Jerry McCord Jr. was an aspiring DJ in Chicago before he moved to Southern Nevada seven years ago. He said he’s been homeless half that time.
He finds solace, however, in the dining room of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 43 W. Pacific Ave., where he sits with other homeless residents and has a meal prepared by Henderson nonprofit Friends In The Desert.
“One of my friends who used to live here told me about this place,” McCord said. “They’re so good to us.”
McCord is one of the about 100 homeless people who line up by the church six days a week for nourishment. For nearly 20 years, Friends In The Desert has been serving meals to those in need, or as operations manager Muriel Dufendach calls them, “my family.”
For the first time, Friends In The Desert is looking for volunteers to help serve its family.
The nonprofit plans an open house from 2-4 p.m. May 6 at the church, where groups, families, companies or schools can see what the members do.
“I get a lot of calls, especially around the holidays,” board member Donna Coleman said of people looking to volunteer. “We’re not set up like that. We have families, groups, companies that have their own programs, so you can’t just put people in there (with them) because they have their own routine.
“What we’re trying to do with this open house is educate people on how you could come to this and really see what it would take to do it.”
The nonprofit served about 40,000 meals last year, Coleman said, and it costs about $400 to make meals for 100 people, including food, utensils and drinks. Most food donations have come from Albertson’s grocery stores.
During a recent visit to the church, twelve tables were lined up across the dining room. People started showing up at the church about 4 p.m., and doors opened at 4:30 .
Dufendach recognizes many of the regulars. One woman has a dog that Dufendach has never seen before. Another woman brings a cat with her every day. A mother brings her 6-month-old baby.
“We’ve known them since before he was born,” Dufendach said.
While Dufendach is mainly the greeter, she also checks if they’re sober. She wants to keep the dining experience peaceful and friendly.
“If they can’t behave,” she said, “I tell them they have to sit outside. It gets packed in here.”
On this particular day, the kitchen volunteers are preparing a picnic meal — hamburgers and macaroni salad and watermelon. Volunteers will also provide Tylenol or Advil to guests if needed. As the prepping nears its end, volunteers lead a prayer before serving the meal.
“Even if someone wanted to do it once a year, once a quarter, we need the help,” Coleman said.
McCord appreciates the meals. Before digging into his hamburger, he takes a sip of his black cherry soda and looks out one of the windows.
A smile comes across his face.
“I can’t give up,” he said. “I’ve come this far, suffering so much; I can’t give up on life.”
View More photos by Christian Lee in the RJ Article (CLICK HERE)
Contact Danny Webster at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-477-3834. Follow @DannyWebster21 on Twitter.