On Dec. 2, 2007, the people of Cannon Beach Community Church were enjoying our annual Christmas Pageant on a Sunday morning when the power went out just as the last angel was walking off the stage at the end of the worship service. So began the longest and largest community potluck in the history of Cannon Beach, a six-day feast that fed more than 2,000 people at the Cannon Beach community shelter that week of the Great Coastal Gale.
During previous decade, Cannon Beach Community Church had been preparing for such an event, working closely with the American Red Cross, the city of Cannon Beach, and Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue, developing detailed emergency plans, including a shelter agreement with the Red Cross, and installation of gas-powered portable generator hook-ups to power the church building during an emergency. In December 2006, we opened as a community shelter for the first time during a four-day power outage, a helpful rehearsal for what came a year later.
On Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, Community Church was the first shelter to open in Clatsop County. A portable generator provided by the city of Cannon Beach powered the lights and heat in the church building. Marlene Laws and my wife, Trina Robinson, brought the first meal Monday afternoon to begin the week-long community potluck.
Volunteers, including members of Community Church and residents of Cannon Beach, ran the community shelter in Cannon Beach. Rose Mays stepped in to serve as community shelter director. Registered nurses from Clatsop County Health Department, including Margo Lalich and Trina Robinson helped to see that the shelter offered a healthy environment for all guests.
Local citizens brought in food as a grand community potluck serving 200 to 500 people per day. Mid-week, local restaurants began providing food to feed shelter guests, with food donations from the Wayfarer, Pig ’N Pancake, Bella Espresso, Seasons, Sleepy Monk Coffee, Fultano’s, EVOO, Tolovana Inn, Mariner Market, and the Arch Cape Deli.
I recall Josh Archibald, executive chef at the Wayfarer serving up halibut Steverino and stuffed mushrooms at one of the dinners. Shelter guests broke out with applause as food was served meal after meal at the Shelter during this storm.
Over 75 volunteers worked 300 hours to staff the Cannon Beach Community Shelter, including public health employees, Coast Guard airmen, local residents, and members of Community Church. There was a festive mood among the guests at the shelter, with gratitude for a warm, lighted place to gather during one of the longest power outages in recent history. Guests included senior citizens, Seaside residents working in Cannon Beach, fire-rescue volunteers, state troopers, public health employees, Pacific Power linemen, guests from hotels, low-income families, pet owners and their pets, and people with disabilities.
The shelter was closed on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2007, when power was restored to most of Cannon Beach.
In the 10 years since the Great Coastal Gale, Community Church has made some major steps towards improving services during an emergency. We installed a gas range that work in a power outage. We partnered with our local ham radio operators to install ham radio equipment for use at the church during an emergency.
We partnered with the city of Cannon Beach to create a community shelter agreement with shelter supplies provided by the city and stored at the church. Mike Clark donated a natural gas generator that was permanently installed at Community Church to provide power for light and warmth during future emergencies. We again have partnered with the American Red Cross to open the church building as a Red Cross emergency shelter in any emergency.
As lead pastor of Cannon Beach Community Church, I was delighted with the weeklong community potluck we witnessed 10 years ago, and the hospitality that welcomed people so warmly. I am grateful for the people of Cannon Beach Community Church along with the citizens of Cannon Beach who know how to step up and generously care for others during difficult times. I celebrate our many community volunteers who help others, including those in the local church, those who serve in emergency preparedness or as community emergency response team volunteers, and those who volunteer with our fire/rescue districts. There are hundreds of people who volunteer faithfully, helping us be more prepared along the north Oregon coast for the next great coastal gale, as well as for the even bigger danger of the Cascadia zone earthquake/tsunami. Our community volunteers are like angels walking among us, bringing light in the darkness.
David Robinson has been lead pastor of Cannon Beach Community Church since 1993. He is author of numerous books on spirituality including “Ancient Paths: Discover Christian Formation the Benedictine Way “ (Paraclete, 2010).