God moves in a mysterious way, so the poet William Cowper wrote, and then along comes a story like this one to illustrate.
At the beginning of the year, David Shearin, lead pastor and executive director of Redwood City-based Street Life Ministries, became president of the Downtown Business Group. Shearin initially joined the board to make connections for the ministry and to serve as a liaison in dealing with homeless-related problems, together with the police. But when the DBG’s president moved away late last year, the pastor to the homeless was elevated as his replacement.
Though his office is at a church across town, Shearin relies on the business group’s energetic Executive Director Regina Van Brunt for being downtown almost daily, advocating for business owners and being a go-between with them and the city.
“It’s hard for an owner to be at the City Council meetings and voice their opinion because their whole life is wrapped up in the business. And she’s that voice,” Shearin says.
His own role as president is to be a sounding board and give direction and ideas. Van Brunt has been an advocate for restaurateurs dealing with coronavirus-related restrictions in getting more outdoor space. But she also lets them know if they are violating rules, which might bring back tighter controls.
“We are doing everything we can do keep the businesses open,” Shearin says. “I think the part that’s really hard is watching a lot of the businesses just struggle so much.”
He credits local residents for buying takeout when restaurants were closed and taking advantage of the option to eat outdoors when it became available.
And about those “mysterious ways?”
Street Life Ministries, which serves free meals to homeless people five nights a week, has seen a huge drop off in food formerly received via corporate cafeterias. Shearin came up with an idea to purchase meals from downtown restaurants at a substantial discount and launched a fundraiser. About a half dozen restaurants – ones equipped to prepare large to-go trays –are partnering with Street Life in providing the meals. The goal was to raise $20,000 —but almost $50,000 has come in. Shearin says two restaurant owners have said they’ll be able to keep an employee working “by us buying food from them.” Lordy!