HomePlate – Week 23

Where I went:
HomePlate is a nonprofit organization that supports struggling teens. Some of the kids are “couch-surfers” – sleeping on sofa’s at friends houses. Some have tough home lives. Some can’t find anywhere to sleep. A few of these kids have babies themselves.
Every Monday and Thursday evening, HomePlate offers a meal and a safe place for these teens to hang out. From their orientation letter:

HomePlate is a free weekly dinner for youth, especially reaching out to youth who do not have a stable place to live or are living with friends. While the program is held in a church, it is not a religious program.  There are no strings, no judging, no preaching, no drugs, no alcohol, no weapons, and no drama.  

In addition to a meal, the staff and volunteers at HomePlate direct the youth to resources that will help them better their lives.
First Impressions:
I helped out with HomePlate before. I really loved volunteering here the first time. Hanging out with people and playing games are my favorite things to do. Nothing about volunteering here seemed like work. 
The Job:
I arrived at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hillsboro at 5:20. Each volunteer was asked to bring an item for tacos and burritos. (We made these last time I volunteered, too.)
Jenny, our coordinator, put me at the stove cooking 8 boxes of instant Mexican rice and frying tortillas. A 16 year old boy earning credit for high-school volunteer hours stood next to me cooking the taco meat. 
Meet Jenny
6 additional volunteers came to help that night and they were put on serving duty. Because Jenny, High School Boy, and I were in the kitchen together, we spent a lot of time chatting. 
As the Thursday coordinator for Hands On Portland’s assignment at HomePlate, Jenny’s told me she’s been here almost every week for the last 6 years. When she began, she was a young mom with toddlers at home. 
When I had toddlers at home I told everyone, “Sorry, I can’t volunteer. I have toddlers at home.”
Jenny and I compared places we’ve volunteered. Not only has she helped with most all of the organizations that I have, she gave me a ton of other opportunities to explore. This woman truly possesses the “nature of a servant.” She doesn’t have to go searching for compassion like I do – I bet she was born with it. 
The burritos and tacos were served until 7:30. We volunteers ate and mingled with the teens. The layout of this church was a little different than the Monday night location. Last time, dinner and games were together in one big room. At this place, we ate in one area but the game/hang-out room was across the hall. I didn’t play any boardgames with anyone this week, but I did get to chat. Lord knows, I love to chat.
Clean up after the meal went quickly. Jenny took 2 volunteers to wash dishes and the rest of us stacked chairs and packed up leftovers that would be donated to a local family. 
At 8:15, the leaders called us together to debrief. They said our group worked well together that night. HomePlate staff member, Joe, explained that working with Hands On Volunteers can be a gamble. People that sign up don’t always show up, causing a lack of food and an extra workload for Jenny. Luckily, everyone that registered for Thursday was accounted for and the night progressed smoothly.
How to Help:
HomePlate needs you. Jenny said they’ve had a tough time getting people to show up on Monday and Thursday evenings. Please consider volunteering by signing up on Hands On Portland’s website and then SHOW UP.
Even if you can’t volunteer in person, there are many ways you can help.  Our church had a barbecue over Memorial Day weekend and everyone brought items to donate to HomePlate. Check out their website to see how you can help.
Joe explained 2 immediate personnel needs for HomePlate:
A Hands On Portland/HomePlate Coordinator is needed for the 3rd Monday of every month. This person would meal plan and then email volunteers with instructions. On the night of the dinner, the coordinator directs the evening’s flow.
They also need child care volunteers. At each location, one room is designated for the children of the teen parents. HomePlate offers child care so the teens can have quiet time to eat and hang out without worrying about their babies.
Please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Joe, for more info.
Would you like to support HomePlate financially while dining on local farm food and wine? Consider buying a ticket to FarmPlate, a benefit dinner and auction where all proceeds are directed to helping our community’s youth.
One man mariachi band. Great for taco night!
I am in my element when I volunteer at HomePlate. I love hanging out with teenagers. After my 2012 experiment is finished, my goal is to pick one or two organizations that have touched my heart and commit to serving there. I have a feeling HomePlate will be on my list.

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