My Experience at Clay Street Table

by Teddy Siker

Since November, I have been volunteering every Saturday at Clay Street Table.

I arrive at 7:30 am and make and serve breakfast to people who are homeless and in need, staying until about 10 am to clean up afterwards.

My original motivation was to earn OES service hours. Now I go every week, even though I don’t need the hours anymore.

What made me want to volunteer so often? Partly it was the people I was serving. I had never met homeless people and talking and listening to them has been interesting for me.

The bigger reason, though, was that the director of the program, Rev. Dr. Paul Davis, asked me to be a leader there. Being a leader is a big deal. It includes managing the kitchen, assigning jobs to volunteers and cooking.

The current two main Saturday leaders at Clay Street Kitchen are named Camille and Annalee. They’re both High School seniors, which means they’ll be gone next year. My job at Clay Street Table is to learn. Because only in months am I going to replace the seniors, I must know where everything is, how to cook the food, and how to talk to the people.

Some jobs at the kitchen include cutting fruit, cooking eggs and sausage, pouring cereal, and talking with the “friends”. This is what we call the homeless people we serve.

These people have extremely hard lives living on the streets, so we do everything we can to help and try to meet all requests. To succeed in this, we always have trash bags on hand and extra food.

Paul, the director, will help me learn how to be a leader. Paul is a kind man who dedicates his time to helping those in need. His main job is to take tons of pictures and recruit volunteers like me.

Clay Street Kitchen used to be called St. Stephen’s Table because it takes place at St. Stephen’s Parish downtown near Portland State University. There’s also lunch on Tuesdays, dinners five nights a week and a food pantry that feeds people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

It started 30 years ago by women who made sandwiches. Once a month OES dorm students make dumplings and serve them at the Saturday breakfast.  

There are some practices Paul explains to the volunteers and that are listed on the Clay Street Table’s web site. They include compassionate seeing, heartfelt listening, intentional welcoming, joyful sharing, grateful receiving and cooperative building. That last one is important because Paul cares a lot about building a community.

I am both nervous and excited to become a leader. I know it will be tough and I will make mistakes, but I think I will be prepared and ready for the job. I am looking
for other OES students to join me as a leader at Clay Street Kitchen.

Hope to see you there soon.


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