Preparations for cold winter months and El Niño have begun at First Lutheran Church in Fullerton.
At First Lutheran, hot meals are served every Tuesday evening to the homeless and groceries are handed out every Wednesday morning to the needy.
Janet Schellenberger from the church organizes the program with church volunteer groups from Fullerton and the surrounding areas. Wilshire Avenue Church, Messiah Lutheran, First Lutheran and North Hills Church all rotate Tuesdays to serve at the First Lutheran Church Campus.
The last Tuesday of the month falls to North Hills Church of Brea, which also gives out clothing donations before the meal is served.
With El Niño on the horizon, the group looks to gather donations to weather the storms. They said they will need warm coats and rain ponchos for this coming season. However, other needs are yet to show themselves.
“When El Nino comes, I don’t know if people are going to need tents or umbrellas. I’m just going to wait and see what people are telling me,” said Karin Hust, founder of an organization called Hope Lifted. “I get to work with a lot of the homeless people during the day. I usually wait to hear from them what their thinking or what happened last night, and I find out what they need.”
There was a great need for coats. Many of the visitors asked for them, but the coats are planned to appear at a later date because of the warm weather we had in the past week.
“Any Tuesday night, people can get blankets and hopefully jackets,” said Hust.
Planning for the weekly meal takes very minimal effort.
“It’s really great for us now. We’ve done it for about nine years, and we know what we’re doing. We don’t have to sit around and talk about how it’s going to work. It usually just works out. Even if people don’t show up, we’re always amazed that we are able to make it through,” said Hust.
What they do plan around, however, is the type of meat they have available to serve. This holiday season they are asking for donations of protein to serve on the Tuesday evening of Christmas week.
“For food for Christmas, we would love hams, whole chickens or turkeys. We always can use that [and] any meat. Those are things we always base a meal on,” said Hust.
Many members of the Fullerton homeless community go to a different church every night for dinner, and the week of Thanksgiving they will most likely be served turkey every day. Because of this, for the week of Thanksgiving, North Hills Church tried to veer away from turkey.
Volunteers in the kitchen were cheery and positive as they explained the work that goes into preparing a meal for large group of people.
“You’re only as good as the people around you,” said Kim Mota, one of the leads in the kitchen.
Mota also complemented her newest volunteer, Sally Sando, who had joined the group for the first time that very night.
“Our newest recruit feels like part of the family. She fit just right in,” said Mota.
“I love it. It’s a great experience. Everyone is very positive and works together,” said Sando. “I’ve just never done anything like this, and I’ve always wanted to.”
For those who would like to help this cause, the organizers of this event have asked for dollar rain ponchos to be brought as donations to the First Lutheran Church of Fullerton at any time this winter season to be distributed continuously.
From now until Dec. 24, they will also be holding a drive called Operation Winter Coat. They have asked for warm or water proof coats suitable for 30-40 degree weather that are either new or used. If interested in donating, email Karin Hust at email@example.com.