Hot-lunch service to continue despite closing of Lord’s Gym

Vancouver restaurateur will prep weekday lunches for transport to Rose Village

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

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Lord’s Gym has closed its kitchen and its doors, but there won’t be any interruption in weekday hot-lunch service for needy people in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood.

Cooked lunches will still be served for free, up the block at Memorial Lutheran Church, 2700 E. 28th St., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

That’s because Vancouver chef and restaurateur Peter Dougherty, owner of Charlie’s Bistro downtown and La Bottega in Uptown Village, has taken on the job of cooking the food at his own commercial kitchens in time for lunch. Dougherty is a friend and volunteer for Gary Schneider, who for 12 years has been the driving force behind the food ministry at Lord’s Gym. That food ministry is a separate nonprofit called Angels of God.

“We were cooking all the food at the Lord’s Gym,” Schneider said. “They’re not going to allow us to do that anymore.”

But Angels of God won’t disappear, Schneider said. Instead, food will be prepared at Dougherty’s restaurants and hauled over to the usual site, Memorial Lutheran Church, in time for lunch.

“That way I can keep in touch with my people,” Schneider said. “A lot of them were pretty panicked about what would happen.”

Prepping the food at home or in some makeshift setting isn’t allowed, Schneider said; it’s got to be done according to health code. “I have to have a commercial kitchen to cook out of, to make sure it’s legal and safe,” he said.

Dougherty was unavailable for comment Thursday, but La Bottega sous chef Shane Davis confirmed that staff at his restaurant and at Charlie’s will be divvying up the new lunchtime assignment.

“We’re still working out the logistics between Charlie’s and ourselves, but we’re going to try to keep the soup kitchen going,” Davis said.

Lord’s Gym has recently been serving hot meals to as many as 2,000 people monthly, lead cook Violet Adams has said. Weekends and dinners have yet to be worked out, but Schneider said he’s glad to know that at the very least, weekday lunches will still be are covered.

Angels of God’s popular produce giveaways will continue too, Schneider added. They’ll be Fridays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Fourth Plain Baptist Church, also nearby, at 2400 East Fourth Plain Blvd.

To keep it all going, Schneider said, he’s borrowing some friends’ commercial freezers, and he’s got some super-efficient coolers of his own too.

Also helping out is homeless ministry and drop-in center Friends of the Carpenter, which has lots of warehouse space near the Port of Vancouver.

Angels of God “needed a place to store some of their equipment,” said Friends of the Carpenter executive director the Rev. Duane Sich. “We don’t have the space to operate the equipment, but we can store it and help them protect it so they can reassemble it back into service. It’s a stop-gap measure.

“We like to cooperate with all our local service providers,” Sich said. “We very much respect and appreciate what they’re doing. Collaboration is really what makes our safety net work.”

Money pit

Earlier this fall, Lord’s Gym officials said their building has turned into a money pit. The building’s owner, the New Life Friends Church, unhappily decided to end its outreach to needy people at the end of October, and focus instead on fixing its facilities.

Lord’s Gym director Jamie Kingsbury has said the building faces $300,000 in critical needs like a new roof, a new parking lot, a new heat pump and new plumbing in the bathrooms. There’s an ancillary Lord’s Gym property, a recovery house on St. Johns Boulevard for men kicking addictions, that also needs a new roof, he said.

There were hefty operating costs too, Kingsbury said. It costs more than $1,000 a month to insure the gym and basketball courts that were open to and appreciated by the generally low-income neighborhood around Lord’s Gym.

All in all, Kingsbury said, it cost $10,000 a month to operate Lord’s Gym.

The New Life Friends Church membership of 60 to 70 was polled about its priorities, he said, and jettisoning everything but the church itself became the obvious choice.

“We put the cart before the horse, I guess,” Kingsbury said of the building’s overdue needs. “We’ve made no plans on how to reopen, but in our hearts we want to do something. We still want to do something.”

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