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Rising from Ashes 

Historic church gives thanks by giving back

Group of Family Kitchen volunteers.

Brian Jennings

Group of Family Kitchen volunteers.

It was early in the morning on March 7, 2013. Parishioners of Trinity Episcopal Church, at 469 NW Wall Street near downtown Bend, stood behind yellow crime scene tape viewing their church, which the previous evening had been torched by an arsonist. They were devastated.

A second church building, St. Helen's Hall, housing the Family Kitchen, which feeds nearly 60,000 meals to the homeless and less fortunate each year, also sustained damage but was able to continue operation. The Family Kitchen has served the Bend community for 27 years.

When the smoke cleared and the sun rose the next morning, the crosses at the top of the church building and in the sanctuary were still standing. Church officials vowed that all things would turn out well and that damages to the landmark building, which was built in 1918 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, would fade into memory. While the arson case has not been solved, things are looking up at Trinity Episcopal. Many will say things have turned out very well.

For retired Priest Celine Burke and church Outreach Chair Sylvie DeKalb, it was difficult to comprehend the extent of the damage to the two properties, which was estimated at about $4 million. That dark moment in church history has been replaced by new optimism and energy at Trinity Episcopal. The main church sanctuary has been refurbished, and it's been worship as usual since December 2014.

Next door at St. Helen's Hall, the Family Kitchen sustained less damage. Today, it's a beehive of activity as more than a dozen volunteers busily prepare an evening meal for Bend's less fortunate. St. Helen's Hall also regularly hosts meetings for community groups and agencies. According to Burke, the building was purchased to serve as "a community meeting space" and groups such as AA, Al-Anon, Lutheran Social Services, and many others use the building on a consistent basis.

This week the energy of parishioners and staff is focused on the church's annual boutique and bake sale. Hundreds of handcrafted items from knitting and quilting to woodworking items and baked goods are offered for sale. All money is donated to several nonprofit organizations. For DeKalb and Burke, it's the church's way, in part, of giving back to the community that supported it after the devastating fire.

One of the benefactors of the fundraiser is a program that sends children of incarcerated parents to summer camps at Ascension Camp and Conference Center in the Grande Ronde Valley, at Cove, Oregon, near the Wallowa Mountains. Other organizations such as the Latino Community Association and St. Vincent de Paul are also beneficiaries of the annual sale, which is scheduled this year for Saturday, November 21, from 10 am to 3 pm.

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