Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday: 'What Child is this' or the pets of Nickelsville

2 days before Christmas: James and I cooked LAZANKI today: a Polish comfort stew of cabbage and sour kraut and tomato and sausage mixed with noodles.  James is a pro - graduate of culinary school and on-call cook at one of the Seattle restaurants (nobody goes eating out much nowadays), now waiting for Alaska fishing assignment - so with his expert help it turned out pretty good.

Before cooking I run around the fire station grounds to capture on my camera the pets of Nickelsville.  Most of them are rescue pets:  abandoned, left or uncared-for by previous owners, and now adopted and loved by Nickelsville residents.  Here they come, ENJOY:

Spike.  He was left to be dog-sited.  His owners never chimed in to claim  him.  Andrea and Jeremy are caring for him
Miss Priss

Pagee Via
Little Bit - male
Cat 'Onyx'
Tiger-kitty-cat "Blue'

Honey Bear

Sleeping 'Smokey'

And now, my favorite Christmas carol for you:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday: West African peanut soup again - with elbow noodles

Yesterday Richard helped me to chop veggies, and clean during and afterwords cooking.  We made a good soup, I think - not too spicy, just enough and overall healthy with all the veggies we put in it.  I was floored as to how everybody is concerned about things being clean in Nickelsville:  Richard was interrupting himself many times during chopping to just clean the area he was chopping on and the floor under our feet, covered with carrot peels and other refuse.  Also, I kept putting stuff into the sink, meaning to wash them after the soup was done, but no need - several times people who went through the kitchen while we were cooking did just that: stopped by the sink, and washed what was in it, then kept going...

When I arrived Mike was just in the middle of cooking chicken and dumpling soup: we smiled at each other, because he and I crossed our paths before, but none of us could remember when and how.  He was very serrious about his soup and obviously had experience regarding what he was doing:  managing to season the pot while adding dumplings made out of scratch (!),  and watching the buns in the oven.  I asked where he learned all of that and he said that the soup is his German grandmother recipe, and the buns from 4 years of working in bakery...

I have to say that I was truly inspired with everybody's politeness and good manners of  Nickelsville people: after an hour of fighting over the stove burner (Mike was there earlier and kept his access to the front burner), taking the chopped veggies across the kitchen to the pot, while many people traveled through the kitchen to who knows where, I grew a bit testy not used to such conditions. In the same time everybody around me was just serene and helpful to each other:  Mike was having trouble with turning the buns in somewhat malfunctioning oven: on the spot TWO people materialized to help him with that hot task, and after they closed the oven with now saved buns  they went away on their way; I was looking at the garlic bulb wondering how to proceed when Jeremy showed up with a garlic presser and peeled the cloves before disappearing.  Amazing harmony of the place.

Cody Bebe and the Crooks
Richard told me they a music band visiting them the day before at 5:00 PM: seven musicians performing  on guitars, drums and tambourins - a very welcome event that cheered the residents, who gathered in the garage to watch them playing selections of different music and different traditions:  jazz, blues and holidays.  Richard told me it was a really great event and also told me the name of the band -  I had meant to write it down, but forgot before leaving- will amend on the next visit, hopefully.  Thank you musicians!

12/24:  The musicians were Cody Bebe and the Crooks.  Click and enjoy!

Next time I'll take my camera and photograph Nickelsville's  numerous adorable pets for your holiday viewing pleasure.  Stay put till then,  and please read the previous post regarding what is needed in Nickelsville NOW.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's needed: THE LIST

• CASH to pay for telephone, garbage and (over-due) porta-potty bills; if you want to mail your (tax-deductible) donation, use this address:
NickelsvilleP.O Box 2548
• DISPOSABLE PLATES, CUPS AND FORKS/SPOONS (the facility not equipped to wash after 100 people); also ladles, spatulas, serving utensils
• TOWELS (people are very frugal with them and have a serious shortage)
• FOOD, including ready made or hot dinner for 50 peeps+... There is a website for volunteering to prepare a meal, but I can't get it loaded... You can just show up and donate, though
• UTILITY FOLDING TABLES - for the common dining area in the garage and for the kitchen prep
• CHAIRS:  any chairs - lawn chairs, foldable chairs, armchairs
• MED SUPPLIES:  especially Visine, Aspirin, cold and cough products, first aid
• PET FOOD AND CAT LITTER - the adorable animals and their friends will love you for that
• GARBAGE BAGS, especially the big, durable black ones
• PAPER PRODUCTS:  toilet paper, paper towels and napkins
•  WORK, WORK, WORK:  the residents will do small and big jobs, paid or volunteer (one of the requirements of staying in Nickelsville is community work, which each resident must perform at least once a week), so consider asking them to walk your dog, clean your yard, help with snow or other chores like cleaning windows or parking lot (businesses around).

