Church family, I wish you could see what I get to see each week.
I’m at church Mondays and Wednesdays loading food in and out of the church building. When some of you come to the service on Sundays, I would guess that you have no idea how well that space is used for the rest of the week.
On Wednesdays between 2 and 4 pm, we have almost seventy-five people show up to pick up food boxes for either themselves or their families. These boxes are divided into two groups: singles and families. The single bags go largely (but not exclusively to) our homeless friends. We have a dry goods bag that has lots of snacks and a couple of canned goods and drinks. We then load up a bag that generally has milk, yogurt, and several repackaged and prepared food items into a ‘cold bag.’ A group of people come in to the church kitchen on Tuesdays and spend the day working on these items. (We are in need of more help Tuesdays, if this is something you are interested in!) For our families, we have a large box with nonperishables and family portions of snacks, and a bag with as many cold basics as we can fit into it. We get these foods from a variety of places throughout the week, though our largest partnership is still Birch Community Services (BCS) who shares about 1,400 lbs. of food a week.
We have a team member who has made so many different relationships around the city, gaining us dry goods, produce, perishable foods, storage containers, clothes, sleeping bags, dog food, feminine products, and other hygiene items. I help get food from BCS on Mondays. When I come back to Harvest on Wednesdays, the 1,400 lbs of food has just about doubled. After we package foodstuffs up and send it out to people in the community on Wednesdays, as described, I leave again. By the time I come back, it has somehow doubled again. We been blessed with so much food that it amazes me. God’s goodness overwhelms us.
On Thursdays, our homeless friends in the areas are invited back for showers. These showers are a partnership with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office HOPE Team. The team member who staffs this passes out clean clothes, (donated by generous members from Harvest!) and generally puts together a continental breakfast. Our maintenance staff person at Harvest sets up chairs and covers to keep out the rain. This is a safe space, and there are increasingly deep relationships being built. The officers from the HOPE team come and provide community resources, even bringing along a mobile medical unit once a month. We know now who among our friends in local camps are Christians, and who we can partner with as we seek to share the gospel. Through these relationships, and notably through the quiet and humble perseverance of this volunteer, we are seeing fruit. It is so fulfilling to get to celebrate these victories together.
In other Outreach news, we have our holiday food partnership coming up (you would know it as Thanksgiving Baskets). This year, as we approach our 10-year partnership with Troutdale Elementary, some new requirements have us needing to pivot. That seems to be a key word this year. As I started these talks with the contact at the school, I saw an evolving vision.
To be clear, we love this partnership with the school and we were eager to keep it up after so many years. I am glad to expand on the thought process at another time, but with new COVID restrictions again being applied we came up with a solution: The school will identify about 35 families for whom we will purchase gift cards for holiday gift/food/kids-outgrew-their-shoes help. We will send gift cards with a warm note from us and an ad about our community food pantry (open to all!). We will make extra boxes these weeks with the donated food items.
In the past, we have asked for donations for Thanksgiving food baskets. This year, we are asking you to donate money for purchasing gift cards (you can earmark this on your online giving or tithe envelope) or to donate pantry staples to fill into the extra boxes we’ll be making around the holidays. You can give online here.
I should mention, we are seeing a lot of fruit in our community pantry. One volunteer focuses on meeting the needs on our “singles” side and another focuses on the needs on our “families” side. We know that needs can be physical as well as spiritual and emotional. It is as true as ever that we are relationship focused.
At every stage in what I have described, there is room for more people to step up and help. In fact, at every stage we have a need for more partners. God’s vision for this is bigger than mine, and if you have a new idea we can talk about that too. Interest in Volunteering? Click Here.
I wish you could all see what I see every week, but here’s my top ten list of favorites, to close us out:
- Elder Steve Long praying with the couple at their car after helping them out with their food
- Our friend, partner, and client Lloyd helping us reorganize an out-of-control shelf in the pantry
- A volunteer, Michelle, who hadn’t been able to help in a while realizing that she was missed
- A homeless friend walking away with a full pack of food and telling Toni that he loves her
- Seeing our partner Tish out in the community while I’m on a run and getting to high five
- Hearing Toni’s phone ring for the umpteenth time – it’s Helen calling, and she has more food to share
- Tye, the shower truck driver, getting to process his family’s loss in the fire with Toni at a Thursday outreach
- Hearing from Toni about how Jeanette partnering in the kitchen on Tuesdays increases her perseverance to keep going
- Our honorary box-maker, Laeticia, donating a meat slicer to the gals making meals on Tuesdays because she had one that they never used
- Tim, always saying “I’ll be right there”
And so much more.