In recent weeks, when the the weather was bitter cold, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada opened a warming center, with hot beverages and cereal, in the St. Vincent's Dining Room at 325 Valley Road from six to nine in the morning.
It’s part of an operation hashtagged #OperationNoFreeze.
“For these guys to hang outside even with gloves and hats and all of that, it's just, it's horrid,” Englund said. “It's kind of inhumane, maybe even cruel. I mean, try it, it's rough. So the thought was let them come in and at least warm up. That's the very least we can do. I have the space. It's warm. It's easy to give them something warm to eat so that started it [the warming center],” Englund said.
Helping a Population often Stuck Between Difficult Choices
Englund says every little bit helps as for people without shelter, it’s so difficult to eat healthy and feel warm. Shelter space is often at capacity, which is why during winter there is now an overflow shelter in the parking lot by the main shelter.
“There is a need in our city to help take care of them,” he said. “They don't have the facilities that do all of that in one place. They like get to sleep over here or in the summertime there is no overflow tent. You know, they just, sleep on the street or in an alleyway or wherever they can find that they won't get bothered. And then as far as served food goes, a lot of them don't have money, so they can't buy it. And when they do buy it, they're not able to go get a carton of eggs and cook it and all that sort of thing. They have to buy something that's already made. They're kind of stuck.”
A Stream of Donated Food for Free Daily Lunches
For St. Vincent’s Dining Room, the food comes from a variety of places like individual donors, US Foods, a restaurant food supplier, the Raley’s supermarket chain, bread from Subway, and also from local businesses such as Truckee Bagel.
Englund says when trucks can’t get through due to I-80 closures he receives thousands of donuts. At the beginning of the month, Englund says he serves about 400 people for lunch, a number which swells to 600 people by the end of the month.
According to the St. Vincent’s website, its dining room is Reno’s oldest "soup kitchen". It serves a free, hot lunch, Monday through Saturday.
“We’ll let anyone come in as long as there's food,” Englund said. “Even if there isn't food, we would let them come in, but we never run out. We just keep it rolling. We find something. We may not (always) have hot cereal but we'll have sandwiches or something else … soup. There's always something here to eat.”
The Joy of Cooking and Giving Back after Getting Sober
Englund says that his life changed after getting sober. He used to be involved in Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to individuals who are unable to prepare or buy food, before he went to St. Vincent’s Dining room.
He says that it feels good to help others. “It brought some life back to me,” he said. “I was reaching a point in my career where I was ready to make a change.”
He says this type of cooking is also a challenge. “Our menu evolves around … your donations ... So it's fun putting things together and then coming up with something really good to eat that you know people are going to enjoy and seeing happy people.”