Come to the Table: Tillamook Regional Medical Center Provides Dinner to Local Homeless Population
On a stormy night in November, Tillamook Regional Medical Center (TRMC) serves dinner at the Tillamook Adventist Church to the homeless. Folks come in from the dark, wind-whipped and wet, some arriving on foot, some in cars that double as their homes. A tiny woman with curly black hair and snappy brown eyes arrives. She wears a sheet of contractor’s plastic that falls to her shins with a hole cut for her head; rain sluices off her in sheets. Her shoes are covered in so many layers of duct tape they are comically large, like boats on her feet. Her name is Anya; she’s a veteran.
Tillamook County is home to more than 300 homeless men, women and children. They live in the woods, in cars and in old trailers with no electric hookups or bathrooms. They live in tents and under bridges, and they “couch surf,” staying with friends and family for a few nights at a time, always on the move.
With this in mind, TRMC has begun a monthly mission project to feed the homeless. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share God’s love in our community,” says Danny Parada, TRMC spiritual care director. “It is as much a blessing for us, to be of service, as it is for the people whom we serve.”
The hospital provides the food, and TRMC employees volunteer their time. Free flu shots are offered, and hospital staff donate socks, hats and scarves to be given to guests. The Tillamook Church provides the fellowship hall and kitchen. It is a cooperative mission with the teachings of Christ at its heart.
Two shy mothers who don’t speak English enter with five young children, whose eyes light up when they see the table laden with food. The kids are polite; they wait to be invited to the table while their small bodies quiver with anticipation.
A mountain of a man, tall and powerful-looking with long white hair and a big white beard, enters with a gust of wind. He carries all of his earthly possessions in a huge pack on his back beneath a hooded poncho. He looks like he has lived outside for years. His name is John.
The food is lovingly prepared at the hospital by Janice Wolk, TRMC nutritional services director. On this night, she has baked homemade pumpkin pies for dessert. One visitor asks for a second slice of pie and says that it is the best thing he’s eaten in years.
When all of the guests have been served, TRMC staff serve themselves and sit down to share a meal with their visitors. This is the most meaningful thing that they do — breaking bread together, listening to the stories of their neighbors who have fallen on hard times, sharing their common humanity, all God’s children, eating together.