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LO teens overcome fear to help homeless

Food Everybody Deserves is a teen-founded group that members use their own funds to support

SUBMITTED PHOTO: LIBBY NEWCOMER - Members of Food Everybody Deserves include (from left): top row, Ryan Seaman, Grant Donaldson, Lauren Wagner, Montana Rynties, Mishri Daga and Reed Sandblast; bottom row,  Sophie Croome, Galen Miller, Joe Seaman, Ward Kirschbaum and Payton Olson. (Not pictured are: Scarlett Andrews, Ivan Sinkus, Graham Kang, Jacques DeBar, Sid Daga, Chase Cumberland, Tyler Voelske, Slimm Hudson, and Evan Newman.)Joe Seaman and Reed Sandblast didn’t know they were about to change lives when they were brainstorming for their confirmation group project at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Parish a couple of years ago.

They simply knew it was an important step to take to be confirmed in their church, located on A Avenue in Lake Oswego. They also knew the project had to benefit the community, and that they had to try something new — and take a risk.

“The whole point of the project is to do something you’ve not really done before,” Seaman says.

Seaman and Sandblast decided they wanted to do more than help a couple of people; they wanted to help lots of people who were in dire need. They aren’t sure how they settled on the idea, but it came to them that they could make sandwiches and hand them to homeless people in downtown Portland. That was in February 2014.

The two were 16-year-old sophomores at Lake Oswego High School then; they needed adults to transport them. And they say they were terrified when they walked up to their first group of homeless people under a bridge to deliver the sandwiches.

“My knees were shaking,” Sandblast says.

Seaman recalls one man asking them what they wanted.

“He was like, ‘What are you guys doing over here? You’re in the wrong area,’” Seaman says. “And we were like, ‘Actually, we’re here to give you some sandwiches.’ And he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, thanks. Hey guys, they brought some sandwiches.’ Not word for word, but something like that.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - Food Everybody Deserves members approach groups of homeless people and hand out sandwiches.

The project took off from there. The food had such an impact on the people they met, Seaman says, that the teens founded a secular school club, Food Everybody Deserves, in fall 2015.

“You can be religious or not religious,” Sandblast says. “It doesn’t matter. You can come. We are just here to help people.”

Sandblast says it has been “a really cool experience” to give food to hungry, homeless people. “The best part is seeing their reactions when they get the food,” he says.

Now Seaman and Sandblast are graduating seniors who have distributed 1,700 meals through their club. At 18 years old and with driver’s licenses in hand, the pair now can drive themselves to meal distributions, and participants use whatever funds they have to keep the club going.

“Some of us have jobs; some of it’s just from allowance. But it’s out of our own pockets,” Seaman says.

Club members don’t give money directly to homeless people, and the teens go out in groups of no less than five people. The club has about 10-20 core attendees and about 80 members on its roster.

Club member Ward Kirschbaum, an LOHS senior, says at first he was nervous, having never interacted with homeless people before. But then he understood that they’re not so different from him.

“They’re just normal people, like you are,” Kirschbaum says.

The first time the club distributed food was impromptu; they prepared 50 sandwiches and quickly ran out. Now, they make about 150-200 sandwiches for their semi-monthly forays, Kirschbaum says.

“It’s truly amazing what these guys have done, and it’s truly an inspiration,” says LOHS senior Armand Alija, a friend of Seaman and Sandblast.

Sandblast says the group initially headed to Costco for cheese and meat, and the group still makes a shopping run the day before a distribution. But Seaman says peanut butter and jelly is the quicker, easier way to go for the group these days.

“It’s more efficient, and we can reach out to more people,” Seaman says.

He and Sandblast expect to wear a cap and gown this June. But he says he hopes this effort to treat homeless people with dignity will remain a staple at the high school, long after he, Sandblast, Kirschbaum and the others are gone.

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..