West Oakland Churches and Motorcycle Clubs Provide Food and Fellowship to Homeless

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Pastor Lawrence VanHook, (right) Community Church of West Oakland with motorcycle club members China Dawson, Divas to Die For Motorcycle Club, Gene Gilliam, Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club. Pastor Charles Hopkins, Grace Baptist, and Champagne Ellison. Kynight Riders at Mandela Parkway blocked off between Target's parking lot and 34th street as they serve Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Carla Thomas.

Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church hosted a holiday Thanksgiving meal and giveaway on 12th street between Adeline and Magnolia in West Oakland on a bright and sunny Sunday. November 24,2019.

Dozens of church volunteers, led by Pastor Anthony Jenkins, Sr. and First Lady Valerie Jenkins, served a hot meal to hundreds of guests. Seated at 10 circular tables in the church dining hall, people from all walks of life engaged in fellowship over a full Thank s- giving meal of turkey, ham, dressing, macaroni and cheese, yams, salad and rolls.

Pastor Anthony Jenkins. Sr. with his son Cartier Jenkins. Jermaine Jenkins and daughter Alaya Jenkins serving the community with Thanksgiving dinner, clothing, and boxed groceries at their church. Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in West Oakland. Photo by Carla Thomas.

More than 300 bags of groceries filled with dry goods and items such as canned tuna, canned chicken, boxed macaroni and cheese, as well as other items were also distributed.

“We were prepared to feed thousands.” Jenkins said. “We care about the community and everyone deserves to have food, clothing, and dignity.”

Dining the holiday season it’s common for churches to distribute food. However, it was what took place at the rear of the church and in the parking lot that made this event unique.

A mobile unit provided by Lavamae Organization gave 10 people the opportunity’ to shower throughout the day. A rack packed with free clothing was available to anyone in need of a warm coat, hat or pants. Also free haircuts courtesy of Kutz Barber “Snoop” and Dilema’s Barber Shop were given to 30 people.

On the other side of West Oakland on Mandela Parkway, the street was blocked off from the Target parking lot to 34th street where a combination of churches and motorcycle clubs came together to feed the needy.

Positioned just outside a tough shed homeless encampment were eight decorated, rectangular tables and a full buffet staffed by volunteers of Oakland’s Community Chinch, Grace Baptist Church and Corinthian Church.

‘It’s important for the community to know that we care and we will begin to feed the homeless and underserved regularly.” said Pastor Lawrence VanHook of Community Church.

The Divas to Die for Motorcycle Chub, KynightRiders Motorcycle Club, and the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Clubs also participated. Some of the motorcycle chapter members traveled from as far away as Sacramento and Modesto.

KynightRiders Motorcycle Club of Oakland’s President Champagne Ellison said, ‘Without us helping collectively, these families are suffering. We spend so much time getting excited about a holiday that we can afford, but what about those who can’t? We wake up in the morning with our Christmas and shopping lists, and we forget about the ones that can’t

do that and it’s heartbreaking.

‘Tm excited to be here enjoying family and friends while feeding those in need,” said Kynight Riders Motorcycle Club member, LaToya Herron.

When a resident of the adjacent homeless encampment, Tamela Adams, finished her meal, she gathered her to-go plate for later and paused in her tracks. With tears in her eyes, she expressed her gratitude to volunteers before walking through the gates of where she has called home the past month.

“I live here with one of my three sons and have been displaced for nearly nine years,” she said of the city-sanctioned encampment behind her.

“Thank you for being here and putting us first,” she said.

“That’s what it’s all about, said Gene Gilliam, president of the Oakland Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle

Club. Gilliam, a retired veteran of 33 years in the U.S. Army says he was proud to serve his country’ but feels joy serving his community.

“We want people to be shown that they are loved and cared about,” said Gil­liam. “When the Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. Army served the country beginning in 1844, they were called The Colored Troopers. From that time on, our people (Blacks/ African Americans) have al­ways shown how much they love their country and its people. Our motorcycle club just carries that tradition on – but we don’t discriminate by color, we care about ev­eryone regardless of color. Instead of just dropping off food, we sit, eat and talk with them (the homeless), and ex­tend our family and brother­hood.”

“It’s always wonderful to see grassroots efforts from the goodness of their hearts, to make sure our most vul­nerable residents who are un­sheltered have a wonderful holiday,” said Brigitte Cook, senior constituent liaison, for Oakland District 3 Council­woman Lynette McElhaney.

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