Sacramento History Tour through a Matthew 25 Lens

By Nancy Disher, Hunger Action Advocate/Mission Organizer in North Central California Presbytery


Debby Dillon educating us about the Oak Park neighborhood. Photo by Nancy Disher

Debby Dillon from Shepherd of the Sierra Church led an educational and fascinating historical tour of Oak Park and West End neighborhoods in Sacramento on April 27, 2024. When I asked Debby how she came up with this idea, she said “I wanted to tell the story of a lost Sacramento neighborhood and what happened to the people who lived there when redevelopment occurred in the 1950’s.”

“Because we are a Matthew 25 Church concerned with dismantling structural racism our tour will look at how policies such as redlining and racial covenants unfairly applied to people of color and left them with few options when the wrecking ball came to their neighborhood.”

Debby’s interest in the Matthew 25 Initiatives began with the reading of the book Waking Up White. She remarks, “When I read that veteran’s like my dad qualified for a leg up from the government in the form of GI Bill loans and that their black fellow veterans rarely qualified for the same, it left me wanting to explore my white privilege and share the concept with my church.”

The tour began in Midtown with a discussion of a neighborhood that no longer exists known as the West End, an area from the Sacramento River to Capitol Park. The West End was demolished when the city labeled the community blighted and tore down businesses and 10,000 homes. Once demolished the former inhabitants had few options and many moved to Oak Park, a neighborhood that did not have racial covenants. Our tour focused on what happened in Oak Park when freeways were built and the California State Fair moved, as well as activism of the 1960’s.

Debby’s daughter, Sarah Dillon is President of the Board of Directors of the Alchemist Community Development Corporation (Alchemist CDC). Sarah enthusiastically shared the mission and programs of the organization.

Sarah Dillon educating us about the Alchemist Community Development Corporation at the Oak Park Sol Garden.  Photo by Nancy Disher

Founded 20 years ago, Alchemist CDC is a mission-driven organization that connects Sacramento area communities to land, food, and opportunity toward a vision in which all neighborhoods are vibrant, equitable, healthy, and diverse. (source: website

We visited a former vacant lot transformed into a community garden known as Oak Park Sol. Here  food is grown and donated to the community and members in the community can rent space to grow food as well. In 2020, the Community Connections program was formed in response to the pandemic to deliver food to school children isolated at home who relied on meals provided while at school. This program of supplying food to these families in need is continuing 4 years later and will soon include produce grown at Oak Park Sol.

Sacramento County has 12 Farmers’ Markets, most of which operate year-round and are an important site for nutritious food access. Alchemist CDC fills the need to operate an EBT machine at eight of the markets so people can shop for fresh food using their CalFresh/SNAP dollars (formerly known as Food Stamps). In addition, Market Match dollars are distributed which extends shoppers’ budgets. Last year Alchemist CDC facilitated over a million dollars of CalFresh and Market March at farmers markets.

While Sacramento calls itself “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, ” organizations like Alchemist CDC are striving to make the city a leader in the Farm to EVERY Fork movement.

Church volunteers assisted in building projects for new housing in the Oak Park neighborhood.  Photo by Nancy Disher

About 30 volunteers from Shepherd of the Sierra Church in Loomis, CA worked with Peter Tiedemann (Crew Leader for Habitat for Humanity) on building projects for several energy efficient houses in the Oak Park neighborhood. We were able to tour the finished homes.

These two homes are going to single mothers with several children who will move in on June 1, 2024.  The new owners had to put in sweat equity of 500 building hours and will have a 30-year 0% mortgage. Each hour worked is a symbol of their determination and resilience.

This is a powerful service project to provide hope for those in need. These mothers will now have a foundation for their children to be safe, grow and thrive.

Many people in the Shepherd of the Sierra congregation do tremendous work mitigating the results of poverty and racism through programs to alleviate hunger and improve housing.

Debby’s desire to shine a light on racism started with reading and asking questions which led to expansive research and on to leading a very educational and acknowledgement tour.

Our group gathered at the old California State Fairgrounds site.  Photo by Nancy Disher

Thank you, Debby Dillon, Sarah Dillon, and Peter Tiedemann, for the amazing tour educating us about the racial disparities and inequities in our own backyard in Sacramento, CA.


Article written and submitted to NCCP newsletter (re-shared by Presbyterian Hunger Program on this blog with permissoin), May 2024.


Hunger Action Advocates in presbyteries are partially supported by Presbyterian Hunger Program. PHP is funded by your generous contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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