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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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A Good Kind of Tired

Just home from helping at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries Saturday morning breakfast where we served about 300 people this morning. It feels good to sit down but this is a good kind of tired.2014-07-19 08.59.15

The hungry are are our neighbors, as I wrote yesterday for Yamhill Valley Grown after visiting Heart 2 Heart Farms where farmer Tyler Boggs distributes free produce to anyone who wants it.  Some of the produce is a bit tired and best fed to his animals, but Tyler realized much of the food was in great condition and several hundred people show up each Friday to gather what they want.

I went yesterday to see the activity and took advantage of the offering to bring 4 huge totes of fruit to the church. At 7:00am my first duty, assigned by this week’s head chef and pastor Mark Pederson, was to prepare a fruit salad.  IMG_3401

About 8 volunteers arrived at 7 to help with the prep. They chopped potatoes and onions, broke and beat the eggs, shredded the cheese, prepared the pancake mix, formed sausage patties and all the things that needed to be prepped for the meal.  IMG_3403

Others arrived around 7:30 to prepare the dining room and for some quick training to newbie volunteers.  Then it was 8:00a.m. and the doors were open and I joined the serving line.  Other volunteers arrived to help with the dish washing and others would arrive later to help with the overall cleanup.2014-07-26 08.26.42

At the Coop the people come in and sit at tables covered with cloth and chose their breakfast from the menu. The servers then bring the orders up to the window where several of us load the plates or take-out boxes.  As we dished up the plates the servers would bring them to the appropriate person for their eating pleasure.

The people who come to eat are treated with respect, no questions asked, no prayer service requirement.  Take-out boxes are offered for those at home who could not make it in for the meal.

bath towel storageToday we had a big bang for a start. It seemed, when I looked out at 8:00 that all the seats at all the tables were full, and sure enough the orders came in fast and furious and we soon fell behind. Dishing as quickly as we could, the last of those 8:00 a.m. eaters finally got their plates around 8:20. And the orders kept coming in pretty steadily but at a more manageable pace.2014-07-26 08.25.25

Things slowed down about 9:30, a half hour before the official end of serving at 10. By then the fruit salad was gone, the hash browns were all eaten, but there were plenty of scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and a delicious peach and blueberry cobbler Mark had prepared.2014-07-19 08.59.21

I know I enjoyed my breakfast very much!

Helping at the Coop or another soup kitchen is a way to return appreciation to the community. People who enjoy meals can also volunteer, as can people who are not even members of the church.  We get volunteers during the school year from Linfield College but during the vacation breaks everyone who shows up has to work a bit harder because we don’t have enough hands.  If you can help, you are very welcome to join in. Contact Lauri Muller at compassionfund@gmail.com or call 435-890-4214.


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The Fine Line

McMinnville caught our attention as a place to live when we were doing our research for a number of reasons. Graham first read about one of the local chefs who had spent several years in Italy learning how to make charcuterie and now runs the Fino in Fondo salumeria….he makes salami. Then Graham became aware of how this region excels in making pinot noir wine and as one who suffers gladly from oenophilia, he was happy to try to meet the challenge of the 100+ wineries in this county alone. east to cascadesMeanwhile, my research determined that this region of the Willamette Valley is truly a garden; among the vineyards and farms growing grass for seed and others growing most of the nations’ landscaping plants, there are many many farms producing food.  I hoped to replicate my involvement with The Wild Ramp in some way.  In addition, as a city planner, I appreciated the effort that a group of people in McMinnville had made to turn the downtown around. Once a strip of many vacant stores in the mid 1980s, the street now is tree lined and vibrant with boutique shops and services, almost all locally owned and operated.Dec 6a

McMinnville doubled in size since the 1970s and more people continue to move here. A license plate perusal in the parking lot during the Saturday morning breakfast served by the Cooperative Ministries identified many out of state cars. In talking to one family, one of the church members was told that the news that McMinnville serves free meals every day has spread, and many homeless people are finding their way to this town.

This creates a bit of a dilemma.

I am on a small committee investigating ways to help the business owners on our main street, NW 3rd Street, with the “loitering” problem that exists.  Some hang out on street corners, panhandling. These people are well known to locals, as they have had their spots for years and their stories are known. One Vietnam Vet just waits until he collects about $20 and then buys his wine and rambles back home.   Some hang at the library, but many have no interest in the benefits of what a library offers, so a lack of proper behavior gets them banished. Some hang around downtown, blocking shop entrances, making comments to young women, and smoking any number of substances.

St BHeart2Heart foodIt truly is amazing to hear the services that are available in this county for people who need assistance. There are meals available every day of the week, for example.  The St. Barnabus Soup Kitchen serves dinner four evenings a week; it is not unusual for over 300 people to be fed.

Meanwhile, one of the farmers I have met, Tyler of Heart2Heart Farms, has made a tremendous effort to collect edible  fresh produce from area sources and have it available for free for those in need. He just collected enough through crowd sourcing to buy a large truck to help collect and transport the food to his farm. All he asks is a few hours of volunteer work in exchange and he tells me that few offer to help.

My concern is that we have forgotten how to teach people to fish and we are providing fish dinners so often that many have no desire to learn the skills to manage their own pathway. In our effort to provide a hand and a safety net the actual message, as spoken by the California man in the Cooperative Ministries parking lot, is McMinnville is a place to go to be taken care of.

It’s a fine line between helping and enabling.

fishing4

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ADDENDUM: A friend has suggested that this post seems to be a bit judgmental about the homeless. That was not my intention.  At an earlier time of my life, when I was home with the baby and my husband suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery for brain cancer, I was in a tough spot. No income. My landlord was the amazing spirit in those days, telling us the last thing we needed was to worry about the rent. He permitted us 6 months free rent until the social security disability kicked in and we could once again start paying. I have no idea what it did to his own finances; I just know without his offer, we would have been out the door.

The blog, however, is a bit judgmental about the programs offered here in McMinnville. I believe what began as a way to help people through a bad time may have become a regular routine for many. I believe the need is still there. I just think there has to be another way to help people out of the hole they are in.  Some of the people who take advantage of the meals offered in this town may never be able to have anything close to a lifestyle where they can support themselves, but there are others who were working, became unemployed and for a number of reasons  have not found another job. Those are the people I think might be able to be helped with a different kind of assistance. There are plans underway to do just that; it is just some time off in the future before it becomes active.