We are fortunate to have extremely generous donors and volunteers who give their time, energy, support and resources to Catholic Charities. As part of our donor and volunteer appreciation campaign, we are recognizing individuals and organizations who share God’s love and spread Christ’s light by partnering with Catholic Charities. Because of them, we are able to bring vital, lifesaving services to our neighbors in greatest need. Here’s Amy DeWallace’s story:
Amy has always loved to cook. She even enjoys cooking shows and reading recipe books. Cooking is a labor of love for her – she explains, “cooking is a way to show my family I love them. That’s how I was raised; celebrations have food and that’s how you show people you love them by cooking good food.”
Amy brings this same labor of love every Sunday to the Kenton Women’s Village via a weekly cooking group for the villagers.
Amy first got connected to the Kenton Women’s Village at the Kenton Street Fair where she came across Bernadette Stetz, Village Manager/Case Manager at Kenton Women’s Village, and immediately knew she wanted to get involved.
Amy says that you can’t drive around Portland without seeing what a problem homelessness is. She feels compelled to volunteer her time at Kenton Women’s Village because of the model of the village: “All that I read and all the people I know in homeless services say you solve homelessness my giving people housing – the first thing is getting people indoors. So, I love this model. I love the idea of a self-contained, safe, small pod living…that part is so cool.”
She continues, “Giving people a safe, dignified place to live. Dignity is that word that keeps coming to mind. We aren’t asking people to stay at a crummy place with crummy facilities. People deserve to have a working a stove and washing machine and all of that. And I just love that that’s happening and in our neighborhood.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Amy had more time on our hands and felt the need to do something productive. So, she reached out to Bernadette and asked if there was a way to volunteer at the village. “I love to cook. Is there a way to volunteer around food?” she asked.
Amy takes inventory of what food the villagers have access to in the pantry at Kenton Women’s Village. She then comes up with a recipe, based on that inventory, and meets with the villagers every Sunday to do a taste-test of the recipes she prepares. Amy has been doing this since July 2020.
The cooking group takes place in the community center room and Amy says a small group of “awesome women” consistently attend each week. Amy prints the recipes and puts them in a binder that stays in community center, so the ladies always have access to them. The most popular dish, Amy says, was a brown rice and bean salad with hot sauce dressing.
What Amy loves most is that these cooking classes have been an entry point for her to build relationships with the villagers. She values her volunteering as a time to hang out and get to know each of the women consistently on Sunday afternoons.
“I don’t know if what I’m providing is an amazing service, but I love that I get to be there and I get to be a part of their week and hear their stories,” Amy said. “I have really loved getting to know the residents. They are the funniest ladies – funny, flawed, and fabulous…just like anyone you’d meet anywhere! I also see them being so generous and kind to others: they keep the street outside of the village cleaned up, they genuinely care for people who live outdoors in the park nearby. They are great.”
Thank you, Amy. At Catholic Charities of Oregon, we wouldn’t be able to deliver lifesaving services to those in greatest need without people like you. You #Inspire Us.