I hope I covered it all.  But use your imagination, too: whatever you'd need to survive, sans home and family...

Nickelsville is presently located at the Lake City Way old fire station at 
2806 N.E. 127th Street (bus 41 and 72). Tel. (206) 450-5268.

Last night I stopped by, to get more info on Nickelsville needs, and thought separate WHAT'S NEEDED post might be easier to find, than correcting the previous post.  While there I attended the open-to-public first part of the meeting and then just stayed to hang out and socialize.  I highly recommend doing that, if you want to find out more about Nickelsville and perhaps individual needs of the residents - perhaps you have or know where to find some items which would make their life easier.  The meeting starts everyday at 6 PM, and you are welcome to participate in the 'external issues' part of it; you will be asked to leave the room when 'internal issues' are discussed (you can spend that time chatting with the entrance guards) and you can re-join the social/dinner fun after the meeting.

Yesterday I met Jeremy's wife, Andrea, who is a student at PIMA Medical Institute, studying to become a veterinarian; we talked about lots of homework she has to do every day, her joy of fulfilling her since-childhood dream of becoming a vet (she will be ready in a year), her love of animals and some other, unrelated chit-chatty stuff.  Before we parted I asked if there is anything she has trouble to secure for her pursuits; and she listed college ruled paper, pencils and pens, colored pencils and folders for her different class projects.   Easy: on the way home I stopped at the drugstore and felt like a kid at Christmas finding the items and being able in a small way to participate in Andrea's big dream.  On Monday she will get it with a bow attached.

I chatted with old-time resident Richard, the camp's oral chronicle keeper, and at some point he said: 'Another way to help is if you figure out something about helping the children; every 3 weeks or so somebody checks-in with a kid or a baby.  They usually end up in a shelter, but maybe there is a better place for them to go, maybe someone has a warm space for them to heal and get through, so they don't have deal with institutions for a while'.  Something to ponder...

So please go and visit;  some of the needed items you may have lying around your house: unused materials from by-gone projects like crocheting or scrap-books, games or books somebody may enjoy, or perhaps you are the same size as the person who needs a sweater or jacket and you would like to share in a personalized way.  There are also inexpensive ways to help from the right size of a dog leash to warm socks to a stylish winter hat or gloves; gift certificates for a haircut, or a meal, or grocery store would probably also be well received - so just find out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Went to the new Nickelsville place, finally.

Nickelsville is now housed in the old fire station in Lake City way, a few streets away off the main traffic; the building was recently used for a food bank, so has a small kitchen, a few sinks and a few bathrooms - definitely improvement from living in the tents on the parking lot of the busy intersection...

The entrance gate is now stationed indoor, and so are most of the residents - they have their mattresses  on the floor along the walls in several big rooms.  The kitchen is fully functioning and cupboards neatly stashed with donations which previously were kept in the food tent.  The are pots and pans, although i have not seen one big enough to cook soup for 60-70 people.

Jeremy, the food manager, was kind to show me around: the rooms, the kitchen, the quiet/reading room where no noise is allowed and a few armchairs allow people to escape the natural noise of a place that houses around 100 residents.  One room is designated for people with pets: a happy dog or cat on every bed:),  there is also a closet room, with shelves for storage, and off the kitchen is a room where TV is stationed; that room also serves as dinner-serving buffet. The big garage houses some beds, but mainly serves as family/meeting room, where every day meeting take places and also after dinner chat or a game of cards or domino...  Jeremy also showed me outside, where some residents choose to stay in their tents - mainly long-term residents and couples, who value their privacy over the warmth of the indoors.  As Jeremy pointed out they always can go inside and as a matter of fact did a few weeks ago, due to snow and cold.

As always, Nickelsville is extremely well organized, and now it shows even more, as various notices (free health clinics addresses, etc.)  are displayed on the walls by the entrance, where everybody can see them well  for use, and various item previously stored in crates and tents now actually found their place on shelves and in cupboards.

