A Quaker Meeting in Camas, WA
This idea was inspired by an encounter that Wess, former pastor of Camas Friends Church, had several 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 sobbing, saying she had not 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 to discover 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.
We may not have a shelter in Camas yet, but we can help put people up in times of crisis. That’s what the Betty Fund is for.
Anyone can donate (just be sure to designate that you want it to go there) and it is open to anyone who needs it.