Teen Feed: There’s Still Time to Give
December’s Social Justice Plate Collection benefits Teen Feed. The congregation’s generosity funds hats, coats, gloves, sleeping bags, and more, for teens living on the streets. With about 1,000 homeless teens in King County, the need is great. Congregants donated over $3,390 last Sunday! There is still time to give online to this special collection (through December 21, 2018).
Our UUC Meal Team spans three generations and five decades, with volunteers from 13 through 65 — including 7 teens. Last Sunday, two volunteers shared their experiences — Keith Ward & Chaja Levy.
Keith has been volunteering with Teen Feed for about 4 years, and his 13-year old son, Ian, joined the team about a year ago. Chaja Levy joined UUC’s Meal Team about a year ago, too. Her mother and two younger brothers had been volunteering a few years before her. For both Chaja and Keith, their engagement with UUC’s Meal Team is a family event!
Knowing more about Teen Feed is key to understanding its mission and how hot meals leads to moving kids off the streets. So, Keith started with some facts about Teen Feed–
• Opens its doors to 50 – 80 youth every night of the year in the University District
• Offers over 20,000 nutritious meals to hungry youth every year
• Connects with over 900 individual youth in need
• Provides one-on-one support coordination for 400 youth, providing a mailing address and help with a state identification, employment, healthcare enrollment, housing, and more.
Getting involved with Teen Feed can deepen your understanding about teens facing homelessness.
Although my son, Ian, is in OWL right now…he wanted me to convey his thoughts.
“Before volunteering at Teen Feed, I thought of the teens that we serve as if they were in a separate group from everyone else. I separated them into a different category, making them seem like they were alien to me. While volunteering at Teen Feed, my perception has completely changed. I’ve realized just how similar everyone is, and how we all have similar passions and dreams.”
It can be easy to get caught up in finding the best solution to a problem. We can get bogged down in details and strategy and implementation. But, if I’ve learned anything from Teen Feed, it is that there are people in our community who need help right now. And they can’t always wait for a perfect solution, that might not even exist in the first place.
Teen Feed serves meals in different locations around the U-District every night of the week. I help serve and clean up from the meal. And, each night I am there, I see a quote from Mother Teresa on a bulletin board in the kitchen.
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
Always start with the person closest to you. I think about that phrase a lot, because just as easily as we can get caught up in debates over idyllic solutions we can sometimes overlook the people closest to us who need help. These individuals are my community – the person asking for help with bus fare who commuters avoid, the next-door neighbor with no family to go home to for the holidays, the teen in front of me in need of dinner for tonight.
There is a story we talk about a lot this month, the story of Mary and Joseph, knocking on door after door, asking for a place to stay. Finally, one innkeeper tells them that he doesn’t have any room in the inn, but he has a stable they can use if they want it. Giving birth in a stable was not the perfect solution, let alone in the top five solutions. But that night, it was enough.
I urge you to notice the people in your community, the people closest to you who are asking for help and do what you can with what you have..Teen Feed is not the only solution to homelessness, but it is necessary and immediate action that can provide stability and community.
It is a group of people, gathering each night in the basement of a Lutheran church to cook and clean and talk and listen and eat. All of them, in their own way, are doing what they can with what they have. And for just an hour, it’s enough.