Generally the new Nickelsville has a happy feeling - with major stresses of being out in the cold and noise gone, the residents concentrate on building their new community: organizing communal eating area, scheduling meal cooking and just having life.  Stopping by feels like stopping by any old friends who just got new and better digs and happily go about making themselves home.  Jeremy told me that the neighbors treat them well which adds to feeling welcome, for sure.

I asked about current needs to write to world and you - the reader - about; this is a partial list, as I didn't make notes - but today I'll ask for help with correcting it:

•   CASH (tax deductible, you will get a receipt) donations are always welcome, to pay the bills (telephone, garbage and Nickelsvile is behind with payments for porta-potties in the previous place).  Will try to figure out mailing address, if someone prefers that.

•  DISPOSABLE PLATES, CUPS & UTENSILS - the facility is not able to support washing after that many people.

•  As always: BLANKETS, WARM CLOTHES, FOOD, especially fresh produce and perishables which now they are able to store properly in refrigerators and freezers (hey, next time you see '2 for the price of one chicken' grab the second one for our friends - they'll appreciate you remembering.

• And BOOKS, MAGAZINES, GAMES and anything for the mind.

•  WORK, WORK, WORK:  the residents will do small and big jobs, paid or volunteer (one of the requirements of staying in Nickelsville is community work, which each resident must perform at least once a week).

If you would like to volunteer for Nickelsville, let them know, too; will find out tonight what the needs are for now only know, that if you would like to volunteer with dinner prep, it'd be appreciated: don't just walk in, though - they keep a schedule at the entrance, so no 2 organizations or people show up the same evening, while leaving them empty on others.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Doc Gurley: Be selfish, give a gift to a homeless person

This is from San Francisco Gate, written by a physician:

What To Give:
1) Earning power is primo. One of the best possible presents is something that helps a homeless person earn some cash. Consider buying a harmonica, recorder, or sheet music for the a cappella singer who starts to sound hoarse by the end of rush hour. If your neighborhood, like one in Berkeley, has a street person who paints tiny abstracts on rocks to earn some bucks, a set of acrylics or a handful of Sharpies could be a life-saver. Finally, anyone who's ever had to dumpster-dive knows the value of some study work gloves, or a pair of fingerless mitts. But what if you don't know someone's talents? Never fear. You can still spontaneously give any homeless person a great present. Consider some of these types of gifts -
2) Hats, scarves and gloves. Any of these are heart-warming (literally) gifts, especially this time of year. Prices range anywhere from $9.99 or $4.99 for men's items at Target and Longs, to all of $1 at the (of course) Dollar General Store. Homeless people try to blend, because the streets are not a good place to attract attention. For that reason, choose gender neutral colors that won't show wear and tear so fast (navy, brown, black). And if you're giving any clothing item, it's nice to leave the tag in place. Lots of homeless people have gotten unfortunate cases of lice and scabies from accepting used articles, so it's reassuring to know, if you're the recipient, that what you're getting is new. Coats are really nice, but hard to hand out discreetly, and expensive to buy in quantity - but if you can provide them, go for it! Another lovely present is a pair of sweatpants. Sweatpants are both gender and size neutral. Buy men's large in dark colors, regardless of who you're gifting ($19.99 Target and other stores).
3) Rain gear. When considering a present for your typical street person, keep in mind the requirement that everything must be carried on your person at all times. For that reason, umbrellas are not often used on the street. Umbrellas, in general, are both too heavy and flimsy. However, the ultra-useful rain poncho ($3 and up at various stores) is both cheaper, and better as a gift.
4) Bags. Carrying everything you own is not easy, especially when almost all of it is packed in hand-creasing, thin white plastic bags. This year, due to the widespread interest in saving the environment through re-use, there's a fine selection of collapsible, sturdy bags at truly affordable prices. These make great gifts for the homeless. Almost every store has a branded reusable shopping bag for around $1 (Longs, Target, Trader Joe's) but my favorite is the Ikea large blue bag - it has a  set of wide, durable shoulder straps (key for carrying heavy items), plus a second, hand-length set of straps, is only $0.59, and it's made of the same weather-resistant material as blue tarp, which means it can also be used as an impromptu pup-tent if necessary.
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