December 15 will be remembered in the Portland metro area as one of the worst traffic nightmares in decades, as drivers reported commutes of 4, 5, and 6 hours on icy roads.
But Wednesday, December 15 will go down in the annals of Jesuit High School as the launch of a days-long run of Christmas miracles. On Wednesday, as the roads shut down in glaze-covered gridlock, a few dozen JHS students and staff members stuck around school, boxing the mountains of food in the Gedrose Center, under the masterful direction of our Christian Service leaders, Scott Powers and Andrea Casey.
Many students who live far from school ended up at the homes of closer-in friends, and a few families even came back to school Wednesday evening to pack boxes of food and to take home the “orphans of the storm.” By 9:20 pm Wednesday, the last of the students had found refuge for the night, and a few of us decided to crash at school so that we could get back to packing on Thursday morning.
Thursday, December 16 brought the first of the food drive miracles. With school out for a snowday, we weren’t sure if enough drivers would show up to bring the food to 380 needy families. At 8 am, in walked the Porter girls, and they started packing. Molly ’17, Olivia ’20 and mom Michele were the front edge of a tsunami of students, parents, and alums who responded throughout the morning and early afternoon to our call for drivers.
My favorite story from that inspiring day: When seniors Cami Parham, Kylie Rice, Claire Corbitt, and Hannah Malin arrived where they were to deliver food, they headed to apartment number 1 in Building 1. When she saw the boxes brimming with abundance, the elderly resident fought back tears, hugged the girls and said, “I thought I may have signed up, but I couldn’t remember. Bless you, girls!”
Before heading back home, the girls double-checked that they had gone to the right apartment. It turns out, alas, that they had not: they were supposed to deliver at apartment 1 in Building 2! So they headed to Safeway, purchased two boxes of food (with the help of a JHS mom’s debit card!), and delivered the food to the right address. That, folks, is called being “women for others.”
Amazingly enough, we had the Gedrose Center cleared on time for the alumni food drive to move in on Thursday afternoon. The snow and ice, however, had not cleared, and thus new challenges arose: The fork lift needed to lift dozens of pallets of food was stranded on the east side, as were several crucial building blocks of the alumni food boxes (milk, turkeys, potatoes). Gradually, all the food arrived, and the race was on (again!).
If you have never seen the alumni food drive, you are missing one of the man-made wonders of the world. The vast expanse of the Gedrose Center fills with 1800 empty boxes, which need to be filled by hundreds of volunteers.
The next miracle occurred on Friday, December 16. With school again out of session due to icy conditions, heroes of the Jesuit universe again poured onto campus. Says alumni director Kathy Baarts, “Friday was a day of so many miracles. All the food finally got here—and so many people showed up! It never ceases to amaze me the way this community comes together, especially when the chips are down. I was really worried that we would not be able to get the food out to our families. But after the past three days, I now have faith that this community will again show up tomorrow (Saturday) and get the job done!”
So there you have it, JHS: We have one more chance to make the miracle happen. Starting at 7:30 am on Saturday, fueled by pancakes and coffee, the Jesuit community will convene. Four-wheel drives will line up at the flagpole, be filled with food, and head to the four corners of our city to bring sustenance and hope to thousands of our hungry brothers and sisters.
And on Sunday, we rest.
Merry Christmas, y’all!
Paul J. Hogan
on Saturday December 17, 2016