ReFuel Washougal closes dining room, will serve to-go dinners

Boxed meals available outside Washougal Community Center from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fridays; Salvation Army offers sack lunches for pick-up

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Robert Barber, chair of ReFuel Washougal and lead pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Washougal, washes dishes at the Washougal-Camas severe weather shelter Dec. 5, 2018, in the Washougal Community Center. (Post-Record file photo)

ReFuel Washougal has closed its dining room in the wake of the spread of COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by a new coronavirus, but is still serving weekly dinners.

On Friday, March 20, the community program began offering “go-to” meals.

“We had the option to simply stop altogether,” said Robert Barber, the chair of ReFuel Washougal’s board of directors. “We could’ve said, ‘We’re just a volunteer organization. We’ll stop and wait until this is over.’ But we quickly determined that wasn’t an option for us. The current situation is providing even more of a reason for us to be here. The need is rising. We’re concerned about the community, and we want to bring a sense of calm. We’ve made adjustments that give us an opportunity to provide that.”

Previously, ReFuel Washougal served hot dinners from 4 to 6 p.m. every Friday at the Washougal Community Center. Now it will offer boxed meals for people to pick up outside the community center.

The meal will consist of a sandwich, chips and other “packaged items to keep people healthy,” Barber said.

“This is new for us,” he said. “We had to make sure that our go-to service is in compliance with the best practices in regard to keeping items cold and making sure the temperatures are correct. One of the biggest challenges with the go-to meal is making sure that everything is in accordance with health standards.”

Each week ReFuel Washougal serves between 50 to 70 people, including teenagers, senior citizens, individuals experiencing homleessness and others who may be hungry, isolated or simply lonely. That demand could rise if the current restrictions remain in place long-term, according to Barber. 

“Time will tell,” he said. “Hourly employees are the most impacted because they already have the tightest budgets. If restaurant and bar workers are able to get back to work on April 1, like the governor said, this will be a short-lived experience. But if it becomes prolonged, the greater the need is going to be, and the demand will rise.”

The Salvation Army of Camas/Washougal, which works closely with ReFuel Washougal, has also suspended its in-person meal service, but is offering sack lunches from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at its office at 1612 “I” St., Washougal.

“To those in the community who have a need, we’re here to help one another. Come make use of (our services), make sure you take care of yourself and let us help you out with that,” Barber said. “For others, it’s a great time to give back. That’s what makes a community great, what gets us through times like these — rallying together, coming together as a community to support and encourage and help each other.”