation, we are grateful for the contributions you are willing to make to support the children and families at the preschool.   

It’s a privilege to amplify this project led by one of the most inclusive, diverse and equitable communities in San Francisco: our preschool. Loren tells me that preschool families will be involved in packing food and hygiene kits for GLIDE. This reflects the work of this remarkable organization, where all members learn how to care for each other and are invested in the flourishing of their community.  

This project is also being supported by our Congregation Council, which continues to work tirelessly and thoughtfully for projects that let our neighbors know we see them and love them.  

The Children, Youth, and Family Ministry and Congregation Council are delighted to add its names to those of Cathedral clergy and staff supporting the 2022 Holiday Drives of the Community Preschool. We’d be so grateful if you would consider adding your support too! 

We are asking that all goods arrive by Sunday, December 11. Please read on for how to contribute! 

You can contribute to one of our drives: 

Via Amazon: 

Food and Hygiene Kit Drive:  

Please select item(s) from this wish list and select “Steph McNally’s Gift Registry Address” at checkout.

By sending in a purchase from another vendor: 

Please send toys, food, and hygiene kit items like those on the above wish lists to: 

Steph McNally, 1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 


You can deliver purchases during office hours, Monday to Friday, to Grace Cathedral reception, addressed to Steph McNally.  

Alternatively, on Sundays from November 13, please place items in a specially-marked bin in the Dining Room at Coffee Hour after the 8:30 or 11 am Choral Eucharists. 

Hi, I’m Loren Smith, Director of The Community Preschool at Grace Cathedral. As a lifelong learner and someone who values acts of service, I followed my calling to support children and families and became an early childhood educator.  

I am grateful for every opportunity and experience that has shaped my way of thinking. My determination to support quality early education programs for all children stems from the lessons of love and service learned from my grandmother and mother. Living in a marginalized community with limited opportunities for children to thrive, my mother moved neighborhoods so that I had a chance to expand my worldview and gain equal access. As a second grade and church schoolteacher, my grandmother was devoted to enhancing her students’ lives – purchasing school supplies and materials for her students with her own limited income to ensure they had all they needed to succeed.  

My values drive my leadership of an anti-bias and enriching curriculum that provides access and challenge for every student and supports deep thinking, self-expression, and offers opportunities to learn new perspectives. Through collaboration and partnership with families, I strive to build an inclusive school community that explores and appreciates the differences that define us as individuals as we grow and learn together.  

At the preschool, we are building a growth culture, a safe learning environment, and focusing on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity, and transparency. We believe in continuous feedback across the organization, grounded in a shared commitment to help each other grow and learn.  

When I reflect on the impact I may make on a child’s life, I think about each moment as a child when I felt valued, heard, loved, respected, seen, and pushed to be a changemaker by my teachers. It’s my goal and the goal of The Community Preschool to be that guide to the children in the community we serve. 

The funds raised from Yoga for Change support our mission to provide accessible, equitable, and high-quality education for all. I am in awe and grateful to be a part of this impactful event supporting the preschool and changing lives, I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, September 24 at 10 am!