Growing up with an Uncle who was an alcoholic and lived his life on Skid Row, Skip has always felt close to those who are less fortunate. Francisco “Skip” Matthews grew up in Manhattan Beach and was raised in a normal, functional family.
Skip has always had the will to help others. An RN by trade, he spent 21 years in Africa as a missionary working for a mission hospital there. He now teaches Campus Ministries & Social Issues at Charminade Middle School in West Hills. He says he wants to help get the kids more involved with helping others. “You see kids bringing $100 bills to school. They come from good families and are so privileged.” He said he likes to teach at the Middle School level, because he wants to make an impact on the kids’ lives while they’re still young enough and before they go into High School. “Life is fragile. It’s not like it was when I was young.” Skip says. “I teach these kids to think the right way, not to be followers and hang around good people and make good friends so that they have someone they can count on and everything will be alright.”
Skip started volunteering at The Midnight Mission 27 years ago. One day while he was outside of St. Vibiana Cathedral (now known as the Vibiana) he ran into Clancy Imislund, Managing Director of The Midnight Mission. “He looked at me and my set up of Christmas cards and said, ‘Who the hell are you?’, so I introduced myself and he asked if I would come into The Midnight Mission and do this. I’ve been here ever since.”
Skip receives donations of Christmas cards and stamps from his friends and family. He brings them to The Midnight Mission to give to our homeless community so that they can send them to their loved ones. “Can you imagine the anguish that goes through a parents’ mind, not knowing if their child is safe, alive or dead?” Skip tells me a story of a young man who came in one day last year, with tattoos all over his body, trying to act tough. Skip suggested that he send a Christmas card to his mother to let her know he’s okay. The young man bowed his head in disappointment and said he couldn’t because he had stolen from her and was ashamed. Skip convinced the young man to do it anyway. On December 17, 2014, the young man came back into The Midnight Mission with another card and tears rolling down his face. His mom had sent him a card back. “It’s a blessing for me to convey a message to a mother, grandparent or a child from someone they haven’t heard from. If just one person comes back and says thank you or shows me a card that they received back, then I know I’ve done my job. It’s showing these individuals that there are others that still care about them, even though they think otherwise. It’s the small things, like a simple Christmas card and the power of writing.”
Skip says he feels extremely blessed and wishes he could live another 20 years just so that he could continue to do this for those who need it most. He hopes that his family and friends will carry on the tradition after he’s gone. Skip is 76 years old and I asked him if he would retire one day. He said, “I hope when I’m ready to retire, that I’m ready to accept retirement. I’m a firm believe that he’s (points up) going to take care of me.” Skip is just another amazing example of the good that we don’t always see in the world. We are so very fortunate and grateful to have someone like him here as part of The Midnight Mission family.
Written by: Rachael Martinez