Saturday, January 14, 2012

Homeless in Central Oregon

January 14, 2012
I was invited to a town hall meeting on Thursday evening at the community center.  It was to be a televised meeting led by two friends, Jamie and Dave, who work for the production side of Bend Cable.
The reason that I went was because the topic was one that I have involved myself in for many years, the homeless.  I went with a desire to listen and learn to other resources that are out there and others ideas on how to cope with this needy problem.
I arrived and found many friends and kindred spirits filling up the room.  I looked for my good friend, Chuck, from COVO and found that he was to be a part of the panel.  So, I sat down next to another friend, Rob and we chatted while we waited for the event to unfold.
Soon, Dave and Jamie were addressing us and telling us how the televised part of the night would work and how we were to hold the microphone if we decided to speak.  Dave told us how even though the show was an hour long, that it would go by fast.  I remember thinking to myself, 'Good, cause I am tired and want to go home.'.  After sitting in the chair, I began to unwind from the long day that had started before 6 AM.  Fatigue began to wear at me and I wondered if coming was all that good an idea.
And then it started and true to his word, each segment seemed to fly by.  It did so because it was interesting and most of the people who spoke had something to say.  I knew most of the people or their organizations on the panel who was well represented by COVO, the Community Center, Shepherds House, Bethlehem Inn, the Family Access Network, and ICON City.
Many inspiring and interesting things were spoken of by the various members who had their various ideas of how to tackle the problem but the most interesting for me came from the ICON City crew.  First off, I was taken by his humbleness when he spoke of how he was not really an agency like the rest of them and did not feel worthy of sitting in a panel with them.  But, more so, it was their ideas that seemed fresh and true.  They were the ones who seemed to be getting outside of the box on the issue.
One thing in particular interested me the most.  They have set up a program called BeRemedy (be a part of the remedy).  The program works by texting ICON to 80565.  Once you are in the network, a text will go out every week stating a specific need that needs to be addressed.  I thought the idea was outstanding.
The hour flew by as segment after segment finished and we listened to the panel and various people in the audience interact.  We also heard from some homeless people and others who had survived homelessness from help within the room.
The last segment began and up until then, I had no desire to speak.  Then a representative from Goodwill got up and bragged of their programs.  The hairs on the back of my neck began to raise as I desired to stand and challenge their name as I have often made the statement that Goodwill has no goodwill.  I even wrote about this once in a story of an encounter back in the old Jakes where I had sent a couple over to Goodwill to get some clothes before I gave them a shower and took them to the Bethlehem Inn.  Goodwill refused them clothes and I had to drive them to another agency.
Then another lady got up and stated that we should put pressure on the banks to have them give up their vacant houses that are just sitting around.  I realize her heart was in the right place but the idea was not a workable one.
But it was the Bethlehem Inn guy in the panel that made me want to raise my hand as he made the statement that we needed more government help with more government grants.  I was actually forming a response when the town hall meeting suddenly was over.
My response would have been this, however.  We had all the resources that we would need right there in that room.  People motivated with a desire to help and access to material, labor, and the ability to raise funds.  The problem is not that we need more government help but less.  We need them to get out of the way and let us do the job that is needed.  It is governmental red tape and restrictions that hamper us and keep us from being able to help these needy people.
For instance, ICON city gained access to prefabricated shelters but could not gain permission to use them.  So, people who could have been helped and placed in these dry shelters are now living in tents in the woods.
Or when Sheppard's House first got started.  They were not allowed to put up all the beds that they wanted because of local codes that restricted them due to inadequate bathroom facilities.  I remember as a youth that our house had only one bathroom.  Some of us had to wait at times to use it or to take a bath.   Because of these local codes, some men have had to fight frostbite out in the cold.
If the government wants to help, maybe they could pass some law protecting us from frivolous lawsuits that are the catalyst for many of these codes and red tape.
I left the meeting with mixed emotions.  My desire to help had been enhanced but my thoughts of the idea of more government involvement had actually left me with a bit of dread.
I shared my thoughts with some crew members the next day who knew that I was going.  One of them asked of the homeless man who was living behind the building when we first opened up.  We laughed as we shared stories of his antics at the time.  One of them asked if I had heard from Jerry lately.  I said that I had not heard from him since the time that he came in with a group of guys telling them that he was buying them a meal.  He had already rang up quite a tab and had bounced a couple of checks.  I told him that I wanted to help but could not continue to run up a tab for him.  He left rather angrily stating that I had embarrassed him in front of his friends.  I had often wondered what had happened to this creative homeless man.
I went out to my office and sat there just thinking back of Jerry.  I had forgotten all about him until he was brought up in our conversation.  The diner phone began to ring and was picked up by the front desk.  Then the chirp telling me that the call was for me sounded out and I picked up the phone.
Amazingly, it was Jerry.  He had moved over to the valley but was now living in Redmond.  He told me that he was no longer homeless and that he was now receiving social security.  He needed to get access to the van to take him to the VA hospital in Portland and one of the Band of Brothers that he had bumped into had told him to call me for info.  I directed him to call the local VFW hall and I was sure they would have the info that he needed.  Before he closed off the call, he asked me a question, "Hey Lyle, do I owe you any money?".  "No", came the answer, "We are square.".  "Thanks", he said, "Can I see you sometime.".  "I would like that.", I answered and we both said goodbye.
I dropped my head and said a little prayer, knowing that the conversation was as much meant for me as it was a need for Jerry.
What are my thoughts of all of this.  Well, as we all go home tonight to our warm houses and snuggle in our soft beds that we dedicate ourselves to help out some way.  Not out a sense of guilt but out of for our fellow man.
BTW, the Middle of Winter food and clothing drive is up and running.  Actually, it never stopped from last year but it is officially on.  After we took up the bins last spring, people kept bringing in stuff and we kept taking it down to COVO for distribution.  So, if you have anything that you don't need that might help out someone who is in need, feel free to bring it in and drop it off in our entryway.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I first met Jerry when he applied for work shortly after giving up his first restaurant, Cafe Krohn.  It was a small place over on Newport Ave.  I will admit being a bit intimidated by him at first as I knew he knew much more about the business than I did but I brought him on because I needed a good cook and his knowledge of the game might be beneficial.....and it was.  Jerry openly shared his expertise never asking for anything extra in return.
He was quiet in nature but I would not call him a gentleman.  There was a sort of rough side about him.  Lets just say he had his opinion on things and was not afraid to let you know.  I respect that in a person. But more important, he was an honorable man.  When he said he would do got done.  And when he was working, I never had to worry.  He would not be taking excessive breaks (contrary, I don't recall him taking any) and his plates or product was always done with care.
Jerry worked for me not once but twice.  Neither time leaving on harsh terms.  I believe that he felt it was just his time to move on.  From time to time, Jerry would stop in to say hi.  Always with a smile but more importantly, always with one or both of his kids alongside.
Jerry was a single parent.  I never knew the reason only that it was evident that he loved them and just as he did his work, he knew that they were his responsibility......
I went to his service yesterday.  I often speak in services like this one but for some reason, I could not form the words that were in my heart....I could only watch.  I watched his children....his legacy as they picked out songs that reminded them of their father and they both spoke.  Melissa had that spunk that I have often seen even as a young child and Jeremy.....well, it was like seeing a younger version of his father as he walked up to the podium.  He spoke quietly but with a purpose as he related that as a youth, he did not want to be like his father working so hard, sometimes in three jobs but as he grew up into a man, he realized that he was and that being like his father was actually a pretty good thing.
I didn't realize until after his passing on that one of Jerry's last jobs was baking for the school district.  I always knew his skill there, however, and as I looked at the kids, I could easily relate his job with them to those skills.
For a good baker must first take the ingredients and blend them carefully,  his oven must be at the right temperature and his timing must be just right.  If he does his job right, what comes out will be a great finished product.  And Jerry's batches were always done well.
As I looked over at his kids....his legacy....I could not help but be impressed.  I remembered back at how when he would come back into the diner, he always had one of them with him.....nurturing....teaching.....being a father.  And I could see that these two would be OK.
Job well done, Jerry.  You baked a good batch.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


