Happy First Anniversary to the Fr. Vigil Cordano Center
by Fr. John Hardin
The Father Virgil Cordano Center in Santa Barbara celebrated our first anniversary on January 7
th. The name for the center was chosen because Fr. Virgil ministered at the Mission for over 50 years and was well-loved by native Santa Barbarans.
This is a ministry that is co-sponsored and supported by the Daughters of Charity at St. Vincent’s and the friars at the Old Mission. Additional funding has come from very generous donors in the area along with a number of other religious communities. We intentionally do not take any government funding.
As rich as the extended community is and the myriad of social services here in the county for the poor—yes there are poor brothers and sisters in our fair city—there was no day drop-in facility. So the sidewalks become their “outdoor” living room, den, and at times their restrooms unprotected from the rain and the harsh weather.
The Lord writes straight with crooked lines. We prayed and discerned that the poor needed a safe and secure environment during the day. The Center is open from 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday and provides a place for people to relax, rest, sleep, do laundry, have meals, check the internet for messages, use our facility as a mailing address, have their hands and feet washed, receive warm socks, charge their phones, and get help with resumes and applications for various government services. Perhaps most importantly we give people an opportunity to visit one-on-one with one of the sisters or friars in our small chapel.
We call the Center “the Companionship Club” where all are welcome including our donors, volunteers, and religious. The purpose is to build a sense of community with one another and to express God’s love and care for each person who enters our door. We preach through our simple actions and by providing unconditional personal regard for each and every one.
As of our first anniversary, we have had over 230 non-duplicated men and women who have joined the Club and signed a statement to be respectful of each other. They also receive a membership card with our telephone number on it in case they need to get in contact with us. This is especially helpful if they are in jail or the hospital and gives us everyone the opportunity to contact family members if requested to do so. On average we have 15 to 40 brothers and sisters each day, with the largest numbers at the end of the month. There is no music or television in order to maintain a sense of peace and serenity. However, the members may listen to music or watch programs on their phones with earbuds.
We have a full-time director/manager, Cynthia Estrada, who knows
of our brothers and sisters by name and many of their stories. This is an uncanny ability but it is done out of compassion and concern for each individual. Cynthia is an invaluable asset who could work at other places but feels a strong call to the ministry with the poor.
We augment our religious team with dedicated volunteers who help with the distribution of meals, assist the folks with their laundry, and take time to mingle with our guests. At present we have 40 volunteers with an average of 3 on each shift, 9-12 and 12-3 each day.
We also have a number of parishioners from the Old Mission Santa Barbara who bring cookies, casseroles, soup, and “deviled” eggs. We also receive a great amount of food from Lazy Acres grocery store and PATH, which we supplement with additional food and supplies from COSTCO and Smart and Final. I have become known as the “Sundae Man” since Friday afternoons we service ice cream sundaes to the folks. It is certainly
the day to be at the Center.
We are literally busting at the seams and even though we have another two years on our present lease, we are presently looking for a larger facility that we could possibly purchase. Our dream is to provide housing with support services to the poor, which is the challenge but has been proven to be the most successful model across the country. In the end, it is more costs effective than prison and social services that are truncated and not coordinated.
I truly believe we can eliminate homelessness in the majority of cases if we only had the political will and that we could/can overcome the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effect.
Come and visit our little oasis which is located at 4020 Calle Real in Santa Barbara and situated next to a Smoke Shop, a Massage Parlor, a Bait and Tackle Store, a Gun Store, and a Liquor Store. We are truly in the belly of the beast that is where we are called to be. Peace and all good.
The friars from the Mission involved in the ministry are Dan Lackie, Garret Edmunds, Larry Gosselin, Franklin Fong, Angelo Cardinalli, Kevin Schroeder, Zeno Im and me, John Hardin. Several of novices are present on Thursday afternoons, as well.
Interested in volunteering? Call us at 805-563-1051. If you would like to support us financially you can send a donation to 4200 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA 93110 or donate online at
The Father Virgil Cordano Center is using St. Vincent’s Tax ID number operating as a DBA (doing business as) entity.