All-day party for homeless

OLYMPIA - McDonald's was closed on Christmas Day. For Nancy Mohler, who is homeless, that meant losing access to her daily source of hot water.

But this Christmas, Reality Church opened its downtown Olympia location for a daylong holiday party for homeless people and families. The event included movies all day on a big screen, plenty of couches and movie-style seating, a spread of snacks and coffee, and a Christmas turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

“They are approaching me and offering me friendship and fellowship,” Mohler said. “If I weren’t here, I’d be traveling around, feeling lonely. For them to come out of their homes on Christmas, it’s awesome.”

The event was organized by church member Cody Simmons, as well as Anna and Paul Brown, organizers of Help 4 Hard Times, an group that helps homeless young people.

Anna Brown of Rochester said she and Simmons both have experienced the hardship of being homeless on Christmas Day. Organizations that are open for dinner offer a place to sit for a few hours of the day, leaving those without shelter with nowhere else to go before and after dinner.

“There’s nothing to do but go to sleep in the car,” Brown said. “So, it was (Simmons’) dream to have an all-day Christmas for people with no family or anywhere else to go.”

Anyone was welcome, and the volunteers distributed fliers at organizations and locations that serve the homeless. But many people learned through word of mouth.

The event drew volunteers from within and outside the church to give up some of their Christmas Day to prepare and organize.

Volunteer Maria Oster of Lacey said she learned about the event through a chance encounter with Anna Brown, and she and her mother jumped at the chance to help out.

This week, her brother, sister and father all decided to pitch in on Christmas Day.

“They wanted to stay together with us and help out, too,” she said. “I made Christmas plans, and I’m still going to keep them, but just do them a bit later.”

Brian Ewell, a Camp Quixote resident, said that having nowhere to go during the holidays is stressful, especially when the nights have been as cold as they have been at times this month.

“It’s one of the better Christmases I’ve had in a long time,” he said.

“There’s food everywhere. Gifts. How can you make it any better?”

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445