A former migrant worker who lived in Texas is gratified to help feed residents from Camas, Washougal and neighboring communities.
Maria Perez, 80, is among several volunteers who prepare and serve food on the second Monday of the month at the Lost and Found Cafe, in the social hall at Zion Lutheran Church, 824 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas.
She and others plan to be there in December, but after that, most of them are retiring.
Perez recalled sleeping in a truck with her husband and young children in Texas.
“We were very, very poor,” she said. “The lifestyle was very different from now. I concentrated on educating my children, because I knew that was the way out of poverty for them.
“People helped me [with donations of food],” Perez added. “If I can help an individual, I will do it.”
She and her family moved to California, where she worked as a county case manager, helping the mentally ill through outreach programs and living skills classes for 26 years.
Perez has lived in Vancouver since 2001. She is a member of Camas Church of the Nazarene, the former site of the Lost and Found Cafe.
Perez said she and the other volunteers work as a team.
“What keeps this group united is our faith in the Lord,” she said.
“I would recommend people who are retired or semi-retired volunteer instead of becoming a couch potato,” Perez added. “It’s more rewarding to work, than to be isolated.”
The cafe is an outreach program of the Inter-Faith Treasure House. Volunteers would need to know how to cook for 50 to 60 people.
Marieta Schreiner, of Washougal, has served as a volunteer at the cafe for approximately 10 years.
“We visit while we are working and enjoy that fellowship time,” she said. “Sometimes we sit down and have tea or coffee, but not always. It depends on what the menu is.”
The Nov. 10 menu included homemade vegetable beef barley soup, rolls, apples and pineapple upside down cake. That involved volunteers peeling and cutting potatoes and chopping carrots for the soup.
The volunteers arrive at 3 p.m., to prepare the dinners, which are served Mondays and Thursdays, at 6 p.m.
There is no cost, but donations are accepted.
Schreiner and Judie Frederick stay after 7 p.m., to clean up the food that is left.
“When I retired, I needed something to do,” Schreiner said.
She is a former Pendleton Woolen Mills employee.
In addition to volunteering at the Lost and Found Cafe, Schreiner serves one day a week as a cashier at the Treasure House thrift store. She also helps with senior citizen breakfasts and potlucks in Washougal.
“It’s been a good experience and none of us are kids anymore, so let’s leave while it’s still a good experience,” Schreiner said regarding the team’s upcoming retirement from the cafe.
“It’s a social time for some of these older people,” she added. “It’s nice to see them come in and visit with a friend, and kids come through with parents. It’s nice to hear them say ‘thank you.’ We are helpers. We work well together.”
Janet Kurkoski, of Washougal, is the kitchen supervisor.
She volunteers at the cafe twice a week and will continue to serve.
“A person gets a warm feeling inside from helping others,” Kurkoski said. “Also, I enjoy getting to know other volunteers and the people who eat. We laugh a lot.”
When she sees people eat at the cafe, she is impacted by the number of individuals who enjoy a nutritious, home style meal, and the social aspect of eating with friends.
Kurkoski, 69, said the biggest challenge of volunteering is recruiting people who can help on a regular basis — whether it is once a month, once a week or when their schedule allows.
She is semi-retired from teaching, serving as a substitute teacher.
Other individuals who have volunteered at the cafe for 10 years or more include Vickie Oates, Connie Walker and Shirley Letch. Luella Croy is a former long term volunteer.
There will be no meal service Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 27, and Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 25.
For more information, contact Nancy Wilson, executive director of the Treasure House, at 834-4181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.