SF Chronicle Jefferson Award

Max Torres, Operations Manager of St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room, wins the Jefferson Award. The award is administered by the American Institute for Public Service, a national foundation established in 1972 to honor community service.
Max was featured on CBS5-TV, KCBS-AM and profiled in The Chronicle.

The following article appeared on page B – 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

The Jefferson Award: Maximiliano Torres feeds the hungry

Bay Area Jefferson Award winner: Maximiliano Torres, operations manager of St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room

How he started: In 1982, Torres was working on his father’s vineyard in Baja California when he met Brother Dominic Peralta from St. Anthony’s Church in Menlo Park. Peralta, who was helping to build a mission in Torres’ town, invited Torres, then 22, to Menlo Park to work in the church’s dining room, serving meals to people in need. Torres thought about it for a month and then accepted Peralta’s offer. While he studied for his driving test, Torres worked as a dishwasher in the dining room’s kitchen. He spoke almost no English and knew no one.

And now: Today, Torres runs the dining room, which serves as many as 700 lunches a day, six days a week. With 10 staff members and 160 volunteers, St. Anthony’s also provides meals for Redwood City’s Maple Street Shelter and the Menlo Park Veteran’s Hospital Clara Mateo Shelter. Once a week, a nurse visits the dining hall to give advice and referrals to those in need. St. Anthony’s also operates a mini-bus that brings clients to the hall. Torres is hoping to get funds to purchase new kitchen equipment and to reinstate a program that provides groceries to those in need.

His inspiration: The volunteers of St. Anthony’s Church, as well as having a job that helps make a difference in people’s lives. “Maybe it helps give someone a little jump-start, helps them get back on their feet,” said Torres. He works mostly behind the scenes, leaving the compliments and thanks from the dining hall’s clients to the volunteers who staff the serving lines. He says the volunteers are crucial to the dining hall’s success, offering their time and sometimes their money to those who turn to St. Anthony’s for help.

His vitals: Torres met his wife, Maria, at the church in 1986 and became a permanent citizen in time to vote in the 2000 election. He has three children, Max Jr., Veronica and Luis.

Who made the biggest impact on him: Torres is hesitant to single out any one person for recognition, but he says he considers Peralta, who died in 1992, one of his heroes. He also thinks highly of his mentor, Sam Acuff, who was an instrumental part of St. Anthony’s administration, and of Douglas Tuck, a St. Anthony’s volunteer. “He was a very deep person in the sense of giving of himself, his energy,” said Torres. “He passed away a year ago, but that doesn’t mean he has been forgotten. He left a very big mark.”

In his own words: “The dining room would not be possible without the volunteers. It’s the entire community coming together to help. One of our mission statements is not to ask too many questions. Everyone’s situation is different. We are here to serve.”

What others say about him: “He’s marvelous — such a gentleman,” said Milka Holloway, a dining-room volunteer for 25 years. “His spirit adds so much to our place. Nothing seems to daunt him; he can solve any problem. He takes good care of me, too. He always asks how I am or makes sure I have a ride. He’s interested in everyone.”

To find out more: Call (650) 365-9665. St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room is located at 3500 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park.

Each week, The Chronicle features a Bay Area resident who has won a Jefferson Award for making a difference in his or her community. The awards are administered by the American Institute for Public Service, a national foundation established in 1972 to honor community service. Bay Area residents profiled in The Chronicle will also be featured on CBS5-TV and KCBS-AM, which — along with The Chronicle — are Jefferson Award media partners.


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