When a homeless man in downtown Portland was given one of the food packets inspired by Linda (Edwards) Drury (MA05), he broke down crying. The reaction was spawned when the donor, as she placed it in his hands, told him it also contained a “love letter from Jesus” she had written on the enclosed card.
Drury, a critical care nurse in Vancouver, Wash., was the indirect donor and the inspiration for the packet. Someone else had purchased it to distribute, adding the personal note on the enclosed card. It was one of nearly 6,000 packets distributed to the homeless and needy last year in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington through Life Pax, created by Drury in 2005.
The endeavor is the result of a class in social justice at George Fox Evangelical Seminary while Drury was working toward her degree in Christian ministry. Even before that she had started handing out food packets instead of cash to homeless people she encountered. The purpose of Life Pax is “to decrease monetary handouts, feed the hungry and share the love of Christ one meal at a time,” Drury says.
Now others have incorporated the idea and hundreds, including members of 11 Northwest churches, are helping to prepare, purchase and distribute the packets. Drury and her husband, Richard, store supplies for the organization in their garage.
Each packet contains a high-protein bar, a trail mix bar, a six-pack of peanut butter and crackers, a box of vitamin-fortified 100 percent fruit juice, a Life Pax encouragement card, an urgent contact/social service resource card, and one sandwich-sized resealable plastic bag.
Church youth groups and Christian school students assemble the packets, with the ingredients purchased in bulk from Costco. It’s the placement of cards in the packets that make the Life Pax program unique. They are localized by the sponsoring churches and carry notes of encouragement along with names of area social services, practical resource agencies, and churches to which the recipients can turn for assistance. It’s the element of Christian outreach that keeps Drury and others motivated. “I believe the Lord really leads this,” she says. “If even one is reached for Christ, isn’t that what it’s really for, the real goal?”
Each packet costs just under $2 for the ingredients. Drury expects as many as 8,000 will be prepared and distributed in 2014. Life Pax is now a nonprofit organization with no paid employees. It uses donations to help keep the packet cost under $2 and to fund overhead expenses for printing, packaging and projected price increases.
Drury, who has worked for Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center since it opened in 1984, enrolled at the seminary to fulfill her interest in chaplaincy work. She is helping develop the chaplaincy program at her Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, and also hopes to expand her role as a volunteer in the Clark County Trauma Intervention Program when she retires in a few years.