New Year’s musical event helps East Portland’s homeless

Discover why members of our community joined together in the Mill Park Neighborhood for a celebration of song. This unique event took place for the ninth year in a row …

By the time the 9th annual “Epiphany Concert to Benefit Homeless Families” begins, the church is filled with guests who come to support the work of Human Solutions.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While some folks were still nursing a New Year’s Eve hangover on January 2nd, hundreds of people were streaming into Gethsemane Lutheran Church on SE Market Street at SE 115th Avenue for the 9th annual “Epiphany Concert to Benefit Homeless Families”.

The concert was billed as “an afternoon of uplifting anthems and carols of the season, performed by local church and community choirs”, culminating in the combined choirs singing the “Hallelujah chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.

Before the program began that afternoon, the event’s founder, Rev. Charlie Ross told East Portland News about the concert’s beginnings. “About eleven years ago, I was one of the area pastors who started what we called the ‘Interfaith Hospitality Network’ – the forerunner of what became the ‘Daybreak Shelter’, now operated by ‘Human Solutions’.”

Rev. Charlie Ross (retired) welcomes a full house to the ninth edition of the “choir-fest” that he started – as a fund-raising effort to help homeless families.

Ross said the church sought a way to fund support for homeless families in the area. “I came up with the idea for a ‘choir-fest’ – and the idea caught on. We’re still doing it today.”

Although now retired from his post at Parkrose United Church of Christ, Ross assured us that his interest in helping homeless families continues. “It’s because that’s what Jesus taught us about. This was one of the major lessons; that we take care of those who are struggling, regardless of who they are.”

Jean DeMaster, the Executive Director of Human Solutions, said she was grateful for the work Pastor Ross has done, and continues to do, on the behalf of homeless. “‘Human Solutions’ has been serving homeless families for the last 22 years. But we don’t have enough funding to keep all of our programs open. This Epiphany Concert is helping us raise money to keep our funding open for all of our programs.”

Charlie Ross – and Human Solutions’ Executive Director, Jean DeMaster – explain that this musical program provides direct aid to homeless families in outer East Portland.

The Daybreak Shelter, DeMaster pointed out, is located just a few blocks north of the church where the concert was being held. “We hope to raise about $3,000 today. People are also bringing in food, diapers and other things it will go directly to the people who are in the shelters, and the warming center, and all of our programs.”

After the pews were filled, everyone was asked to crowd in to provide additional seating — and then to set up folding chairs to accommodate all the folks who came for this unique event.

The Voices of Hope Community Choir from Tigard performs under the direction of Stephen List.

During the offering appeal, DeMaster explained that a $30 donation would provide bus tickets for a homeless family members to look for housing and work, attend school, and access healthcare. “$1,000 supports the entire shelter operation for three days and nights, providing warm, safe shelter, food, showers, laundry, and advocacy support for homeless families,” she added. “Most homeless families need about 45 days to find a permanent housing.”

Directed by Arlene Crucchiola, the Fremont United Methodist Church Choir performs at this year’s concert to help the homeless.

It’s not too late to help. Find out how you can support this worthy cause by looking at the Human Solutions website: CLICK HERE to open their home page.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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