July 21, 2024

A message from SOJWJ Board Chair Vanessa Houk: Dec. 23 Holiday Party & Peace Meal

We used to have these quick “check-in” conversations in the kitchen at Pioneer Hall. In his own words, he’d tell me about how much it meant to have a place to go where he was accepted as he was. We’d always laugh about something or another, and I think both of us walked away from each other feeling a little restored.
I haven’t seen him in a few years now. I don’t think he’s coming back.
My Korean war veteran friend would be about to turn 90. He stopped answering texts and calls more than a year ago. I don’t think he’s coming back, either.
There are a number of people, way too many of them, that overdosed this last year. We just lost another person a few days ago. Meanwhile, many friends are active in addictions, and I worry about losing them too.
Grief, my teacher, leans in and whispers, “this is what you came here to do,” and I sigh. My heart weighs about a thousand pounds. I see all this suffering, and I hold it up and try to make it all more visible, but more than ever, there’s no end to it. It’s all these cold days, lined up one after another, and all the many ways that people numb themselves, the way we all hide from each other. “Ollie-ollie, oxen-free”, my heart cries out. “Where are you?”
Get found.
The only balm I know of comes from getting busy and taking better care of each other. That happens at every peace meal, and the holiday party takes that to a whole different level. This year, the party is Dec. 23 (Friday) in Pioneer Hall. I’ll include the sign-up sheets below.
We are filling some specific wishes in our community and I have some updates.
A friend who lives in her vehicle and needs car repairs that total $297 in order to get her vehicle running again. $60 will renew her AAA membership, so we can get it towed. We have $150 raised so far. $206 to go.
Another friend is living in a hotel room with her disabled mother. Their vehicle was impounded (we didn’t hear about that until weeks later, it’s gone now), and they are very food insecure. We have collected some cookware for them, and will make sure that they know how to connect with the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, for emergency food delivery, but we’re also trying to raise some funds to get them a grocery gift card ($100). So far, this need has not been met.
We’ve raised $300 for gifts for kids. Five children are regularly near us at the peace meal and we’d like to create some special holiday memories for them this year.
We’re still hoping to collect about a hundred gift cards with small balances on them (about $10 is perfect, as it buys food for days when there aren’t meals). We don’t have any cards or funds for this need, so far this year.
Thank you for helping.