January 7, 2012
There is one thing that you can always count on and that is change. What ever you do and where ever you go, change is just around the corner. The trick is how to deal with it.
The new year is upon us and this is my first website. And since it is built in Wordpress, I think it is equally important that I change my blog to that site also. I hope this works out and that my transition to this goes well. As I type, I already see so many different things that I must learn. The first being where is the spell checker? Lol...isn't that what most of us need?
Let me know how you like the website. I hope to find the time to change it up a bit. My good friend, Jim Harrison, set it up for me and showed me how to work it last week.
Other changes in the works is our menu. I am looking at a variety of different items that might just end up on it this year. This list includes meatloaf, sirloin tips, Tilapia (a very nice inexpensive fish), and a couple of new omelettes (four cheese and loaded potato).
We are working on them right now but hope to have them up and running by the end of the month.
I know I am a little slow this year, but my time has been really taken up by our bookeeper, Summer, being out on a maternity leave. BTW, congrats to Summer on her new family. She is now deciding if she wants to come back or not. I certainly would not blame her if she becomes a stay at home mom. I have always admired couples who sacrifice for their kids that way. I remember that while our kids grew up, it was very hard but Judy was always there.
With Summer gone, we have hired a lady who does books at various places and while she is very good at what she does, it is best that I still do many of the other things that Summer always did for us which takes me away from my normal and extends my daily hours (no complaint is part of owning your own business).
I will finish this short first blog with a thanks. Thank you to all of you who have help keep Jake's alive over the years. To all of the new friends that we have made especially but not limited to the veteran and senior community that has become such an intimate part of our focus.

