Saturday, November 26, 2011

Welcome Saturday Community Dinner Photo Story

With more than 300 meals served and 40 volunteers, this Saturday Community Dinner at Welcome is typical of what you would find any 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month.

I began cooking the chili at 3pm. With nearly 10 years experience cooking for the homeless and hungry, I've got cooking for large groups down to a science. Tonight's meal cost about $750 in total (donations from volunteers, in-kind donations and from facebook friends paid for tonight's meal). Other nights AA groups, interfaith groups or meditation groups bring the food.

Volunteers begin arriving at 4pm and then start setting up tables for our guests.

Volunteers also sort toiletries and clothing that are donated by congregations around the Bay Area. We give away hundreds of clothing and toiletry items at ever dinner.

Since I my blog posts are read widely and I travel often around the country sharing the work of Welcome with congregations, sometimes we receive donations from outside the Bay Area. This week, a box of socks arrived from St. Andrews Lutheran Church in San Mateo, CA.

After the donations are sorted, around 4:30pm the desserts are cut and put on plates. Cake is a favorite of our guests. Since the craving for sugary foods are similar to those for drugs, we give our guests many sugary foods through out the evening to enable those working on their sobriety to battle their cravings.

Steve, seen below, brings bread and candy that he begins handing out to guests waiting outside in line around 5pm. Steve also chats with the guests and helps to ensure that they are treating each other with respect and mindful of neighbors who live nearby.

Around 5:15pm all the volunteers gather to set their intentions for the evening. Instructions are given and volunteers are able to ask questions about the dinner before it starts.

At 5:30 guests arrive, find their seats and the volunteers begin to serve our guests.

Sometimes a guest or volunteer will hop on the piano and play some tunes for our guests.

Meals are served from 5:30 - 7pm.

After the meal, volunteers help clean dishes, the bathrooms and the kitchen. Clean up typically finishes between 7 and 8pm.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Pancho was released this afternoon. I was on planes and in airports where I couldn't get an internet connection, so I apologize for the delay in the update.

Many thanks to everyone who helped secure his release.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not what I thought I'd be posting today.

Last Thursday I fully expected today’s post to be in the usual “cheery/chatty” tone I usually adopt for this blog. Last Thursday, I expected to be blogging about the wonderful PICO conference I’m returning from as I type. That post will be along next week.

Last Thursday I stood next to my friend Pancho in Tree’s kitchen making pizza for the Free Farm meeting we had that night. Last Thursday we hugged each other goodbye and said, ‘See you soon.’ This Thursday, Pancho is in ICE custody and in danger of deportation.

Pancho is a wonderful leader at the Free Farm, but he is much more. Pancho is brilliant, he originally came to the US to pursue an astrophysics degree at UC Berkeley. He is loving, he greets everyone as brother or sister and with a hug from the first time he meets them. He is passionate, he has championed many causes including pacifism and food justice. Pancho was arrested at Occupy Oakland. He was sitting quietly, meditating, in support of the Occupy folks.

Pancho is one of the most gentle people I know, and I am blessed to know many. He is shackled and being treated as a particularly dangerous prisoner. He is probably calmer about it than I am. It will be our loss if ICE is allowed to take him from us.

There is a rally planned for 2p.m. this afternoon at the San Francisco ICE building. ICE is at 630 Sansome Street.

What else can you do?

1) Help get the word out! Link to this blog or any of the below, post them on Facebook, etc.

2) Sign the petitions asking for his release:

3) Contact our representatives:

Dianne Feinstein
Phone: (415) 393-0707

Barbara Boxer
(510) 286-8537

Nancy Pelosi
Phone: (415) 556-4862

Barbara Lee (to thank her for her support so far, and urge her on)
Phone: (510) 763-0370
More info:

If you would like to read more about Pancho and this situation:

San Francisco Chronicle, "Occupy Oakland arrestee faces deportation," 11/16/11: "He's serving the community in a major way," said friend Adelaja Simon, 24, of Oakland... "For him to be jailed like this is a ridiculous waste of energy and funds."

San Jose Mercury/Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune
:, 11/16/11, "Peaceful Occupy Oakland protester faces deportation,"

East Bay Express, 11/15,11, "Occupy Oakland activist faces deportation"

New America Media

Thanks in advance for your help helping Pancho.