Today, we’re with District Governor Cindy O’Neil as she tours the Eugene Mission. This is so much more than just a homeless shelter. They have huge refrigerators and freezers. They take the excess food from restaurants and redistribute it throughout the community. They house seniors, families and children. They warehouse clothing, furniture and household goods on their seven and a half acres.
This is a central hub for giving in Eugene and rotary is a major partner in all aspects of their service.
We went over to moms and kids in the morning just to be there as they’re getting up and there’s three fat little toddlers all about 18 months old in diapers three different mom’s running around in there. There’s one of them with the curliest hair, if he ever goes missing come look in my office. And they’re just getting up in the morning, and Mom’s a kids is full right now because we have a mom with six boys – six.
Government housing says you can only have two kids per bedrooms. We’ve got to help her find a place to live. She’s working with St. Vincent de Paul, Shelter Care, Homes for Good, Cornerstone. You know, she’s fleeing a domestic violence situation. She’s living in her car with six little boys.
Such a homeless issue and what what the mission is really focused on is its addressing the reasons why people are homeless and pouring into people to help them. It’s being homeless is very dangerous and it’s very stressful and our country really doesn’t have anything for mentally ill people who don’t have a safety net. They end up on the street and we work with them to get them, you know, connected back with society. To get the mental health care that they need. To get the addiction recovery that they need.
We serve about a hundred children a year and generally that 40% of them are under the age of five, and it’s always domestic violence.
In America we have a huge problem with food wastes were throwing so much food away. And it’s just creating methane gases. It’s terrible for the environment. It’s not good for anyone. And so we take, you know, donated food most of it’s right at its expiration date and we either flash freeze it or we serve it. And then and what we can’t use we give to other agencies that are also providing food for people.
So gleaning is a very traditional concept going back after harvest, after the professionals have come through and picking up the edges of the fields, the wheat that’s been left behind. It’s actually a Biblical model. The Israelite’s were instructed to not go back and pick up dropped fruit. But to let the widows and orphans come in afterwards and glean and they could provide for themselves for the whole year just from those gleaning.
So we glean from the community. The excess food waste that are in our communities. It’s extraordinary. What is trash too many retailers has so much life and could feed so many humans. We have the capacity to go get that food to glean from our community and serve more people here and then we have even more than we can use. So Community Partners can come glean from our excesses and feed even more people
So it’s that concept of taking what is waste or left in the fields and feeding those in need.
So we feed our humans here. We then transfer food out with other partner agencies primarily using wrote Rotarian’s; Twin Rivers Rotary, Delta Rotary, Southtowne Rotary, to get the food to the people who need it and when we’ve given all of that away, then we have pig farmers who come in and they take it and they feed their pigs. The ultimate goal is we hope to not have a dumpster full of food that could have been used.
So we’ve got a truck that’s out today. They’ll be picking up food from Trader Joe’s, from Whole Foods, from Albertsons, you know, from Little Caesars Hot and Ready. We get piles of pizza, piles every week. And so most of this I will take over to, we have three different youth homeless youth programs. Of course some of these kids are camping on the river, pizzas and absolutely perfect thing for them. Because it doesn’t really spoil or need to be cooked. We’re kind of sick of pizza. Actually. We try not to feed our people Pizza cuz like “pizza again”. We’ll take this to the HIV needle exchange; we’ll take it to Cahoots and White bird. It’s just it’s a perfect food, but we’ll receive this every day, every day.
Seven and a half acres. And so that that was a tremendous blessing during the pandemic because we have been able to spread people out and de-densify the common areas de-densify The Living Spaces. And so we had the Men Center we have the this building over here is a relapse prevention program. Its most of them they have decades of really, really difficult addiction issues.
Dg Cindi, “So Beth, you’re so incredibly skilled and talented and you have all this energy and we all feel it. Why here, why the mission?”
Beth “You know. I had been kind of working as a philanthropist for 16 years. I had a background in sales and three years ago. My youngest went into the Coast Guard. So it was sort of like he went straight from high school to boot camp and it was like empty nesting in the most radical sense. Like he was like, thanks for all the rides to soccer. Peace out. See you never!
And so at that point, I really felt like an expired tub of cottage cheese. Like what’s my next going to be? And I was really doing some soul-searching and talk to my pastor and with a new executive director who I know quite well. She said I’ll to do it. I would like you to come with me and it was like this. It was just on this day when I was like, I just really want to do something and I was on the board here and I love David, to come on staff and step into their development. And when I’ve been mentoring the development director beforehand was just it was like, this like it was some kind of miraculous.”
The clothing all comes into the other warehouse and then they, they sort it so we, cuz we’ve got all these people I was talking about, and then they compress it into Gaylord and this is all clothing.
Hoodies, jackets, sweatshirt, hoodies so, you know, like if they’re with when the fires hit in southern Oregon and there was people who were displaced we could have made arrangements to get a gaylord; four of these will fit into one of those big boxes. We could send clothing down, you know, and just you know, maybe it’s not the most fashion-forward but somebody, somebody who’s displaced by a fire or you know other natural disaster could probably use a couple extra sweatshirts.
