Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The guests strolled down the sidewalk into Chipeta Park, looking much like the campers and transients that they were, dressed for summer, but layered for weather. They didn’t know what to expect from the invitation they had received at their various campsites.
One woman said that the word got out among the campsites that there was free food at the park. About a dozen people headed toward the pavilion where there were at least another dozen people, volunteers, waiting for them. The campers were greeted with hugs and welcomes from those who also volunteered with the Nederland Food Pantry.
A table decked out with the makings for sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, cookies and drinks awaited the visitors, who dug into the picnic with gusto. Nederland Community Presbyterian Church pastor Hansen Wendlandt, who introduced himself to the travelers, learned that a bunch of them were passing through town on the way to a Rainbow Gathering.
“This is wonderful,” said one young female. “Thank you so much. It is really kind of you guys to do this.” She also received a brand new back pack to carry her travel gear in. One young man said he was from Vermont and had been on the road for awhile. He made himself a sandwich and took a seat at the picnic table in the pavilion and chatted with Paster Wendlandt, who had come up with the idea to welcome those who were passing through Ned on their way to somewhere else.
Wendlandt said, “Many residents have legitimate concerns, because plenty of you have had bad experiences. However, many of us working on the Summer Socks & Sandwiches program also have this crazy idea that kindness actually works. It’s not easy, and it’s not automatic, and it’s not guaranteed, but the outreach programs that work best around the country rely on relationships. Our summer camper issues are not going away, so instead of hostility, let’s try to offer compassion with charity, and find solutions while engaging in each other’s lives.”
The recipients of this project were polite and grateful and the volunteers were welcoming and curious. They heard stories of adventure and hardship and they knew that those who came to the twice-a-month event wouldn’t soon forget the beneficent face of a community. And, said the volunteers, they had a good time catching up with each other and planning for next month’s Sandwiches and Socks.
The Nederland Food Pantry is open on the first and last Thursday of each month, so the Sandwiches and Socks will be open on the middle Thursdays of the summer months to fill in the gap. Members of the community are hoping this outreach service will ease some of the tension that occurs each summer when the town experiences the influx of strangers passing through.
If this event is an example of things to come, we are a step closer to peaceful coexistence and understanding.