CGS had the opportunity in June to host the Silicon Valley Safe Park (SVSP), joining an existing group of other churches and organizations in the South Bay that rotate hosting on a monthly basis. The experience was a blessing for both our congregation and the guests. I personally was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from this congregation, and we heard from the guests that they felt the same. Over 35 CGS individual/family volunteers and staff were involved, checking in on our guests, providing at least one meal every day of the month (both breakfast and dinner most days), or donating toiletries, snacks, and beverages.
The large number of volunteers helped make these services possible and made the guests feel welcome in a space that was their home for the month. One guest told us active involvement from volunteers was unique to CGS, and it went a long way towards making them feel welcomed and cared for. Guests also told us stories about CGS members taking the time to converse with them and to get to know them. We had a cooler outside with beverages, and one of the guests told us that on hot days, some CGS volunteers would move drinks from the cooler to the fridge, put new cold beverages in the cooler, and then come back to switch them again. These little acts of kindness and consideration on top of everything else really demonstrated to our guests that we cared about them.
For the volunteers, it was a wonderful way to stay active and engaged in our community, and gave us a strong sense of purpose during a time when many of us feel untethered by the lack of our usual activities and commitments. CGS folks had the pleasure of getting to know some of the guests (in person!), and to hear their stories. Some of them work odd hours or long hours, some of them are unemployed, and some of them are students. They have pets and extended families they care deeply about. They still faced many stressful challenges in their day-to-day lives, including trying to figure out where to shower, how to stay cool on 90+ degree days, and where to do laundry.
We also learned some lessons and gained some more insight that we will use to make October an even greater success. Pastor Manda, Sarah Janigian, Kevin and I will be discussing what we learned in June, and what changes we might make for October (which we assume will be similar to June in terms of the pandemic). If you volunteered and have suggestions for us, let us know! If you didn’t volunteer, and have suggestions for us, we want to hear from you, too! It was really wonderful to have so many of you at CGS involved, and we look forward to working with you all again in just a few months!