On the Road 6/21/14
To Heratige Baptist food bank in Tenino and then the Crossroads Church in Yelm
Jen and I arrived in Tenino at 2pm when the Thurston County Food Bank Satellite opened. It is currently hosted by Heratige Baptist church; they have been operating a satellite for 2 years next month. Craig Lester, a Tenino city council person, directs the food bank and was eager to increase access to food for low income folks in the area. He began operating the satellite before he joined city council.
Craig welcomed us and had us sit next to him at the sign in table. The satellite is set up in a U shape, so recipients come through one at a time to fill up their bags with what veggies and fruits they can use, swing by the canned goods table, choose their meat and dairy options, and are on their merry way. Craig did us a favor and asked folks signing in to fill out our survey while they were waiting. The food bank is open for 3 hours, from 2-5 on Saturdays. People trickled in when they could get there and didn’t have to wait too long; the line never exceeded 6 people.
At the Crossroads church they served chili dogs and various pasta and vegetable salads. We saw some familiar faces from Yelm – our friends we met at the Emanuel Lutheran dinner as well as a volunteer from Yelm Community Services. Folks stopped by our table before dishing up, and shared their insights about the needs of the Yelm community. Two gentlemen who spoke with us but did not fill out a survey told us the state of affairs with homeless shelters in Yelm is inadequate and pathetic. The person, who repeated the adjective “pathetic” multiple times, said he was proud of the access to food in Yelm and said no one should be going hungry in this town, but was dissatisfied with the access to shelter and wanted to see some major improvements in services for housing people experiencing homelessness. The second man specified that Cindy of Yelm Community Services needs to let people in to her shelter instead of leaving them empty. He knows the shelter is there but wants to increase access to it so the shelter is actually serving folks in need and helping them get on their feet.
A houseless person told us that nicer law enforcement that genuinely cares about people’s safety and would be willing to connect them to resources is what the rural communities need. This was his first time at the Crossroads dinner, and a few of the volunteers were brainstorming ways they could help him out of the situation he is in. At the end of the dinner a woman brought him a blanket, a sheet, and $10 she made at a garage sale that day.
We thanked Pastor Mike for hosting us at their event and allowing us to survey the recipients of this service. At each of these dinners I go to, it makes me very happy that people are getting together and building community over a meal. It is so much better than going to a restaurant, where even though you are sharing space with others, you don’t interact with them. At these dinners there are new faces and new friendships forming every week. When people get together and support each other, great things can happen, and that’s what I would like to see!
This is one of our last outreach opportunities before the report is due to the Consortium on June 30th. Time to bunker down and write this report! Thank you to everyone that has shared their story with us and contributed to this social services assessment. Your voices will be heard by the consortium, and POWER is ever grateful for the opportunity to get to know you and talk about the importance of meeting the needs of the rural Thurston County community.
-Sierra and Jen