Students, Staff Reach Out to Neighbors

Mission trip to Portland brings great results

By: Becky St. Clair

Students handed out over 60 blankets in downtown Portland over Presidents Day weekend.

A dozen people volunteered their long weekend over Presidents Day to participate in a mission trip coordinated by WWU's Village Life. Open to everyone (not just village students), the trip took participants to Portland, Ore., where they worked to spruce up the Portland Rescue Mission, and also took some time to walk the streets handing out blankets to the homeless.

The Rescue Mission had recently received a grant so they could do much-needed work in the cafeteria, but one of the stipulations was that all work had to be completed by volunteers. Enter WWU's mission crew.

With the ceiling re-tiled (finished the day before the WWU group arrived), students and staff prepped and primed the walls before covering them with fresh paint, making the cafeteria and kitchen look more modern with the swish of a paintbrush. The volunteers worked so quickly, they were able to not only finish the areas they had come to paint, but they painted the entry hall, as well.

Fortunately, the group was not stuck indoors for the entire weekend. Once the painting was done, the volunteers traveled 15-20 blocks in downtown Portland, handing out blankets (and eventually bagels and water) to the homeless they encountered. The students also stopped to chat with the homeless, asking for their names and how they were doing. A few even took time to pray with the people they met.

"We continued some of those conversations the next morning at breakfast," says Paddy McCoy, director of Village Life and Apartment Housing for WWU. "We weren't there just to serve food, we were there to mix with the crowd, sit with the homeless, and strike up conversation. Just doing that was an eye-opener for most of the group."
McCoy began networking with the Portland Rescue Mission three years ago, and was just waiting for the timing to come together to organize a trip. That timing was this year, and WWU is now on the mission's schedule for next year.

The group accomplished much more than was expected of them, and the mission is very anxious to have them back. McCoy hopes to not only make this an annual trip, but to grow the work accomplished so a larger group can participate. He also hopes to work with the WWU Portland campus on future projects for the mission.

"The testimony from the staff at the mission in charge of our project was that we were the best group they have ever had," says McCoy. "I attribute that to our incredible students, who worked hard the entire time. They all did a great job, and we should all be proud of how well they represented WWU."

For more information on the incredible ministry of the Portland Rescue Mission, visit their website. Soon there will be a link on their site to WWU. McCoy states that the mission staff were so impressed with WWU's students and their hard work, that they want to use WWU as an example of what can be done with a great group as they recruit other volunteers.

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