A Dream Survives - and Thrives - in Vacaville

A Dream Survives - and Thrives - in Vacaville

By the Ven. Cookie Clark and Lori Korleski Richardson, Interim Communications Director

It’s Friday afternoon and the kitchen is buzzing. A group from a local Vacaville congregation is preparing 350 meals. The kitchen is in the parish hall of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. The cooks are from one of five congregations that make this ecumenical feeding program possible: Unity, Lutheran, Episcopal and two Catholic congregations.

This program, pioneered by the late Warren Dunning (see sidebar), has been feeding those in need since the turn of this century. Our Episcopal Community Services established a major yearly grant in his name.

Outside Epiphany, a group developed by the Vacaville Police Department’s Homeless Roundtable is greeting and counseling the waiting diners. The group, A Better Way, is designed to help the homeless navigate “the ‘system.” They find housing, recovery placements, and many ways to help. One important service is helping to secure Social Security benefits. A program provides free cell phones and the county social workers are regularly available. A Veterans Administration volunteer also is working the crowd.

Indoors, in a library of books that any child may borrow or keep, nurses from Touro University are preparing to offer public health assistance: blood pressure readings, diabetes testing, toiletries and women’s sanitary supplies.

Regularly someone offers help in applying for food stamps. And A Better Way navigators are chatting with the diners. They have found housing for about 15 homeless.

Other groups have prepared “anytime snacks.” About 100 are kept in a closet so that any time someone comes by the church, staff has nutritious food to give away.

In winter, hats, scarves, and dry socks are provided. The Church of the Epiphany is a pickup stop for winter shelter from the rain. At Christmas, Valley Church has gifts for everyone. On the longest night of the year, a memorial service recognizes the homeless who have died.

Tuesday at noon, a different group of volunteers prepare 70-90 lunches. This includes Latter Day Saints volunteers; another Episcopal congregation, St. Brigid of Kildare, Rio Vista; Epiphany volunteers, families, and sometimes public service groups. Solano County sends a mobile dental clinic and a mobile medical clinic twice a month.

Two mornings a month, parishioners work with two dinner guests who are underemployed or unemployed to do upkeep around the buildings. Painting, cleaning and yardwork. Notes are kept so that the helpers can receive a reference. The volunteer workers receive gift cards.

Brown Bag, a service to indigent seniors, sponsored by the Solano-Contra Costa Food Bank, comes two Wednesdays a month. Often they leave bags and boxes of produce and some canned goods. These are available for diners to help themselves.

The Church of the Epiphany has funded the equipment, upkeep and supplies through fundraising and by grants from Episcopal Community Services and United Thank Offering. Several local businesses are partners in providing food.

One man’s dream that no one should go hungry when he has food has morphed into a full-service ecumenical program for the hungry and needy. Thank you, Warren Dunning.

4 comments (Add your own)

1. James T. Elliott wrote:
I am incredibly proud of Warren, Cookie and the people of Epiphany who have sustained this important ministry. Blessings to you all!

Tue, September 26, 2017 @ 8:57 PM

2. Jeannie Perkins wrote:
So beautiful. May God continue to bless and may always the peace of the Lord be always with these efforts.

Wed, September 27, 2017 @ 7:10 AM

3. Steven Catanich wrote:
Very few parishes have the resources or income to establish and run a program such. Epiphany has succeeded by not trying to do it all by themselves. This "template" can be adapted and used in other cities. I hope that it will provide the impetus for others to make use of underutilized facilities.

Wed, September 27, 2017 @ 11:32 AM

4. Renee Crevelli wrote:
Wonderful ecumenical work by various faith communities in the Vacaville area!

Wed, September 27, 2017 @ 12:15 PM

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