Former New Yorker Eric McGee was ready: fried chicken in hand, plate loaded with an array of football food, and focused keenly on a projected image six by eight feet.
Yep, a front row seat for the Super Bowl.
McGee, who has been staying at Open House Ministries, was a guest of Christ Community Church in east Vancouver. The church partnered with four organizations that help the homeless for this party.
McGee is a New York Giants fan and declared, “They’re gonna win.”
“Patriots,” shouted Brittany Gardner, 13, a Discovery Middle School student.
“Don’t listen to her,” chimed in McGee’s son, Michael, 16.
Brittany and her mom, Rhonda Gardner, also are staying at Open House Ministries.
“We hope to be out next week,” Rhonda said.
Before the kickoff, Brittany declared the Super Bowl party a success. “I love it,” she said, adjusting her sock-monkey hat. “There’s so much food — and hand massages. It’s awesome.”
The hand massages were courtesy of Linda Trier, whose husband, the Rev. Orlie Trier, is pastor of the 150-member church. The congregation meets in a 10,000-square foot space at Eastridge Business Park. It’s a Lutheran church and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans provided the money for the party.
Why invite folks in shelters to a church party?
The church’s mission: “Know Christ. Show Love. Grow followers.” Member Silvia Engleson said a party fit right into the show love tenet.
Her daughter, Heidi Engleson, said church members are blessed and they vow to “return that blessing to the community. … We are here to serve.”
Heidi Engleson and Kathy White were the driving forces behind the party.
Guests were given red cloth bags full of toiletries, from soap to sewing kits to toothbrushes to even a flashlight. There was a snack bag in there, too, with candy, cocoa, granola bars, fruit snacks and more.
There were the usual bowl pools, but nobody paid anything. The party included $5 gift cards as prizes.
Church members and nine folks from shelters attended, for a crowd of nearly 50.
Christ Community Church celebrated its 10th anniversary in September and decided it would perform 10 good deeds: “Celebrate 10 with Serve 10.”
So far, there’s been a Thanksgiving feed (a partnership with DaKine’s RC’s Cafe); 90 shoeboxes of hygiene items, school supplies and small toys sent to Venezuela; a Santa’s workshop for 56 children; a giving tree for 40 children at a local school; 20 Christmas baskets for families; and a January blood drive.
As for the party, the tables were heaped with food.
“We were prepared for 100,” Orlie Trier said. He wondered if good weather kept people outdoors instead of coming to an indoor party.
Trier said he was proud of the members. He’s been a Lutheran minister for 40 years, retired in 2007 and came back a year later.
“God had other plans for me,” he said. “It’s a great congregation. A little bit of heaven.”
As he went to pick spots on the pool charts to try for a prize, Eric McGee said, “These people are great, man. God is good.”
And what happened to all that leftover chow?
“We put it in boxes and sent it home with them to the shelters,” Heidi Engleson said.
Fairway Village party
In the clubhouse miles to the south, residents of the 55-and-older east Vancouver Fairway Village community enjoyed the game, food and companionship.
“I’m a (former) New Yorker. I want the Giants,” said Richard Heydet, 78, who organized the fifth annual party. About 25 were there and Heydet said he expected a bigger turnout.
Heydet wanted to spice up the event, and since he figured nobody would like Madonna, he had his own halftime show.
That would be running a remote-controlled inflatable shark that floated around the room. Almost immediately, Heydet piloted the shark into the back of his wife’s head. Sharon Heydet didn’t mind, and the game wasn’t earth -shattering to her, either.
“The ones who are really serious are up front,” she said.
At one table, near halftime, Noreen Collins declared the game boring.
“Well, at 9-3 (a few minutes before the) end of the first half, don’t you think that sounds boring?” she asked.
She was rooting for the Patriots but said, “I’m really a Steelers fan.”
She grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and in Erie, Pa., which she called, “the mistake by the lake.”
Collins said Fairway Village is a wonderful place to live because of “golf and friends.”
‘I did have a hole-in-one once,” she explained. That was in 1999 or 2000 on the sixth hole of the nine-hole course.
The development started in 1982 and has 824 residences over 250 acres.
Heydet said it’s great for golfers as residents can pay $500 and golf their fill for a year.
As for living in the village, he said he loves it and added, “Only way to go.”
Dave Kern: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-735-4534.