Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. — Hebrews 13:2, King James Bible
Bob Christenson is one of a cadre of volunteers who have been “entertaining strangers” for about two decades by serving as welcoming hosts for an overflow shelter program for the homeless.
Because the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter is not large enough to accommodate everyone in need, the 12 members of the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless take monthlong turns providing homeless people — primarily families and single women — with a place to sleep.
The program operates under the umbrella of CAPSLO — the Community Action Partnership — which screens participants and provides cots, bedding and breakfast.
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Christenson, a career Naval officer, began volunteering in the early 1990s, when his church, Mt. Carmel Lutheran, signed on to be part of the program.
“Once I had served overnight a couple of times, I just kind of got a heart for it,” he said.
In 1993, he became the overflow shelter coordinator for Mt. Carmel — a position he held until recently, when he passed the duties on to other church members so that he and his wife, Mary, would have more time to travel to visit their children and grandchildren.
Bob continues to serve as shelter host — two volunteers are needed every night — not only at his church, but also at others that may be short of volunteers. He also assists with fundraising; he recently helped coordinate a benefit performance for the Maxine Lewis Shelter by the County Band, and he serves on the Homeless Services Advisory Council.
“Bob never says no,” said Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for CAPSLO. “Bob is kind, gentle and supportive with all of our staff, clients and volunteers with a firm boundary.”
Christenson, 77, is pragmatic; he recognizes that temporary shelter programs aren’t going to change lives overnight.
So, he focuses on helping one night at a time, one family at a time.
His philosophy: “I believe that a community is judged on the effort it makes to provide for the least fortunate in that community. You need only look at a few-months-old baby, who with its mother or mother and father, is homeless to realize how great is the need to provide.”
For “entertaining strangers” with love, patience and kindness, The Tribune is proud to recognize Bob Christenson and his fellow volunteers with the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless as unsung heroes.