A Quaker Meeting in Camas, WA
The Betty Fund by Wess
About 2.5 years ago a middle-aged woman named Betty stumbled into the meetinghouse; bearing a plastic grocery bag with a couple food items and a light windbreaker, she came in out of the cold and offered to sing me a “Quaker song.” I told her of course, I love Quaker songs! And so she sang “This Little Light of Mine” to me, standing in the foyer. (It’s not really a Quaker song, but it works just fine as one!). After the song, she told me a little of her story and broke down into sobbing, saying she hadn’t slept in the last couple of nights because she’d been on the street. She asked me if she could sleep on the floor in the office. It was hard to not be moved when confronted with Betty’s suffering and pain. I offered her a cushioned pew and she slept for four hours. In the meantime, I took a crash-course in what is available in Clark County by way of social services. One of the things that I was shocked by is that there is no shelter for people in emergency situations like this in Camas or Washougal. The closest ones are in Vancouver and are usually filled up by 10 or 11am everyday. So I put out a call to church members who came over to the meetinghouse with warmer clothes for Betty. Emily made dinner for a crowd and about 8 of us sat down with Betty and ate dinner with her. We loaded her up with food, gloves, some rain gear and warm socks, but the hardest part of the evening was telling Betty we didn’t have a safe, warm place to send her that evening. I was fairly new to the church and pastoring at that point, but looking back I think we should have just let her sleep in the building. Turning anyone away into the night, let alone a fragile woman, is not something anyone wants to do.
This all leads me to the point of why I am writing this. Recently, a couple of members in the church told me they wanted to establish an emergency fund for just this kind of occasion. We may not have a shelter in Camas just yet, but we can help put people up in times of crisis. We’re calling this “fund” the Betty Fund. The Betty Fund is a fund for helping put people up at the Rama Inn (Washougal), or another local motel, for one or two nights in emergency situations. Anyone can donate to it and (just be sure to designate that you want it to go there) and it is open to anyone who needs it.