My name is Brian Bliss and I am the Culinary Specialist at Hospitality House. I’m in charge of preparing and serving comforting and nutritious meals for approximately 90 men, women and children daily. Last fiscal year, our humble shelter kitchen put out 77,480 meals. Luckily, I have help from amazing volunteers, from the community and from the shelter itself. Guests at Utah’s Place, Hospitality House’s emergency homeless shelter, will sometimes choose to become “caretakers,” meaning that they take on chores around the shelter such as cooking, dishwashing, laundering and cleaning to help with our day-to-day operations. One such guest, who has been invaluable help to me in the kitchen, is Memphis.

Shortly after Memphis first entered the shelter he lost his full-time job. He had struggled to be consistent and prompt and his employer had no choice but to let him go. As soon as he settled in at Utah’s Place, he began helping me out in the kitchen. When I asked about his qualifications, Memphis shared that he had some experience working in kitchens and would like to learn more from me. He soon proved to be a quick learner and dedicated helper, taking on the task of making most of the door lunches (40-plus per day). As we work side by side, he talks about wanting to be of service and contributing where he can. His heart is in the right place.

The time I’ve spent with Memphis has taught me that sometimes guests struggle in certain work settings, but still have a lot to offer. It appears that within the fold of the shelter, where he isn’t judged and social skills are not as critical, Memphis thrives. He can take his time making meals, with no pressure from time constraints. He is comfortable and his self-confidence is growing with each new task he masters. Memphis feels good about himself and the contribution he makes to the community around him.

This time in the kitchen has reminded me that it’s easy for us to see someone struggling with a 9 to 5 job and assume them to be unemployable, but Memphis is proof that given the right circumstances, people can surprise you with their level of commitment and skill development. I feel confident that, as he grows in this caretaker role, he will be able to identify the kind of work environment where he will be successful. If you’d like to double the positive impact you can have on Memphis and those, like him, who are working their way back to permanent housing, please consider donating today. Because of the generosity of two local donors, every donation made through May 31, up to $30,000, will be doubled. That means your donation of $75 becomes $150, providing a mother and her child with shelter, hot showers, nourishing meals, clothing, and case management support designed to get them back into a permanent home. Imagine the number of lives that can change with that kind of support!

Another way to help our homeless community is to volunteer with Hospitality House. Though caretaker helpers like Memphis are wonderful, I am still in urgent need of help and would love to work with you in the shelter kitchen! Please apply here to get started. In addition to our wishlist below, in the kitchen we need breakfast cereal (unopened and not expired), forks, spoons and dishwasher-safe plastic glasses.

On the topic of volunteers, I’d like to express gratitude to Hospitality House’s amazing volunteers who helped out this week: Hilary Dart and Kathy Perkins helped by grocery shopping for the shelter. Bill Blount and George Dunstan provided spiritual support at Sierra Guest Home. A special thanks also to our partners for providing ongoing food and/or financial support: SPD Markets, BriarPatch Food Co-op, Telestream, Interfaith Food Ministry, the Bishop Store (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nevada City) and Food Bank of Nevada County. To everyone who donated our most needed items last week, thank you as well! We are incredibly grateful to all of you who give your time, energy and compassion to those who need it most.

Now down to the shelter’s wish list of the week:

  • Twin-size blankets
  • New pillows (we are unable to accept used)
  • Men’s and women’s sweatpants (all sizes) and jeans (smaller sizes only for jeans)
  • Men’s and women’s winter coats, jackets and hoodies (all sizes)
  • Bottled water

DONATION HOURS AND DROPOFF LOCATION: Donations from our needs list above and all unexpired/store-bought foods are accepted at Utah’s Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30am – 3:30pm and Saturdays from 10am – 2pm. Our shelter is located at 1262 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. We greatly appreciate the community’s help at such times of uncertainty. In the words of Utah Phillips, “If we all stick together, we’ll get what we need.” Thank you!


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