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Ecumenical shelter program in Yakima provides sandwiches year-round

Six Yakima congregations take turns preparing about 450 ham-and-cheese sandwiches for homeless people on their assigned Sandwich Sundays. 

jeremiah Schmidt
Jeremiah and Kathy Schmidt

On first Sundays, United Christian Church, the Unity Spiritual Life Center, the Unitarian Universalist Church and Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church provide volunteers, funds and their churches on a rotating basis.

St. Joseph Catholic and Wesley United Methodist take responsibility to make sandwiches on the second and third Sundays. 

Organizers seek more churches for fourth Sundays.

The program started as an outgrowth of three churches—Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Stone Church Assemblies of God and First Baptist—taking in homeless people during the winter when temperatures dropped below 30 degrees.  Englewood Christian Church replaced Stone Church last year.

Four years ago, the Yakima County Homeless Network provided funds for cots and empowered the churches to open up as emergency shelters and to offer emergency food.

Meanwhile, the network continues to seek long-term solutions for shelter, said David Hacker, director of the network.  He is the former director of Campbell Farm in Wapato and founder of a Wapato shelter, Noah’s Ark and Generating Hope.  961-4692

David Hansen, a former administrator in county government, led Vineyard Christian Fellowship to offer services to the homeless, setting up the nonprofit Yakima Emergency Shelter Program.

Along with him, David Helseth at Englewood Christian Church and David Roberts, pastor at First Baptist Church, gained their congregations’ approval to participate in the overnight shelter program, opening their doors to provide among them space to shelter up to 50 people.

The City of Yakima has given the churches permission to serve as temporary emergency shelters even if they do not have sprinklers or alarms, said Jane Newal, pastor at Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church, which participates in Sandwich Sundays.

While the shelter is only offered in the winter, Sunday Sandwiches continues all year.

Until a few months ago, a staff member of the Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health Path Program distributed the sandwiches.  Since he resigned and was been replaced, the Transitional Treatment program has people give out the sandwiches at an underpass and at a tent city, said the Rev. Eric Anderson, pastor at United Christian.

Lunches are stored in a walk-in cooler at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.  They are handed out every day during the week at 8 a.m.

Northwest Harvest donates bread for the sandwiches.
The host church provides ham, cheese, latex gloves, hairnets and packets of mayonnaise and mustard, which are spread by the person eating the sandwich, so sandwiches last longer.

“Recently, about 25 people from our congregation and 10 from other congregations, worked at four stations to make sandwiches in about half an hour,” said Eric.

“During Lent, we discussed Scripture passages about the church’s call to be engaged in mission work, lifting up our outreach to the homeless as consistent with our Gospel call,” he said.

“People in our churches enjoy working with each other, meeting at different churches each time,” Jane said. 

The four churches working together, she said, communicate that it’s not necessary for such outreach to be done only by large congregations. 

“We share their resources so none of us is overburdened,” said Jane.  “The cost each week is $100 to $150 for the supplies.”

For information, call 509-248-6105.

Copyright © September 2009 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News

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