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"A way to give back": Eugene Police revive tradition of serving holiday meals to the unhoused

blanket lady gets lunch.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
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KLCC
A woman waits while Eugene Police staff serve her a hot holiday meal at the SVdP Lindholm Center on Highway 99 in west Eugene.

Members of the Eugene Police Department wore Santa hats and aprons Tuesday afternoon to host a holiday meal for people at St. Vincent de Paul’s Lindholm Center in west Eugene.

At noon, EPD and St. Vinnie’s staff start serving up plates of turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings. The center is warm, there’s live music and round tables filled with people like Daniel Irving. He’s been homeless in Eugene for 20 years.

Daniel Irving headshot.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Daniel Irving has been homeless in Eugene for 20 years. He stays at the Dusk to Dawn shelter and walked down Highway 99 to enjoy a holiday meal. Irving will turn 65 on December 15th, 2022.

“It’s nice and the music’s good and a lot to eat,” Irving smiled. He said he's about to have a birthday. He'll turn 65 on December 15, 2022.

This is the 6th year the EPD and other community partners have thrown the holiday dinner. There was a two-year stoppage for the pandemic. Organizer Dave Clark has been a patrol officer on this side of town for 12 years.

Clark and Vinney Staff.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Eugene Police officer Dave Clark has been on patrol in west Eugene for 12 years and organizes the Holiday Dinner at the Lindholm Center. He poses here with Teresa Patterson who manages the front desk at the day center and helps every event there run without a hitch.

“Everything that St. Vinnie’s does for people in need in this area—this our way to give back and help the staff out for a day,” Clark said, “and then be a friendly face for the clients that we see all the time, sometimes for traumatic sort of instances. And just have it be a laid-back day that we could have some music, some good food and just enjoy.”

EPD serves a meal to go.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
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KLCC
As other EPD staff look on, a police detective serves a holiday meal to a woman at the Lindholm Center in west Eugene.

Clark added they prepared enough food to serve 250 holiday meals. What isn’t eaten for lunch will be packaged and shared for dinners tonight at shelters and Egan Warming Centers.

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Tiffany Eckert
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KLCC
EPD staff served over 150 holiday meals to needy and unhoused people coming into the Lindholm Center Tuesday. Eugene Police Chief Skinner (far right) said he's proud of this kind of "community policing" being shown.

“This will give folks one big meal then they’ll go back to, --you know--could be the railroad tracks or underneath awnings. This is just to have their bellies full and warm for the night,” he said.

Clark and Casondra Johnson.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Casondra Johnson is staying at the Dusk to Dawn shelter as she waits to get on a list for housing. She says what officer Dave Clark and other EPD staff did to serve meals to the west Eugene homeless community is "amazing."

Casondra Johnson has been homeless in Eugene since she arrived five months ago. She currently stays in the Dawn to Dawn shelter operated by St. Vincent de Paul. She walked over to eat a holiday meal here at the Eugene Service Station and said she thinks it’s amazing that police take the time to do this for the homeless community.

“To me it just shows that they have compassion by trying to help anyway they can,” she said.

Every man and woman sitting in this day center has a story. After Johnson ate her tray of turkey, caramelized carrots, mashed potatoes with gravy, rolls and pie, she shared a little about her life. Homelessness, she said, has been a direct result of grief.

“I came from Texas after my son passed away when he was 29 and so I’m just trying to get myself together with that. I just had to go after he passed and that brought me here,” she said.

Casondra Johnson close up.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Casondra Johnson is homeless and in grief after her 29-year old son died from an accident. She has gratitude for the EPD members who hosted the holiday dinner Tuesday and the St. Vincent de Paul Lindholm Center staff who she "loves to death."

“I don’t know a soul,” 48 year-old Johnson admitted. “It’s rough around here to trust anyone- but the few people I know try to support me. The staff here (at Lindholm Center) is amazing. I love them to death.”

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Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
A man leaves the Lindholm Center on busy Hwy 99 N., carting his belongings after having a holiday meal hosted by Eugene Police Department.

Food for the EPD Holiday Dinner was donated by longtime supporter Bruns Apple Market and the rolls and turkeys were cooked by New Day Bakery. EPD’s Sarah Power and Ekklesia Church provided the homemade pies. Several staff made all of the caramelized carrots for the meal. The Eugene Police Foundation provided funds for food items.

The Holiday Katz.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Festive music from The Holiday Katz filled the Lindholm Center during the EPD Holiday Dinner on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

Music by The Holiday Katz filled the room with cheer.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.