Blanchet House celebrates 63 years of service

By The Beacon | February 11, 2015 4:56pm

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Maggie Hannon |

 

When volunteering at the Blanchet House, one cannot help but feel the warm hospitality of the organization. During lunch the new facility is filled with sunshine coming through the large windows. Meanwhile the men living at the Blanchet House, working towards recovery, serve side-by-side with the other volunteers.

Volunteering alongside these men is one of the things that stood out most to junior Savannah Powell.

“You go downtown, you volunteer at some places and there are just volunteers,” Powell said. “I think it’s a really cool opportunity to volunteer side-by-side with people that actually live there.”

Sophomore Dorian Pacheco was a student coordinator for the Urban Policy Immersion, which took place in January. As part of their direct service, students on the immersion spent their early morning working in the Blanchet House. According to Pacheco, what sets the House apart from other facilities is that people who receive food get the feel of an actual dining experience like at a casual restaurant.

“It’s really awesome because it’s super well-lit, and you have these wooden tables and people actually come and serve you coffee and you have table numbers,” Pacheco said. “I feel like that is quite a bit different from simply lining up and getting a tray of food.”

The Blanchet House, which was founded by eight UP alumni in 1952, celebrated its 63rd anniversary on Feb. 11.

In 2012, the Blanchet House raised over $13 million dollars to build a new four-story building on the corner of NW 3rd and Glisan Street. The new kitchen, dining and living areas received Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Platinum honors as a sustainable facility.

This year marks the first time the Blanchet House will celebrate its anniversary. Because the building is much bigger than their previous facility, the Board has come to learned how to use the new space.

“[It] took some time as a board to understand what it meant to have this new building,” Rich Ulring, who is on the board of directors for the Blanchet House, said.

UP Vice President Laurie Kelly once served on the Board of Directors for the Blanchet House. She takes pride in all the work that the organization has done throughout their history.

“I’m really proud of the work I was able to do at the Blanchet House,” Kelley said. “It’s sort of overwhelming what they have been able to accomplish, really on the backs of a lot of volunteers, for decades. It’s just a tribute to the people that started it in the first place.”

Pacheco thinks it is important continue the University’s tradition of service at the Blanchet House.

“UP students did start it a couple decades ago,” Pacheco said. “So I think it’s really important to continue that legacy with UP’s involvement in the places that it starts.”

These days, with the help of about 5,000 volunteers annually, the Blanchet House’s mission is “to feed, clothe, and offer shelter and aid to those in need.”

University students continue to volunteer at the Blanchet House today. Even though there is not a campus volunteer coordinator for this location, students have volunteered at the kitchen on their own and during Moreau Center immersion trips. With the help of current Board member Emily Harrington, UP nursing students also provided free vaccinations at the Blanchet House in October.

Powell has not only served food at the Blanchet House, but she worked with another nursing student and gave tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and flu shots for free to those who did not have health insurance.

“It’s kind of cool to get a lot of experience all at once,” Powell said. “From a skill standpoint it was really awesome, and also the community aspect. It was really awesome to work within the community.”

Ulring said volunteers and those receiving food each get something out of their experiences at the Blanchet House.

“(It’s) a gift to give back,” he said. “And be grateful for what you have.” Maggie Hannon is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at hannon15@up.edu.

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