New Website and Blog site

I have been at blogspot for many years now but it is time for me to change.

I do this because our new website is built in wordpress and it works better that way. I hope to make a link to my older posts there, however, also.

Thanks for following me and let me know if you like this change or not.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Happy 2012 everyone. I think we are all anxious to see what this new year will bring to all of us. After all, it might be our last, right?

My Monday started out as many of them do. I donned my Duck Hawaiian shirt and my Duck Jake's hat as I headed out to the diner to start the day. One never knows what the business will be like on a day like today. The weather is suppose to be good, the day is suppose to be a holiday as banks and government are closed, and it is the last school holiday before classes go back on Tuesday.

I had worked late on Sunday to insure that Casey had all that he needed to get payroll ready to be sent and had promised to meet him early to get that ready to go. I met Casey at a quiet diner and had breakfast with a good friend, Ernie while I waited for the rest of the crew to arrive.

At 9, I had more crew than I did customers. My two bussers were just standing around, so I found 'things' for them to do which I think irritated them a bit. The wait staff busied themselves getting ready for what they hoped to be a strong day. The warmer the day got, the more I knew this would not be the case. I have found out from years past that warm weather is a bane to restaurants, especially this time of year. By 11, I was sending half of the crew home and myself was in the car now getting ready for the biggest part of the day......The Rose Bowl.

I stopped at a store to pick up some goodies for the game and slipped into a newly opened line to advantage as all of the other lines were long with other guys doing the same. The man behind me spied my junk food and quipped, "So, are these the secret ingredients for Jake's?". I smiled and countered with one word that most men understand so intimately......"Gameday!".

Driving back to the house, I checked up at the diner to ensure my presence was not needed there and arriving at the house, I began taking advantage of the warm weather myself by taking down the Christmas ornaments from the outer part of the house. As I boxed and loaded up for storage, the rest of my 'Gameday' crew arrived.....Carrie and Jay and then Frank and Jason.

I quickly took down and boxed the tree, capitalizing on the fact that Frank could help me put this largest box to sleep for the year. By the time I had finished and joined them in the room, however, nearly all of the pizza was gone. I was glad for the half sandwich that I had downed before leaving the diner as I now snacked on one of the remaining pieces while we all waited for the kick off.

Carrie quipped that their certainly seemed to be a whole lot of red in the stadium. "Must be quite a few USC fans there", I returned. As the Ducks came running out on the field, their shiny chrome hats glittered in the sun, their mirrored effect sparkling like stars.

The beginning of the game showed what most people expected. The Ducks did not seem to be able to stop the Badgers and the Badgers could not stop the Ducks. They matched each other evenly for both of the first two quarters to set a new Rose Bowl record of points in the first half of the game. I remember that announcers commenting as the Duck punter came out towards the end of the half on one of the rare stops that it was a rare sight to behold......a punter in the game.

