January 11, 2014
Joe Kline / The Bulletin
Jakes Diner owner Lyle Hicks bags up some clothes collected at his restaurant for his Middle of Winter clothing and drive on Saturday afternoon in Bend. Hicks gives the clothing and other items collected to Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, which distributes them to those in need.
A coat for a veteran in need
Bend diner holds traditional clothing drive for vets
By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin
Published Jan 6, 2014 at 12:01AM
The smells of bacon, pancakes and syrup filled Jake’s Diner on Saturday morning.
But Bend resident Bob Stoops, 70, pulled up outside the east Bend eatery with something other than food on his mind.
The U.S. Navy veteran stepped into the diner’s foyer toting three jackets and a pair of blankets, and dumped them into one of several bins pushed up against the wall. A piece of paper above the bins spelled out a list of items people could donate to local veterans in need — clothing, food, blankets, toiletries.
“I’m a veteran, too. Fortunately, I’m a little better off than some,” Stoops said. “So for those less fortunate, I give where I can, whether it’s at the Goodwill, the Humane Society or here.”
Jake’s Diner has held winter donation drives since 1995. Owner Lyle Hicks calls it the Middle of Winter clothing and food drive.
For years, the drive has targeted the homeless and needy across the High Desert, but the focus in recent years has been on helping homeless veterans.
Volunteers collect the donations and bring them to Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, which distributes them to veterans in need.
The idea came after Hicks read about similar efforts around the country during the December holiday season.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s Christmas. But who cares about them in January, February, March? That’s the coldest time of the year.’”
Since then, the bins have become a sort of Jake’s Diner tradition. Hicks often leaves them in the diner foyer throughout the year. Sometimes, days and weeks pass without a donation. Other times, the bins pile high with jackets, scarves, hats and blankets.
“It’s not just warm clothing,” Hicks said. “It’s food. And I’ve even had guys bring in small propane bottles for heat. Anything they can use.”
This winter has been unseasonably mild, but overnight temperatures still drop into the teens — potentially fatal conditions for anyone without shelter.
Hicks said he’ll keep the bins out in his diner as long as people keep donating.
Homelessness “is a need that’s always been out there,” Hicks said. “Fortunately, this is an exceptional community. … As long as there’s that need, and there’s something we can do, we’ll be here.”