On a beautiful friday afternoon in May, homeless men and women from the local community made their way to their tables enjoying their hot meal at Shankle Safe Haven Shelter in Glenwood. Behind the counter, Terri LaPado stands eager to serve one of the many dishes she makes throughout the day.
“I’ve seen so many people come through here and get help to get off drugs, get themselves on their feet and get their own place,” said LaPado.
Numerous lounge chairs and couches line the inside of the shelter among rows of empty tables that would soon be filled with tired and lonely men in weathered jackets and torn jeans in search of a spot on one of the couches to curl up and watch some television; while others are lively and engaged in conversations about anything and everything.
LaPado, 58, serves as the cook behind the counter working seven days a week, avidly serving plates of chicken sandwiches with feta that was on the days’ menu. Around the room, diners voiced their appreciation, shouting “Thanks Terri, this is great!” LaPado smiled back.
After the lunch was over, LaPado sits back in the corner of the kitchen. Wearing a tattered apron and her simple brown hair tied back. Her desk arrayed with pictures and personal items to take a lunch break of her own.
Serving up to 10 to 24 people daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, LaPado said she enjoys the sense of community that brings everyone together at the shelter. Working full-time at Shankle Safe Haven for the past two years, LaPado said she enjoys the time she has spent so far. She finds working as a cook rewarding to be a part of a shelter program that is desperately needed in the Glenwood community.
LaPado gets up to serve a man new to the shelter who has just missed lunch. She promises to make him a sandwich of whatever she has left in the fridge. The man then packs his clothes in an open cubby that resembles a small school locker, to store his belongings. He returns to the couch to watch television that is provided in the room across from the dining area.
There are 16 available rooms that people can move into at the shelter for short periods of time to have a safe place to stay free from violence and the lure of alcohol and drugs while helping them transition to a more stable living environment.
Friend of LaPado, Mark Veilleux, 42, comes in once a day to the shelter for a few bananas and oranges. He greets LaPado in a enthusiastic tone. “She’s got a good heart and is an all around good person,” said Veilleux.
As a single mom, LaPado worked four jobs to raise her four children. She graduated from Chico state with a Bachelors Degree and Teachers Credential and lived in Chico for 20 years. She emitted an unexpected giddiness of excitement as she talked about how she was on the Parent-Teacher Association board and ran the talent show at her school for her kids with a big toothy grin on her face.
Making her way to Oregon in the 1970’s during the time of “people running around and living in gypsy wagons”, she continued her love of helping others everyday at the shelter.
Today, she said she finds peace by writing poetry and children’s books that she aspires to one day get published; along with her love for art by working with pastels as a sense of relaxation.
“I’m kind of like a jack of all trades. I try a lot of different things and it makes it hard for me to finish them and get somewhere and do anything with it,” said LaPado
LaPado said she takes pride in taking life day by day as she plans on working at the shelter until another opportunity arrises yet again; teaching us all that you never know where you’ll be until the moment comes. As long as you love what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.
Terri at work in the kitchen cleaning up after lunch.