Towards the end of the first half, the Badgers much touted running back who now had over 150 yards under his belt, tried to jump over a Duck defender. The replay looked like something that might be used over and over on the highlight reels as he landed straddled on the helmet of the defender. We all laughed and commented on whether on how high his voice must be after such a hit. Jay got a kick out of running the play back and forth on my DVR. Carrie noticed something and asked him to run it back one more time. She told us all to be quiet and listen closely to the speakers. As his groin once more landed on the solid helmet, someone clearly stated 'Ouch' in one of the speakers which brought immediate laughter to the room.

As the sun began to set, the shiny hats of the Ducks seemed to be even brighter. The men calling the game commented that they were having a hard time reading to numbers on the jerseys from the brightness of the helmets. "I think I have a play", I commented to the room. "One of our linemen just stands and rolls his head until the sun shines into the eyes of the quarterback blinding him while allowing the others to reach him for the sack.". I wondered if this would cause a new rule mirrored helmets.

The second half of the game was much like the first with the score going back and forth. We all hoped this would be to the Ducks advantage as they are usually very much a second half team and true to form, they shut down the Badgers in the 4th quarter and earned themselves the first Rose Bowls win in 95 years.

We watched the jubilant Ducks as they celebrated their win but could not miss the disappointment of the Wisconsin team and faithful. The coach was short with the handshake and the mike picked up the Badger quarterback as he fained off an interview telling them that he was just too emotional to comment right then. While I was happy that the Ducks had finally won a BCS bowl game, I certainly felt for the many fans and teammates who had gone so many miles to lose at the end of the game.

As the game finished, I jumped into the car and headed down to the diner to run the weekly poker tourney for Habitat. I ate a quick supper while the players arrived and made ready for this popular weekly game. We have now gone over $30,000 raised in this donation game that helps build houses for people who would generally not be able to afford one.

We started off with two tables and I got off quickly winning the first hand and garnering a good quick stack of chips with a full house right out of the gate. As the end of the first set of the game, I was by far the chip leader. The next hand was the last hand to rebuy and I had a King and Queen of hearts in my pocket. Two players went all in expecting to rebuy and I just could not see myself to fold this hand. As I matched their chips and flipped over my cards, I smiled as I matched up against a 10 4 and a King Jack. But then came the flop and a 10. The turn brought a Jack and the river brought another 10. My pair now last, I lost most of my stack of chip to the other two who now had healthy chip stacks leaving me with next to nothing. I was soon out of the competition and begged myself out so I could go home and watch the other big bowl game.

I watched as the other game seemed to be almost a carbon copy of our earlier one with the two teams deadlocked at the half just as ours was. With the score tied in the waning seconds of the game, the Stanford team being so close to the goal went away from their norm and just set up for the winning chip shot field goal. The camera swept down to a young man who was down on one knee preparing for what was to be a defining moment of his life.....the chance at less than 20 years old to win a BCS bowl game for his team. I could see the weight that the young man was carrying as he stepped out onto the field. The Oklahoma State coach called his last time out and I took note the tightness of the young man as he attempted to casually walk off his jitters. I openly wondered why they had not just let him kick through as the other team called time as I had seen others in the past calm themselves by kicking this free but seemingly meaningless kick. My fears were validated as the young man pushed the kick off to the left sending the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Stanford team seemed to do the same as they had at the end of the game, running the ball instead of using their greatest asset, the skill of their quarterback who had rode the team on its back all year, losing only to our beloved Ducks. The shook up young man trotted back out on the field and while closer, still missed the goal again to the left. All OSU needed to do was kick its own field goal and win the game of which they did. As the earlier game, the OSU fans and team were jubilant. The camera caught it all, however, as the young man.....not even 20 years old sat on the sidelines, his head in his hands.

My heart went out to this young man as I watched him. This highly touted and highly recruited youngster who had just had his life crushed. I imagined how he must have felt.....probably feeling that he had just let down his family, his team, and his community.

My adversities of the day and that of the Wisconsin faithful seemed so light as I compared them to the overwhelmed young man who sat alone, his shoulders dropped and his head only held up by hands propped up by elbows sitting on his knees.

I realize that he is just a freshman and he has three more years to redeem himself but right here right now, he probably is at his lowest part of his young career. They say that adversity builds character and it will be interesting to see what happens to this boy in his coming years. I know it is just a game but to that young man, it is the start of his career and I certainly hope that one day, I will see him kick that winning field goal in a future Super Bowl or something of that caliber. It will be interesting to follow his career.

Happy New Year everyone.....and Go Ducks!