By Kathryn Jurik
We have approximately 10 people on our cooking team, the number shifts as people come and go. Most of us come either Tuesday or Friday and some of us come both days. There isn’t a set schedule and we welcome new cooks whenever there’s a request to join. All of the cooks who come more than once are asked to take the California Food Handler’s Certificate Training and provide a document which we keep in a folder. I also enjoy posting photos on Facebook every time we cook to show our kitchen adventures. Every time we gather to cook, we circle up and bless our work and those we serve. We acknowledge our oneness with all and hold faith that the day will come when humans will live with justice and dignity for all.
Here are what the cooks say about their participation in our work cooking for the homeless.
- Jim Strand
- Mary Maki-Rich
- Eren Pierson Jurik
- Anne Snyder
- Steven Jones
- Jo Lauer
- Ruth Barnhart
- Janet Powers Wolfe
- Sharona ChaCha Tracy
- Martha McCabe
When I first heard of this project, I felt called to participate because Los Guilicos Village is about 5 minutes from my house. I thought we’d be cooking there. How could I pass up an opportunity to be of service to some of the folks recently, and rudely, evicted from the Joe Rodota Trail encampment, AND have it be so convenient?
Well, it turned out we would cook at the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen in Santa Rosa, but I was already hooked. The idea that, even though the problem of shelterlessness in Sonoma County wasn’t solved by these tiny cabins, I could be a part of an effort to provide a substantial, healthy, hot meal for 60-70 people on Tuesdays.
I’ve worked with Kathryn Jurik for over 25 years on the altars for the annual world peace meditations at the Center for Spiritual Living and know her to be a creative and capable leader. She was also already actively involved with this same community, so when she put out a request, it was easy to jump in.
I missed the first meal, but have cooked just about every Tuesday since February 11! It has been a joy to work with these folks and be representing the Center in a very meaningful way in the community. We pray before we start work. We know our commitment to serve, and our love of Life, enhances the work we do, juices up the meal, and feeds us spiritually too. We all know “our thoughts and prayers” really do have an effect out in the world, but this physical activity feels so right, we can see and taste the results of our efforts. I am so grateful to be a part of this team. Blessed be.
I love these questions. I’m sitting outside right now doing my Beyond Limits homework. So I am in The Zone. I’d like to answer the question about WHY I do this. “Why” questions work for me. They make me think deeper. My life word is “significance.” I can’t really live without it.
Since I retired from being an ED nurse after 43 years (actually it is exactly 2 years ago today!) I have searched for my significance. I did some volunteering with Acts of Kindness on the Joe Rodota Trail and saw firsthand what it is like for homeless people to survive in their plastic tarp hovels. As a triage nurse in the hospital, I never had gotten to witness their situations. I only heard about their problems. Part of me didn’t really believe it could be that bad. Walking on the trail after a rainstorm where everyone’s belongings got soaked, I saw what it was really like to be out there in the cold and rain and wind. It was horrible. Just horrible. That’s why I do what I do.
A friend and I used to bring a coffee cart once a week down the Trail. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was grateful and super polite. My family is all back east and I try to look at all these folks like they are my family. After this COVID thing settles down, I hope to get out to the encampments again. For now, I am grateful to Kathryn and the Center for Spiritual Living for coming up with this idea of hot meals for those who need them. Being a part of this team has increased my confidence in ways I didn’t expect. And I needed that.
Eren Pierson Jurik
I cook because my mom one day brought me to one of the cooking days, and after being there one time I wanted to come back and continue to cook with the group from the Center for Spiritual Living. The first time I cooked was at St. Vincent de Paul kitchen. That day we were making a meat dish with mashed potatoes and I helped with making the potatoes which was really satisfying. I also helped with icing cupcakes which I also found to be very calming almost like meditation.
When I cook, I do whatever is needed, squishing garlic to chopping carrots. I find that when the group I cook with works, we work together very well, and we make it fun for each other which makes it even more fun to be with them. The people I cook for are the homeless that live in Los Guilicos Village and on the streets. I work with the group that is organized through the Center for Spiritual Living. I’ve learned that cooking can be a great stress reliever.
I’ve been cooking on Fridays with our Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa group. The joy I get from this community participation is beyond measure. We all show up and start chopping, peeling, mixing, baking, roasting–whatever is available from the generous donations of food and supplies which keep appearing at the Grange in Sebastopol! Miraculously, at the end of several hours, 140+ meals appear, ready to be distributed to those who are in need of a healthy home-cooked meal. The colors and textures are a feast for the eyes and the abundance is joyous to behold. And though we are masked and keeping our distance from one another, the camaraderie and sense of community is so palpable. It’s just a great feeling–doing a little piece of Good in the world which at this time is so needed.
I feel so blessed to be able to participate with this group.
My feelings on cooking for the Center for Spiritual Living group run deep and with a lot of gratitude. Having to back away due to the Corona virus has been very difficult for me as I get so much joy from the service we do. Cooking is fun for me and I know that I can do a lot to help out. Taking the time to go to the Redwood Empire Food Bank to pick up food because I have a truck is just another opportunity to be in service. The place is just a mass of human movement, striving together to get food to all those in need in our community!
Our little group when it started in the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen was so much fun. With all the wonderful donations we received through the church during the Joe Rodota Trail time, it was simply amazing what great meals we were able to provide for the people.
We all came together every week to work, to just make a ton of good food in great spirit. When the virus hits, we all hung in there and kept it going and so many of you are still at it. I hope to rejoin you when the time is right as when I took the leave of absence from cooking it was not an easy decision for me. I think about all of you every Friday, as that was my time to be with you. I so miss seeing everyone at church, I miss even more not being able to be in service with the music and most of all miss my hugs while greeting everyone.
