Oneida "Mother" Branch, 92, who for years collected and provided food and clothing for East Palo Alto's needy, died of natural causes Tuesday (March 22).
She was born in New Orleans, La., in 1918 and spent her teenage years in Chicago, Ill. She moved to California in the 1950s with her husband, the late Rev. James Branch, to co-found the St. John Missionary Baptist Church on Bay Road in East Palo Alto.
Soon after moving to East Palo Alto she became involved with helping those in need, offering shelter, food and clothing to impoverished families.
"She never was a rich woman but she never turned anyone away. If she didn't have what they needed, she located it," great-granddaughter Kymia Crum said.
Eventually she founded the East Palo Alto Community Service Center, running it from her home and getting other churches, schools and businesses involved with collecting and donating supplies for the poor, especially during the holidays.
"She brought the city together. She was an outstanding woman. I never met anyone like her," Crum said.
"We as a family will most definitely try to keep the center going."
She is survived by three sons: Erwin Babney, Whitney Babney and Nate Branch; 18 grandchildren; and 33 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be planned at a later date. The family asked that donations be sent to Jones Mortuary, 660 Donohoe St., East Palo Alto.