DG Cindi, “So what would you say how many pounds are in the on this palette?”
Beth, “A thousand.”
DG Cindi, “A thousand pounds of clothing for each of these block that are compressed. While you know, I’m in contact with District Governor Mark and Doug and Greg in Northern California, and I’ve already started discussion of what do you need? Because there are thousands of people now displaced. One of those fires is a hundred sixty thousand acres and that was two days ago with 10 percent containment. So there’s going to be a lot of need, so get ready.”
So a thought for you that’s coming to my head with natural disasters. There’s the instinct to send stuff. And I did a lot of research around this because it really resembles what we do here. There’s a real reality that the human response to disasters isn’t always helpful. So the Red Cross for instance doesn’t want used clothing. It is a waste of their human resources to sort clothing and so a thousand pound brick might not be helpful, but I’m thinking of all of the humans that you have engaged in rotary that are at home or could want to do something in the community center? If they wanted to do the finer sort to take a brick of women’s clothing and an order from a governor down in California, and we need this and how many of these; maybe they could do the finer sort and actually get them exactly what they need. To be the hand in between that get things ready. So they’re not wasting any time in those disaster ridden areas with high heeled shoes and leather anything.
That could help people suffering from displacement from fires reset up their life.
When people brought this to us it wasn’t their intention that was going to sit here in bales. It was their intention that was going to go to somebody who needed it. And so and the best way to find people in need is to connect with Rotary.
I think that people are eager to serve their communities right now. And as long as we provide a safe environment, and we give the ideas out to club presidents in your region. I think we could motivate.
Beth, “Yeah, I could come up with an endless list.”
We had Colleen, she came here during the pandemic because we had so many sheets. Yeah donated sheets and she’d come she’d come into the donation Warehouse because I saw her out buying fabric and I’m like “don’t buy fabric” so she came down here and she take stuff and made, she made these great masks.
The R-cubed program rescue is that entry point. Revitalization is what everyone is doing on our campus right now. And then the final “R” is restoration, which is the end goal of everything we do. To restore you back to healthy Community. For some folks. They need to spend a lot of time here on that second “R”. It might take five to six years for vitalization. Their obstacles are huge. They’re internal obstacles are huge. But that final “R” when someone gets to move out where they go through the warehouse and pick out everything they need for their kitchen those kitchen cupboards are full when they move in. For the first time and we don’t buy any of this. This is all Community donations that come to us that we can then set people up.
So this is one of our donation drive track. So part of that game program that goes out and picks up then we multi-purpose. So if someone was moving out, we would use a similar vehicle to move all the stuff that they’re picking out of our warehouse into their new home. So the two gentlemen driving one is in R-cubed and one is in our life change program. So this is part of that transformational program they’re learning life skills.
So these two are more advanced, obviously. We don’t put newbies in the truck with the forklift but these two gentlemen are learning very practical skills that translate to so many vocational skills.
Our capacity on any given night, we were averaging about 400 people and during the Governor stay home orders. We closed the campus to new guests because we did whatever was doing in quarantine with the people who were here.
So we started with 400 over the course of the pandemic about a hundred fifty people moved on. So there’s a gentleman in R-cubed right now that we’ve known for the last 6 years and he came to us right at the beginning of shelter in place. He sheltered in place with us at the very first person to enter our rescue shelter was his pregnant wife. So they sheltered apart and then came back together and she has since come into R-cubed and so they as a couple with a baby due a couple of weeks are really digging deep to see how they can be a family in a healthy way moving forward. So its a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.
We have a lot of senior citizens here. We have people who did not prepare for their end of life. And so we have people who will probably live the rest of their life here. We have an entire dorm room on the first floor that’s all wheelchairs, oxygen, CPAP, COPD, and they’re very, very, they’re very vulnerable and they’re really counting on us and they’re helping to keep the place secure.
We are challenging so many misconceptions and assumptions that people have about people of Faith about homelessness about what it means to be homeless and what it takes to get out of that situation. So there is constantly folks that want to poke but we keep that positive side of things and invite people to come learn more. We’re not going to debate but we would invite anyone to learn more and I would challenge anyone to keep their perception.
Hannah Nelson who’s 15th night who does 4J School options. She really works with the homeless students who are through Federal funding their Mckinney-Vento students. And so I’ve talked to Tawn and said what are the advantages? What are the needs? And the reality is the school districts can give them Chrome-books or they can give them hot spots. These kids need a productive place where they can get their school work done.
I’m working right now to secure funding because we’re going to build a school computer lab with 6 station. Because we need to reduce that opportunity gap and make sure that those kids have every chance that they have and so we’re setting up a dedicated computer lab that will be for our women and our moms and kids program. So and it’ll be over in the these buildings right here.
Said to Kim “boy, if [DG] Cindi could come down here? I’d love for you just to be able to – I can tell you about this, but until you see it…
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