Food, Portland, Social Work

Neighborly Love: Bake America Great Again

December 18, 2016

Hey friends, after last year’s successful Bake Sale for Refugees, Portland bakers and bloggers and local businesses are coming together for a repeat to Bake America Great Again. All proceeds this year go to Portland’s Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), a 40 year old nonprofit known for welcoming and caring for new neighbors in our city.

If you’re in the area, come buy terrific homemade treats enter the fantastic raffle and show solidarity with our neighbors who have come to call this land their home: Sunday 12/18/16 from 6-9pm at Pip’s Original in NE Portland.

Bake America Great Again Bake Sale

P. S. I’m contributing homemade Creamy Eggnog Fudge.

Super rich: be warned.


It’s not all sweets and festive thoughts, though. I know.

Honestly, I’m overwhelmed these days.

I hear refugee stories from half a world away and my heart breaks. I hear the plight of my neighbors here in Portland and wonder what’s to come.

Maybe it’s exhaustion of motherhood, maybe it’s my humanity, but when I find myself watching videos like the ones below and literally shaking in my armchair with tears running down my cheeks, I wonder how on earth I can meet the horrors of the world with tangible hope.


I think about the broken limbs of the Syrian family tree.

I consider the plight of young families with tiny children bobbling their way through dark waters.

I think about my own family history and wonder about the long path others walked so I could live a life of ease in North America.


Growing up, I often heard family lore about my great-grandpa, Papou, who immigrated from Greece near the turn of the 20th century at 19 years old with $100 and hope in his pocket.

Banking on his older brother’s stories, he departed his little village of Istiaia on the island of Evia, leaving the rest of his extended family behind as he traveled west across the Atlantic on a steamer ship.

It wasn’t an easy American Dream, yet despite the tarring and feathering, the vandalized bake shop, the harsh treatment by some fearful Americans…despite all that, the two Greek brothers settled into life as Americans in the United States, moving from the violent discrimination in Utah to seek a more peaceful life in Oregon.

Papou met and married my great-grandma, and they made an honorable life and raised a sweet family.

My grandma Shirley, aunt Pat, aunt Marian, uncle Tom: their lives were made possible by a risk-taking immigrant who crossed the seas and married the descendant of a Native American woman and an adventuring fur-trapper-turned-farmer.

And here am I, all these years later.


When these modern day stories of refuges crossing in the dark of night to escape a horror that I can only pretend to understand cross my radar, I think about my great grandpa.

I reflect on a few of my own experiences (so shallow and simple and safe by comparison, but touching on the same nerve): I think about times I was a world away from family and friends, with literally the clothes and bag on my back, placing faith in the shady bus driver, the rickety ferry captain, the eastern European border guards rifling through my passport at 2am, the train station ticketing agents in Macedonia who brought me to tears with their blatant unhelpfulness (though thank goodness not all stories are the same; see this one for a 180 degree different experience of hospitality for refugees in Macedonia).


Papou’s name was Xenophon. Since I love words, I love thinking about the meaning of that name in Greek – ξενος (xenos) “foreign, strange” and φωνη (phone) “voice, sound”. He changed his name to William when he arrived here. Bill Brown has a less threatening ring to it, I guess.

I get it.

It’s easy to be scared of foreign sounds.

Strange voices.

But you know what? That one foreign sounding, strange voice was my great grandpa. A kind hearted man who gave me smiles and ruffled my hair as a kiddo and who left a legacy of humor and kindness and faithfulness. When I wore black and sat young and quiet in the church pew, listening to story after story after story recounting his life, there was nothing to fear.


Last year’s Bake Sale raised $1600 for the Migrant Offshore Aid Station; go visit the MOAS blog for touching stories of people saved at sea thanks to donations from around the world.

I hope the funds raised from our baked offerings for this 2016 Sale yield equally touching stories of tangible kindness. It’s a mission of love we can all get behind, every day of the year.

Snatch a Scout & Whistle “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” sign!

Ways you and I can invest in hope at home and abroad:

Come shop the Bake America Great Again Sale on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at Pip’s Original.

Partner with the Imago Dei Community Refugee Resettlement Teams.

Read Assimilate or Go Home.

Learn how to stand up for your Muslim neighbors.

Provide food and medical care for those in Aleppo who haven’t been able to escape the horrors of their city.

Connect with IRCO to find a way to volunteer and attend community events celebrating our immigrant and refugee neighbors.

Contribute to the startup costs for Sparrow Furniture, a super new nonprofit creating meaningful jobs for refugees here in Oregon.

Have more ideas? Add them in the comments below. I’m all ears.

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