Hood River restaurants step up to help homeless

Cesar Robles of Riverside at the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn helps load the evening’s warm meal for Hood River Shelter Services for volunteer food runner Karen Roof.

Photos by Paige Rouse
Cesar Robles of Riverside at the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn helps load the evening’s warm meal for Hood River Shelter Services for volunteer food runner Karen Roof.

An innovative program to feed guests of the Warming Shelter was recently launched by Hood River restaurants. Over a dozen participating food establishments are now donating meals to Hood River Shelter Services, also known as the Warming Shelter, and the program is becoming a win-win for several reasons.

Volunteer Training

Two opportunities to become a Warming Shelter volunteer happen next week.

Jan. 21 — 2 to 4 p.m., Riverside Community Church

Jan, 23 — 4 to 8 p.m., Immanuel Lutheran Church

Contact info@hoodrivercar... or director@hoodrive...

Warming Services website is www.HoodRiverCare...; the shelter is located at Riverside Community Church, 317 State St. and provides a warm place to sleep, meals and other services to anyone in need, seven days a week through mid-March.

“The effort, though logical, is fairly unique and our hope is it could become a model for other small towns to implement. It’s a great way to use up potential food waste, create connections in the community, and a helpful team building practice that encourages staff members to get more involved in the community,” relays Mark DeResta of Riverside restaurant, who spearheaded the program.

Riverside, Andrew’s Pizza, The Mesquitery, Solstice, Pelinti’s Pizza, Kickstand Kitchen, Hood River Taqueria, Safeway, Double Mountain, Celilo, Full Sail, Pfriem, Farm Stand, and Boda’s Kitchen are collaborating on providing quality meals to those sheltering for the night at Riverside Church. A rotating schedule enables restaurants to share responsibility of donations to Hood River Shelter Services, which operates through March 10, 2018.

Leftover food (or food waste) has recently been recognized as a resource for hunger relief in the U.S., though donations also come from restaurant stores. Local restaurant contributions of food have eliminated about $5,000 per year of Hood River Shelter Services’ food costs, enabling the direction of funds to other areas of need.

“These donations have allowed our budget to fund other critical operating expenses, like renting a stable room to host the Shelter at Riverside Church this season, buying cots and ship mattresses, bunk beds, plus a cell phone plan for late night referrals,” explains Laura Westmeyer, director of Hood River Shelter Services. “The new program is testament to what a special place Hood River is.” In previous years, the Warming Shelter moved weekly to various locations.

Restaurant donations have also opened up more volunteer tasks to community members who are unable to take shifts at the shelter, and some restaurant workers are now involved in volunteering for the Warming Shelter.

“Dinner at the shelter may well be the only meal a guest eats all day, and they come from the best restaurants that Hood River has to offer,” Westmeyer said. “When the best of Hood River is given to community members who are most in need, it communicates that everyone is cared for in the Gorge. We can not express enough gratitude for these donations.” The program also provides breakfast and snacks for guests to take out the next day. FISH Food Bank has delivered hundreds of snack bags, Hood River Organics and Sato Orchards have donated fruit, Freshies has donated bagels, and Starbucks has delivered pastries toward those effort.

Hood River Shelter Services’ mission is to compassionately provide a safe place to meet the basic human needs of those without shelter during the winter. It is the only homeless shelter in Hood River County, and the only in the region that is available every night during the winter. For more information about Hood River Shelter Services, as well as a link to donate, visit HoodRiverCares.org. Checks may be mailed to P.O. Box 656, Hood River, OR 97031. Hood River Shelter Services is a 501(c)(3) so donations are tax deductible.


Karen Roof (left) and Jessica Metta prepare the evening's donated meal for guests of the Warming Shelter.


Volunteers Doug and Karen Roof pick up and deliver a meal from Riverside restaurant to Riverside Church’s kitchen to prepare for the evening meal for Hood River Shelter Services.

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