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New Life Ministry

Portland Rescue Mission Personal Perspective: Eva Calcagno

My name is Eva Calcagno and I’ve been volunteering to plan, cook, and serve dinners at Shepherd’s Door for four years. I work with a team of people from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Southwest Portland. We started serving at the Burnside Mission once a month and then added Shepherd’s Door. We cooked 6 times a year, but in 2022 increased to 10 dinners a year. I am a retired librarian, mother of two grown sons, and have lived in Portland for 30+ years.

What inspired or prompted you to volunteer with the Portland Rescue Mission?

St. Barnabas has long had a mission focused on feeding people — feed the body, feed the soul! We offered a monthly community dinner, collected food for the local food bank, people served at Loaves and Fishes, and so on. A few years back we had some speakers from Portland Rescue Mission talk to us at a Holiday Tea and we were inspired to add PRM to our parish outreach. Many of our members are women so serving at Shepherd’s Door was particularly appealing. We love the idea of supporting women through their recovery journey and encouraging them as they take control of their lives. They are inspiring to watch!

Pictured is Eva Calcagno (front kneeling) with the team from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

What has been an impactful moment you have experienced or witnessed while serving?

A year or so ago, I saw a Facebook post from PRM featuring a lovely young woman and her son, and a poem she had written about her experience at SD. As I read it, I realized that I knew her! She was one of the women who had worked with us in the kitchen the previous year. She had asked us to pray for her as she was hoping to regain custody of her son. She had absolutely transformed! She looked healthy, strong, confident, beautiful, radiant! You could truly see that the program had changed her inside and out. And, she was reunited with her son. Yeah!

How have you grown or changed through volunteering?

I certainly have developed a deeper compassion for people who have experienced homelessness, addiction, and domestic abuse. I know that some of the women at SD aren’t much different than me, but life has presented them with circumstances that I have never known.  I now think more seriously about my Christian duty to befriend the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner.

What has it meant to you personally to connect with the guests and participants at PRM?

It has given me time to reflect more on my own faith journey. I feel humbled by the momentous changes these women make. My life has been pretty easy. I am very fortunate. Our team always talks about how energized we feel when we leave SD at the end of a shift.

What would you say to encourage others who may be interested in volunteering?

“Here I am Lord!” That’s the answer we are supposed to have when God calls us! Right? Just volunteer and let the Spirit guide you.  Our church started small – just 6 dinners a year, anyone can do that! We have teams of 4-6 people; so find 4 friends.

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