Gathering Inn depends on volunteers

By: Michelle Carl Press Tribune Editor
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It takes an army to run The Gathering Inn. Someone drives the homeless clients to their shelter for the night. Someone washes the blankets they sleep on. Someone cooks the food they eat. Someone donates the travel-size shampoo bottles they use to wash their hair. It’s a network of volunteers – 2,000 strong – that make it happen. “If I am in need of something, someone always shows up,” said Suzi deFosset, executive director of The Gathering Inn. The program provides shelter, case management and dignity to the homeless in Placer County. At its Roseville center, clients have access to counseling, clothing and a shower before they are transported to one of 32 churches that offer a meal and a place to spend the night. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Gathering Inn. A total of 60 churches help the program by providing goods, shelter and meal preparation. On Aug. 22, The Gathering Inn held a volunteer appreciation barbecue to celebrate those who give their time, money and services to the program. “We really want (volunteers) to know how much we appreciate them,” deFosset said. “We could not do what we do without the churches.” Special recognition was given to Lisa Lloyd, who for the last six years has coordinated the 60 churches that participate in hosting or serving meals. Lloyd said she enjoys volunteering because it meets the immediate needs of the homeless and it’s a chance to utilize her administrative skills. “To be recognized was encouraging, but at the same time, I really felt that everyone in that room that had any involvement in the Gathering Inn deserved to be equally recognized,” she said. “I could not do my part of scheduling without many, many other church people doing their part.” Another volunteer, Art Altman, was recognized for doing the grocery shopping for the Gathering Inn’s Interim Care Program house, where clients recuperate after being discharged from the hospital. Deb Koss, a volunteer grant writer, was also honored for helping bring in funding since the program’s inception. The Gathering Inn also honored three corporations for their support — Quest, Sutter Roseville Medical Center and SureWest. “They continue to stand next to us,” deFosset said. While people are the backbone of The Gathering Inn, it also takes money - $550,000 annually, to be exact. During the volunteer appreciation barbecue, The Gathering Inn kicked off a new grant-matching program with Sutter Roseville Foundation to help make sure all the financial needs of the operation are met. It’s being called Match It: Ignite a Community. “We’re excited by the response we’ve had so far and hope to keep that fire lit,” DeFosset said Monday. Sutter Roseville Medical Foundation will match contributions up to $35,000, giving The Gathering Inn a chance to raise $70,000 — with the community’s help. “We partner with The Gathering Inn and have for quite some time,” said Holly Harper of Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital and Sutter Roseville Medical Center Community Benefits. “In order to increase that capacity and provide better services, we’re offering $35,000 in matching funds. We believe in the services they’re providing and are happy to help expand their capacity to help Placer County’s homeless community.” A special guest speaker during the volunteer appreciation event was Shawn Anderson, a motivational guru who rode his bike from San Francisco to Boston last year as part of his “Extra Mile America” tour. Along the way, he interviewed more than 200 inspirational people who shared their stories. The Placer High School grad is hoping to keep the momentum going this year with another tour — this time in a car. “I’ve realized … . my greatest joy in life is watching people succeed,” he said. “But with so many negative thoughts out there, you can’t do that.” Anderson hopes his positive message and sharing the stories of those he meets will inspire people to “go the extra mile” in their lives to make a change. Anderson visited with Gathering Inn volunteers on Aug. 22. He stopped by the First United Methodist Church of Roseville, that night’s host church, while volunteers were prepping the meal for clients. Volunteers from Lincoln United Methodist were cooking “pasta goulash.” Even if a church can’t host a shelter for the night, they can help with meal prep. Volunteer Gary Cochran stirs a pot of ground beef. He and his wife, Joanne Cochran, are active in their church, Lincoln United Methodist. Plus, Gary loves to cook, so it was a perfect way to give back. “I think it’s a great program. I’ve got a soft spot for them,” said Gary Cochran, 72. “Anything I can do for them to make their life better during hard times (is good).” Although celebrating volunteers is important, it’s not why they continue their work to aid the homeless. “As Shawn Anderson spoke about serving (being one of three aspects of “Going the Extra Mile”), I couldn’t help thinking that service is what The Gathering Inn is all about,” Lloyd said. “Although recognition gives that “warm-fuzzy” feeling, the reason I serve is to meet the needs of the homeless, not to get recognition.” Michelle Carl can be reached at ---------- How you can help Match It: Ignite a Community Sutter Roseville Medical Foundation will match up to $35,000 in funding provided by the community during the Match It: Ignite a Community campaign for The Gathering Inn. There are three ways to donate: Check – Checks can be mailed to PO Box 297, Roseville, CA 95678. Specify in the memo portion that donations go to “Match It.” Online – Visit www.the to give via Paypal. Phone – Mastercard and Visa can be accepted over the phone. Benefit concert featuring Montrose What: 15th annual Food Drive Concert and Bike Run featuring Montrose, Relayer and Jerry Jennings Band. All ages welcome. When: 7 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m. Where: Jones Hall at the Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd., in Roseville. Tickets: $25 advance/$30 at the door. Bring two canned goods for donation. Proceeds benefit The Gathering Inn and The Self-Reliance Project. Info: (866) 585-9423 or visit