My friend Edith Edde makes the biggest pots of soup in Gilroy: two pots so giant that a buff athlete can barely lift them. How she moves them around her kitchen is a mystery to me. They are filled to the brim with beans she has soaked herself until they are tender, which are added to other nutritious ingredients and served in a warm and meaty broth fit to fill the soul on a cold winter’s night.
It’s life-saving food on this kind of night at the Gilroy National Guard Armory when the mercury was expected to dip lower than the temperature in Anchorage, Ala. In anticipation, nearly one hundred thin, narrow green mats had been laid out on the floor of the temporary cold weather shelter, which stays open from the Monday after Thanksgiving and closes in March. This is the 24th season that the shelter has been provided by the Emergency Housing Consortium LifeBuilders, a Santa Clara County nonprofit group.
Those looking for some hot soup and a place to lay their heads for the night begin staking out their spots by placing their meager possessions on the mats as soon as they are allowed through the doors at 6 p.m. They must be up and out again by 6 a.m.
The homeless in Gilroy come in all shapes, sizes, and ages: young, old, in wheelchairs, children, parents, and grandparents – an athletic-looking blond woman with belongings slung over her shoulder in a Wilson tennis bag, a man who looks to be seven feet tall who asks if we are serving any soup without meat because he is vegetarian. Children come in with their parents to spend the night. Some live in their cars but come for the meal.
Teams of volunteers from many walks of life serve each week, such as the Morgan Hill Latter Day Saints, the Gilroy First Baptists, the United Methodists of both Morgan Hill and Gilroy, middle school students, the Apostolic Church of Gilroy, Team Gilroy (made up of teachers and firefighters), and many others make at least six pots of soup per night and serve it to all those who line up between 6:15 and 7:00 p.m. Any leftovers are eaten for breakfast the next morning.
I love volunteering when Marge Puleo is going to be serving. She doesn’t just bring her pot of soup; she brings the works: soup, crackers, condiments, lasagna, and sliced jalapeño peppers, which the homeless love to add to their soup. For dessert, last week she brought Oreo cookies and chocolate kisses, which were a huge hit. The volunteers received a lot of praise and thanks for the food.
One Sunday, a homeless man with a missing front tooth came through our doors at the Gilroy United Methodist church where I attend. Halfway through the service, he caught my eye and suddenly began pointing to the bulletin very animatedly. He had found the announcement section which mentioned we would be serving at the shelter that coming Monday night.
“It was muy bueno,” he mouthed, rolling his eyes heavenward and rubbing his stomach in concentric circles with a big smile on his face. He stayed for coffee time after church. He sat at a table by himself and seemed to be working on something very studiously.
He finally handed me a small paper plate with lavender flowers drawn around the edge. In the middle were the words, “Matthew 7:12” written in black ink. When I got home, I looked up the Bible verse that Norberto had given me in his shaky handwriting.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Now that plate hangs on my office wall where I can see it every time I sit down to work, a reminder given to me by a homeless messenger from a Higher Power.
-Shampoo (trial size or large bottles)
The best time to drop donations off is between 6:30 and 7 p.m.
Community Relations Specialist | EHC LifeBuilders
507 Valley Way | Milpitas, CA 95035