Church members feed homeless shelter guests

Take a look, and see community volunteers serving those who need it most. You might want to get your organization involved in the effort, after you read the story …

On a night when the temperature is to drop below freezing, guests at the Human Solutions Family Winter Shelter in the Russell neighborhood are being served a nutritious hot supper.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
During the third week in November, below-freezing temperatures chilled outer East Portland – making homeless families staying in Human Solutions shelters feel very fortunate to be there.

On Tuesdays, and some Friday evenings, those staying at the Family Winter Shelter located in the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ have another reason to be happy: Volunteers from the church cook and serve them a hot supper.

Parkrose Community United Church of Christ volunteer Blair Loudat cuts bread that will be served to guests staying in their Family Shelter.

Volunteer Ron Glanville stirs a pot of Cream of Squash soup – made from vegetables from the community garden on the church’s property.

“Clay Osburn, Celia Goodling, Erica Martin, and myself, are members of what is called the ‘Farm to Table’ committee,” explained meal organizer Ron Glanville. “As part of this, we feed people who are staying at the shelter, here at the church.”

Glanville was tending two stockpots – one filled with fresh cream of squash soup, the other with turkey, rice and vegetable soup. “All of the vegetables came from our garden. No, we don’t raise our own turkeys – not yet, anyway!”

Clay Osburn – some call him “Mr. Tomato”, because he grows and donates hundreds of pounds of the fruit to charity every summer – cleans cookware in the church kitchen.

Over the summer, the community garden produced “thousands of pounds of food” Glanville told East Portland News. “Clay (Osburn) has a 30′ x 30′ plot and I’ve a 30′ x 30′ garden. And, we now have a huge 100′ x 100′ garden in the back of the church. Some of the produce we sell to raise money for the ingredients of these meals.  Some of it we donate to SnowCap Charities. And, throughout the summer, some we donate to places like Portland Rescue Mission.

“Also, we are very much a part of what they called the ‘Slow Food Movement’,” Glanville said. “That is, food is prepared from scratch, without processed ingredients, and we keep away from sugary drinks and things like that.  It’s having food as natural as possible, and homemade. It is raw food that we prepare with love, very nutritionally.”

Volunteers line up to serve their guests a complete hearty hot dinner, including salad, dessert, and beverages.

They take the time, and make the effort, to do this, he added, because, “if homeless people do find raw food, they can’t cook it. So, instead they get fast food and packaged convenience food. Here, they get a nutritious, well-prepared, home-cooked meal.

“We do this because our congregation is community oriented, and very action oriented,” Glanville explained. “We want to serve the community. Our small group, the four of us on the committee, really focused on food. We grow food, we want to feed people, we recognize there is hunger, and we want to prepare food for those who are hungry.”

On coffee duty are volunteers Darrin Gilbert and Pastor Don Frueh.

Parkrose Community United Church of Christ Pastor Don Frueh smiled as he saw the guests come in and enjoy their hot dinner.

“Both the Family Winter Shelter and our dinners are the best thing that we can possibly do at our facility,” Frueh said. “To use the space like this – well, this is what we are called to do, and we are serious about it.

“We follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, who told us to take care of the widow, the orphan, and to help set people free,” explained Frueh. “This is part of the work that we do.”

Groups considering a volunteer community activity are encouraged bring food to homeless in the shelter, organizers say.

All of the volunteers would like to see the meal service expand, said Glanville.

“We would like to have our kitchen in our dining room used to serve homeless guests seven days a week. There is a need for them to be in a situation where they feel welcome, where there’s hospitality, where they are not judged – and where they are fed in a way that helps them, and allows them to feel respected.”

Thus, as in past years, they are asking faith groups, community service organizations, and groups of neighbors to volunteer bringing food and serving. “If they would like to help, we could teach them how to use this kitchen.”

There is one caveat, he added. “This is not the place for a group to proselytize – promote any religion, or spiritual or political concept, to our guests. They are, indeed our guests. Our mission is to be here to serve them by feeding them, not preaching at them.”

Those interested in helping with this program can call the church at (503) 253-5457, or visit their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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