Faith community volunteers put on second ‘Feast for Southeast’

You’ll be amazed at the scrumptious Thanksgiving Day dinner set out for all comers, at this unique community event that served more than 300 folks …

Luci, Kristin and Ava Doherty check in their “Feast for Southeast” guests at the welcome table.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On Thanksgiving Day, Roberto Selva watched as folks from all walks of life came streaming into the Mt. Scott Community Center, starting at 2:00 p.m.

“This is our second annual ‘Feast for Southeast’,” Selva smiled, as the dining tables in the community center’s capacious hall filled up. “We gained a lot of experience last year, which has made it a little bit easier. Last year’s struggles and headaches served as stepping stones for us, as we worked on this year’s event.”

Guests Sheeny Sergeant and Daniel Garzelli flank and thank “Feast for Southeast” event coordinator Roberto Selva.

The “neighborhood-wide dinner” started with Selva, many years ago, as “a dream for making to connect with people in Southeast Portland”. But after he mentioned the dream last year – family, friends, and folks from the Lifehouse Church he attends at the community center, got together to make the dream a reality.

“We have a planning team, and also help for many organizations and individuals,” Selva acknowledged. “From large organizations,  such as Warner-Pacific College, and four neighborhood associations, to the Oregon Culinary Institute, right down to individuals – it’s turned out to be collaboration among a lot of people. In total, as many as 100 volunteers put it on – from canvassing the neighborhoods with invitations, through clean up tonight.”

Melissa Young, Kevin Pannell, Danielle Pannell, and Chris Bates help out on the serving line.

Musician Lew Jones accompanies himself, as he sings for an appreciative audience.

The food brought to the community dinner looked and smelled sumptuous. Volunteers served up heaping portions of spiral-cut ham, roasted turkey with all the trimmings – including cranberry sauce and beverages – without cost or obligation. Instead of being subjected to a preaching service, attendees were serenaded by professional musicians playing popular music.

Unlike “soup kitchens” who help out the poor and downtrodden, Selva said, this feast is for everyone. “Young, old, families, youth – it’s a dinner where we welcome everyone – and as you see, people are coming. It’s truly a community meal, open to everyone.”

The Sommer family – dad Joel, Jonathan and Nico and Isaac, and mom Sabrina – say they enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving with the whole community.

Pantry and ‘toy chest’ added
Tom Vice, pastor of Lifehouse Church, used the PA system to remind diners that a food pantry and free toys were available in the community center’s gym for those in need.

As he walked over to the gym, which was well-stocked with tables laden with preserved food, Vice explained additional benefits provided to people at the dinner.

Tom Vice, Lifehouse Church, and newlyweds recently arrived from Los Angeles Jackie and Justin Serti, help out at the event’s new “food pantry” this year.

“With the economy being what it is, we decided to add preserved food, some clothing, and toys this year,” Vice explained. “The Lents Commons Coffeehouse helps us by collecting hats and socks for adults and children. People from the church brought a number of new toys to be able to give away. And, Mt. Scott Presbyterian Church helped us secure the bread, and canned and dried goods.”

Providing some holiday cheer for the disadvantaged, Vice said, “is part of our expression of our faith – caring for and serving our neighbors, right here.”

As Selva was saying goodbye, he added, “I love my community, and I want to give back to this area. The idea and goal for ‘Feast for Southeast’ is simple: Bringing neighbors and guests, from all of the areas and walks of life, together. We call it ‘A grass roots project for the community, by the community’.”

After the event, Selva reported they’d served 315 guests this year, “That’s almost 100 more guests than last year.”

Volunteer Erin Seiler makes sure the dessert table is well-stocked.

Sponsors of the event – which was partly financed in part with a Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Small Grant from Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement – and also included the Woodstock, Brentwood/Darlington, Foster-Powell, and Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Associations, as well as, (in alphabetical order) Charlie’s Produce, Food Services of America, Fred Meyer of Clackamas, Great Harvest Bread of Clackamas, Impact Northwest, Lents Commons Coffeehouse, Lifehouse, Mezza Middle Eastern Cuisine in Woodstock, Oregon Culinary Institute, Portland Parks & Recreation & Mt. Scott Community Center, ROSE Community Development, Inc., SP Provisions, Starbucks Coffee, Trader Joe’s of Clackamas, UPS Store of Woodstock, and Warner Pacific College.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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