Dignity Village residents enjoy dinner and a show

Portland homeless group views opening of ‘Les Misérables’

Wednesday, November 6

Hood River and Portland are close enough, and far enough part, for rare things to happen in simple ways.

Song and compassion brought Hood River students together with the homeless at Dignity Village in Portland in September.

People from Dignity Village returned the favor on Friday.

Eighteen residents of the facility arrived by bus to a hot dinner at a downtown church and then took in the play “Les Misérables” at Hood River Valley High School. In September, “Les Miz” cast members sang at Dignity Village, a community with its own Web site that has become a model that other cities and homeless organizations have looked to for help in dealing with their own homeless populations.

The “Les Miz” cast’s performance at Dignity Village was the first time a theater production had taken place there. And Friday’s visit to Hood River was the first time that a large group from Dignity Village had gone for an outing together.

“We’re here to root them on,” Gail Reyes of Dignity Village said of the “Les Miz” students.

“I think it’s wonderful. We don’t often get to get dressed up and go somewhere,” said Elizabeth Spry of Dignity Village, over chicken casserole and apple crisp served at Riverside Community Church.

Volunteers, led by Hood River’s Joan Yasui Emerson, cooked the food and set the table with cutlery and china.

High school student Anna Thompson played the piano while Dignity Village residents and local folk dined.

Emerson piled plates high with food and delivered them to the tables, while Elaine Thompson, Patti Tessmer, Kwasi Diehl, Connie Burton and other volunteers served food, roamed with coffee urns, and got acquainted with the visitors. Coincidentally, a homeless man unconnected to the group appeared at the door at the same time the bus arrived. The man dined at the church, and volunteers arranged a place for him to sleep.

The event was a way to bring people together and to “put a face on the people who are homeless,” Emerson said.

“They’re thrilled and so grateful to be here,” she said. “For most of these people, life has been really hard, but these are people who are brimming with spirit,” said Emerson, a long-time advocate of Dignity Village.

“Everybody’s connected by their humanity, no matter where we are,” Emerson said. “If my father or brother was in their type of situation I’d want someone to reach out to them.”

Timothy McCarthy, outreach coordinator for the village, said, “What better play for a group of homeless people to watch than ‘Les Misérables’?”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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