Community

Kolping Values Work, Family Values

By Michael Feliciano

The SF Kolping Society has been promoting hard work and family values since 1925.

“The needs of the times will tell you what to do,” said Catholic priest Adolph Kolping as he addressed his followers, young men who migrated from the countryside to the industrialized cities of mid-19th century Germany in order to keep them from straying too far from their Catholic faith.

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 Kolping Society President Lisa Brinkmann holds a photo
of the first Kolping House in San Francisco, located at Oak
and Fillmore streets. The photo, taken around 1953,
shows the building where many new male immigrants
who needed housing stayed. Photos: Philip Liborio Gangi

By 1849, Kolping had started the Young Workmen’s Society in Cologne and within the next decade, there were 40 of these workman societies with half a million members across the globe, including the United States.

The first American chapter opened in St. Louis. However, it wasn’t until 1925 that the local branch in San Francisco really began to take shape.

Today, the San Francisco chapter, located at 440 Taraval St., is made up of approximately 90 members. Over the years it has morphed into a social club with a diverse group of older adults.

“It’s a place where older people can enjoy an inexpensive and safe Friday evening and enjoy the company of others,” says Lisa Brinkmann, the San Francisco chapter’s president.

Some of the activities the organization provides are a potluck held every third Friday of the month that includes a competitive game of bingo, as well as a mass brunch on Christmas and Easter. The organization also organizes casino trips twice a year.

The Kolping Society of San Francisco is also a benevolent one, according to Brinkmann, who has run the organization for the past five years.

“We aim to promote hard work, education and family values,” she said.

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Kolping Society President Lisa Brinkmann

The Kolping Society gives donations to local Catholic schools, soup kitchens and various organizations, including a scholarship fund overseen by the United Irish Cultural Club.

The schools, in return, send letters explaining what the grants have been used for. The local chapter also donates to international projects spearheaded by the National Organization, headquartered in New York City. Brinkmann is also president of the international office.

One current project is the Small Animal Initiative, a charity that helps three families in Kenya buy, raise and breed goats, as well as educating them about composting the goats’ dung. It is a unique program that Kolping supports as part of its larger goal of helping others in need.

Strictly a volunteer operation, the original members of the San Francisco chapter devoted their time and skills to repair a large Victorian home that was purchased in 1927 through fund collections.

It was located at Oak and Fillmore streets. Soon after, the early organizers built an extension onto an existing property, which added six rooms and a large social hall. From there, two vacant lots adjoining the Kolping house were purchased and converted into parking spaces for residents and members. By 1945, the mortgage was paid off and the San Francisco Kolping House was free of debt.

However, in 1957, largely due to redevelopment taking place in the area, it was no longer possible to maintain the house so the property, which had served devoted Kolping members for more than 30 years, was sold.

Soon after, a lot located at Baker and Grove streets was purchased and elaborate plans for a Catholic Kolping Center were designed. But nothing came of it, and for more than a decade the Kolping Society remained without a home base.

Then, in 1970, on the corner of 14th Avenue and Taraval Street, a new property was purchased. After some extensive renovations, the Kolping Family moved in. By 1976, the Kolping Society of San Francisco was up and running, ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary. At the time, membership was restricted to men but shortly thereafter it was opened to women.

Brinkmann hopes to keep the local organization alive and well long into the future, continuing to fulfill its mission for mankind.

For more information about joining the Kolping Society, potlucks or the Christmas or Easter day brunches, send an email to Lisa Brinkmann at lbrinkmann@mac.com or go to the website at http://www.kolping.org/san-francisco.

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