The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
Can you spare two cents ñ er, bucks ñ to help troubled kids?
By Abby Cohn
San Francisco, September 18, 2003 – Dr. Larry Slayen thinks two bucks is a small price to pay to help get troubled kids off the streets of San Francisco.
Starting Monday, the retired Greenbrae dentist is asking diners at some 60 San Francisco restaurants to shell out an extra $2 on their bills to help do just that.
Slayen, a 59-year-old member of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El, hopes his two-month campaign will funnel enough S2 donations to extend a helping hand to a pair of local programs for at-risk teens.
“It’s really very little money,” said Slayen, who hopes to make his StreetSmartUSA campaign an annual Bay Area-wide event. The beneficiaries of the effort are Huckleberry Youth Programs, which operates a project for girls who are victims of violence, and outreach efforts for homeless youth at Larkin Street Youth Services.
Slayen and his wife, Jackie, got the idea for the program on a visit last November to London, where a similar program benefiting the homeless is raising some $500,000 yearly.
Jackie Slayen noticed a flier at the table where they were dining that described the British program, called StreetSmart. Larry Slayen recalled his wife mentioning San Francisco’s homeless woes and the city’s slew of fine restaurants. “‘Let’s do it” she said.
The resulting effort – complete with a Web site at wvw.streetsmartusa.org – has gobbled up the bulk of their retirement moments since then.
“We knew we wanted to do something but had no idea where it was going to go,” said Slayen, who estimates that in recent months he’s spent at least 70 hours a week on the volunteer project.
“It’s like starting a company. The hard work is up front,” said Slayen, who lined up Lorrie Greene, a fellow San Franciscan with expertise working with nonprofits, as the program’s president.
StreetSmart’s resulting list of participating restaurants includes such spots as Fleur de Lys, One Market, PlumpJack Cafe and Slanted Door.
While a few owners they contacted declined to participate, fearing the fundraiser would turn off customers in tough economic times, most embraced the program. “We have a really good success rate,” Slayen said.
At most restaurants, diners will be given printed material about the fundraiser or will learn about it from the servers. At E & 0 Trading Company on Sutter Street, owner Micah Broude was so enthusiastic that he’s adding the $2 to each bill unless a customer declines to participate.
“If someone wants to opt out, they certainly can” said Broude, a former board member at Emanu-El. The StreetSmart program “just makes an awful lot of sense to me.”