Volunteers arrived at the parking lot of Santa Rosa City Hall just after the sun rose early Sunday morning to begin preparing Sonoma County’s biggest Easter brunch serving homeless people.
“We get up early and prepare all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies. … We try to make it feel like you’re at your grandma’s house on Easter,” said Kristen Ortlinghaus, who helps organize the annual buffet thrown by the SOMA Church Community, with a congregation of about 80. “This has become our tradition. It shows the love of Jesus through practice, not just preaching.”
By 10 a.m., tables were filled with ham, pasta salad, greens and fruit. Hard-boiled eggs dyed in pastel colors were scattered about. Music played in the background as people trickled over to City Hall from wherever they had slept the night before.
Ortlinghaus and her husband, Paul, the SOMA pastor, first decided to cancel their regular Easter church service and host the brunch eight years ago. It has since become an important annual event for the church, with hundreds of people showing up every year and nearly the entire congregation pitching in to help.
“It’s all about community service,” Ortlinghaus said.
Mark Dennis, who became homeless in January, said the brunch helped him feel like part of a broader community on Easter. Being homeless can be particularly hard during the holidays, he said.
“I love this; it’s helping me get out and be around people,” said Dennis, 65, as he feasted on a plate of ham, pasta salad and fresh fruit. “It’s places like this where you can see how many others are down on their luck. It’s really important to have a sense of community.”
Nearby, Carmen Trippo also sat down at a table to eat. She had just left a homeless shelter and arrived for the brunch.
“Being here, around the music and prayer, is really good for me because I can’t be with my family today,” Trippo said.
Bud Tricker, 53, who is homeless, said he came to enjoy the morning sun and get a plate of hot food.
“It’s great to have good food and be around Gospel,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ahartreports.