This 2018 windy, rainy Christmas Eve, the Center Street Missionary Baptist Church women who serve were cooking, assembling meals, wrapping homemade pound cake, and celebrating the fact that their 2-year-old ministry continues.
This is a sisterhood that started with a pot of chicken soup, and we have been spiritually blessed and uplifted, funding our ministry by the grace of God, says Sister Catherine Birchett-Linzie, one of the founders of the effort.
The ministry not only feeds the homeless, but by returning over and over to the same encampments and following the camps when they are moved the volunteers have been able to build relationships. Members visit their clients when they enter help programs, and even visit in the hospital when health problems overtake them.
Meals are served to a minimum of 150 people each Monday, and Birchett-Linzie reported that five to seven sites are regularly visited in West Oakland. From five to 9 church members work each Monday, and Brother Ronnie Linzie drives the old van used to deliver meals. We serve until the food runs out, she said.
The church also serves sick and shut-in individuals as they identify them or they contact the program.
When asked about funding, Brother Linzie said. The program is funded from our own pockets, and we would welcome gifts. We are a non-profit, if donors want a tax deduction. He said the program needs a more reliable vehicle, and the church needs help expanding their tiny kitchen. The homeless population in Oakland is growing, says Birchett-Linzie.
On Christmas Eve the food included huge pots of jambalaya, fresh baked corn bread, rice, and individually wrapped servings of cakes baked on Monday morning. The fellowship hall smelled divine. This meal delivery also included care packages donated to the church. These were filled with personal care items, socks, gloves, and small bottles of fragrance for women.
The food is hot and cooked with love, said Sister Birchett-Linzie, and its a win-win-win situation. We get so many thanks, she said. The people expect and respect us and we are sometimes able to minister to them spiritually and practically, referring them for additional help they may need. We have data that might be useful to other programs and would love to meet and work with others and the city of Oakland to share our experiences.
For more information or to donate, contact Center Street Baptist Church, 940 Center Street, Oakland, CA 94607