Today marked the end of our church’s 2nd year of involvement with Out of the Cold. Out of the Cold is a program where a church, synagogue or other facility, give shelter to some homeless guests overnight, feed them dinner and breakfast and help them on their way for the day with a bag lunch. It’s a safe, loving way to care for the guests and do something practical for their needs on cold winter nights.
Last year I was only able to help out 1 night with the “entertainment” (playing guitar and singing with two of my kids) while my wife participated a number of other evenings. This year I dove in with both feet and ended up ‘working’ 10 of the 11 weeks (I missed one because I was sick ).
We’d originally signed up for the of the Monday evening shifts — hospitality, registration and dish-washing — but ended up doing a few breakfast shifts on Tuesday mornings. We loved the breakfast fun so much (and they were having trouble finding people to work at the church from 5:00am to 7:30am) that we ended up switching to breakfasts for 9 of the 11 weeks!!
Now, with today being the last breakfast, I’m already starting to miss it a bit. I’m sure I’m going to miss getting up early on Tuesday mornings and help out making wonderful breakfasts — bacon, eggs (scrambled & fried), pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, cereal, coffee & juice — and enjoying the fun of getting together with 4 or 5 others to have fun a the same time.
So what have a learned?
- Making breakfast for that many people is great fun!
- Bacon doesn’t need to be cooked for 12 minutes per side at 425F (we found out the hard way the first week, that 5 minutes per side @ 352F is more than sufficient)!
- People like variety, but most take the same thing week after week
- Stores are amazingly generous!
- You can improvise a lot of different meal options in a pinch (like whipping up french toast when the regular bread didn’t come in that week and all you had were french baguettes for toast which they didn’t eat).
- Helping out and hearing stories is SO rewarding and satisfying!
- I know it’s just a little bit that we do for them, but the guests are always so appreciative!
- The guests stories are amazing, and sad. The unfortunately situations they find themselves in and usually heartbreaking. You want to do so much more!
- It takes nearly a lot of people to run OOTC each week (around 65 to 70 each week!)
What a blessing it’s been to participate this year. I can only hope that my schedule next year will allow me to participate once again.
UPDATE: By the way, after I posted the above, I ran across this VERY interesting video of a social experiment around how we treat the seemingly homeless. Watch it! And think about how YOU would react.