Cooking was a way to know that there is good in the world and my personal experience being a part of the CSL cooking team lives on in my heart and I am going to be back very soon.
I’m sending all the love I can muster in this time of chaos and ongoing suffering in our community!
I joined the group of earnest, big-hearted souls at Center for Spiritual Living committed to addressing the issue of hunger for our neighbors across the way on the Joe Rodota Trail. There was such a blatant need, I couldn’t turn my back on it. After all, I was a child of the Kennedy era where we were asked what we can do for our country. It was a lively meeting with ideas flying like meteors through the air. Not being a real group-person, I almost left. But this was bigger than my little introverted self. We all wanted to do something but needed leadership. I think we sort of volunteered Kathryn to organize us into what became a streamlined assemblage of food (donated and homemade) in the Social Hall to be carried and distributed across the highway to the trail-dwellers.
Then the Trail was closed and the residents were dispersed throughout the county. People still need to eat. We were able to continue cooking, gathering, preparing food for those newly sheltered at Los Guilicos Village where we could interact with the people a little more as we served them. Though my heart kept running–There but for the Grace, go I. It was a powerful experience in Oneness.
Then winter arrived and my old, cataract riddled eyes made driving across town too dangerous in the early darkness. I had another opportunity to sign on in the spring, cooking and prepping at St. Anthony’s Dining Hall, and then eventually at the Sebastopol Grange. We always began with a prayer. It was a wonderful (and for me corrective) experience of working side-by-side in a group of spiritually like-minded beings.
Then Covid-19 arrived and again, my old, medically vulnerable self needed to step back and send love from a distance as others stepped forward. I left Christianity behind decades ago, but if there’s one thing that stuck with me from childhood, it’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m grateful to the sweet souls of the Center for carrying on this valuable spirit-work.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, I get the opportunity to cook with a loving, hard-working team as we prepare meals for our unsheltered community. Actually I don’t really cook, I peel and chop and grate mounds of fruits and vegetables. I crack eggs and mix and stir, I open cans and scoop and measure of sorts of ingredients, all under the direction of our incredible leader, Kathryn Jurik. At the end of it all, there are 70-250 healthy and delicious meals wrapped and ready to be delivered. And over and over, I get to experience how our little actions contribute to great work and feel the joy of being a part of community, serving community.
Janet Powers Wolfe
When my firstborn grandson turned 18, he decided to live outside, creating beautiful meditation camps high above Big River in Mendocino. He is a beautiful soul, wise beyond his years, kind, generous, compassionate, fun.
Last summer when he was 21, while riding his skateboard, he was hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver. While I was on the coast for his funeral, his unsheltered friends reverently escorted me to one of his camps.
After our visit, we were crossing the highway where he was killed, a car stopped us–a bedraggled group of perhaps 11. The people rolled down the window of the car. They handed us takeout boxes of hot gourmet Mendocino food– quiche, bagels, quesadillas, scones! Receiving it with gratitude, we stood together on the side of the street, sharing it with one another, eating with our hands passing it back-and-forth (pre-COVID) it was true communion. Before his death, I had been somewhat uncomfortable hanging out with his homeless friends, probably concerned what others might think of me hanging with the homies. But that experience was transformative.
Hence, I now cook for the homeless… First bringing food to the residents of Joe Rodota Trail, and then from St. Vincent de Paul and now with my community from Center for Spiritual Living at the Sebastopol Grange. It’s an honor to be able to contribute to the well-being of these folks.
I also spent time with the residents housed at SSU doing art processes with them, as a way to bridge the gap between the so-called haves and have-nots. I greatly appreciate all that the Center offers us, currently participating in the group working with the book, Me and White Supremacy.
Sharona ChaCha Tracy
Last winter, I read in the local news, a report about some caring folks bringing hot drinks and fresh baked cookies to our neighbors in need residing along the Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa. Due to leg surgery, I couldn’t help at the time, but I prayed that when I could, I would find a way to help.
In March, my prayer was answered. Through the generosity and kindness of Center for Spiritual Living, St Vincent de Paul, and others, a team led by Kathryn Jurik was formed. Meals were provided twice a week for our neighbors in need, now at Los Guilicos Village and alternate places. On some days, 175+ meals were prepared, delivered, and enjoyed by oh so many. Besides being of service and experiencing tremendous laughter, to be a part of this team has given me a deep, nurturing, almost primal feeling.
I’ve had to take a hiatus from kitchen work due to health issues and the pandemic, but it is certainly my intent to return and serve with my Buddies ASAP. In closing, I’m here to testify that I know in body, mind, and spirit, that CSL Is Love, Food Is Love, and Service Is Love. Blessed We Be, In Love and Light.
We do better! With hot meals, nutritional sides and salads, And deserts. All determined by donations from farmers, backyard gardeners, gleeners foods, farm to table growers with a shrunken restaurant clientele, Redwood Empire food bank and private donations. Each cooking day and menu is determined by what is available and what is donated. Or even purchased at Safeway!
I love doing this service with my spiritual community. It is the center of my social life during this time of COVID. Outside of Zoom! It is sacred service anchored in prayer and love. We will likely never meet the people we cook for, yet their lives and well being are very present in my awareness.
We are extremely fortunate to have an abundance of local, organic fruit, vegetables and herbs. I’m satiated with gratitude, knowing that the meals we create are both nutritious And infused with our love.
A big THANK you to the Sebastopol Grange for the use of their kitchen. A lot of equipment and refrigeration has been added to accommodate our large operation. I’ve attended many public events there over the years and the building is alive with decades of community connection. As they are closed to all events, we are making sure this building continues to serve.
Return to previous Blog – Cooking for the Homeless