Jose Lemus joins the Dream Team

We are excited to announce that Jose Lemus has joined our dream team!

Jose Image

We are excited to announce that Jose Lemus has joined our dream team!

Thanks to a grant from The Collins Foundation, on December 1st we were able to hire Jose as Program Manager for The Edge; our community outreach programs.

We met Jose 14 years ago on the 1st day Dream Center began in 2004. Back then he was a very polite and cute little 10 year old boy who went by Beto. It didn’t take long for us to realize how special Jose was. Jose has an incredible heart, and is always ready to help anyone in need. His work ethic is beyond impressive. Jose was one of Dream Centers first success stories as he attended, and graduating from College. Jose then went on to work teaching in the school district, as a one on one specialist. Jose is also a Hot Shot, as in; every summer Jose goes out to fight forest fires, putting his live on the line to protect others.

Jose was one of the first teens to get the Dream Center vision: “Giving of yourself is crucial to rising out of poverty” As a teen Jose began volunteering at Dream Center, and then volunteering every Friday night at City Vibe, a local outreach serving Urban Campers and the Homeless. Not only did Jose serve, he set an example for others as brought other teens to volunteer along side of him.

We will always remember the crisp fall evening at Dinner on the Green when we asked Jose why he volunteered to feed the homeless every Friday night, while other teens were at their High School football game? His reply: “Because it’s what you do, and now it’s what we do”

Jose has big plans to help Dream Center become an even more positive influence in the lives of children, youth, teens and their families. He has already had an immense impact on our Saturday programing; The Edge. Jose’s “Everyone is included always” approach to all of the programing has taken The Edge to a new place, one where more children and families are receiving the the attention they desire, and deserve.J

As part of Jose’s job he will be working directly in the schools four days a week supporting the teachers and staff. He will also be working at our learning center Nuestra Casa evenings helping teens as they study.

As part of the Collins Foundation Grant to hire Jose, they made a generous matching funds challenge of $20,000 to help continue Jose’s employment, and to support SDC programs. Would you please consider becoming a monthly sustainer in 2018 and help us take advantage of the Collins Foundations matching funds challenge?

Matching Sustainers Challenge

Karo Thom joining Salem Dream Center

Karo Thom joins the Dream Team!

sdc_panel_02We are excited to announce that long time Dream Center volunteer and supporter Karo Thom has joined the Salem Dream Center. Effective February 1st Karo will become Program Director for Nuestra Casa, our learning center located in the heart of the Edgewater District.
Karo brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in mentorship, education and business management. She will oversee all programs, including educational programs and vocational training. Karo will personally lead the culinary and catering vocational training courses, as well as cooking classes. Her desire is to help equip teens and young adults to succeed in the culinary world with hands on experience. Karo being a chef and successful owner of restaurants as well as Alcyone Catering are sure to help empower teens and young adults, and insure they have opportunities to succeed in life.
Karo’s desire to help educate teens and their families on how to cook healthy meals within a budget, as well as how to cook using local produce, directly targets one of SDC’s core focuses, Food Security.
Karo has a history of helping teens and young adults who are struggling, to overcome the challenges that they face. Many have gone onto very successful careers and productive lives.

Would you please consider becoming a Dream Maker?

A Dream Maker is someone who faithfully supports Dream Center with monthly support for a period of one or more years.
We are at a critical point where we need to create a strong donor base as we continue, and as we grow helping people transition out of poverty, illiteracy, hunger and oppression.
The funding that we have been blessed with from West Salem Foursquare as part of their launching of Salem Dream Center and City Vibe in January has come to an end.
The amazing one-time donations we received at last February’s luncheon will run out in November.
We have been so blessed by all the support that we have received, and we thank each of you who have supported us, and those who continue to support us, but we are at a cross road where we need to increase our support from private donors, and other sources as we move into this new phase in our becoming an independent non-profit supporting at risk youth and struggling families.
Would you please commit to pray for us? We feel confident that God wants Dream Center to not simply continue, but to grow. We know this because we see lives changed, and we see amazing things happening through our programs and ministry.
After much prayer, we reach out to you and ask you to come along side of us and devotedly make a difference.
How can you help? Commit to faithfully sponsor a child monthly for one or more years:
• If 200 people faithfully sponsor one child every month with a $50 donation, we would be able to continue to bless children and families in our community with basic programs and support.
• If 300 of the 1000 people who follow Dream Center on face book faithfully sponsor one child every month with a $50 donation, we would be able to provide all of the programs that we have these past 10 years, including Field Trips, Summer Camp, Easter Party, Holiday Food Boxes, Dream Tree Christmas Gifts, Sneaky Elf, Emergency Food Boxes and Shelter, Clothing, Educational Support and much more.
• If 500 of the 1000 people who follow Dream Center on face book faithfully sponsor one child every month for a year with a $50 donation, we would realize our dream to create Nuestra Casa (Community Learning Center) and run all the programs listed above that we have these past 10 Years.
Would you please consider providing monthly support to help us? If you are able to support us with less than $50, thank you, every donation helps, and for those of you who are able to support us by sponsoring more than one child, thank you, you are making dreams come true.
We are also looking for people to host in home gatherings where Renee and I could present Dream Center to a group of people who you know, and whom you feel would be able to support Dream Center on a larger scale.
Please know that in addition to asking for your individual help, we are aggressively seeking grants, but that is a slow process. We are also looking at a wide range of sources of support from various private, corporate, governmental, and regional groups.
In the past ten years Dream Center and City Vibe have broken the chains of poverty for hundreds and hundreds of people. We have helped to instill a desire to achieve a better life, and we have provided the tools needed to realize those dreams. Today we stand at a new chapter and we are very excited to see what lays before us as we develop a learning center where children and adults can break the fangs of poverty, illiteracy, language barriers, hunger, unemployment and under employment. This is exciting. Please join us and make dreams come true.
All donations that we receive are eligible as a charitable donation, and you will receive a receipt letter with our tax ID information.
Donations can be mailed to:
Salem Dream Center
PO Box 5976
Salem Or. 97304

Why? Because you do!

When Dream Center began we stepped out in faith with this belief; if we love people exactly as they are, without expectation or requirement, they will ask us why!

The exclamation point after why is not a typo, it’s there with sincere intent. Yes it’s a question, but we believe if we live out our faith the excitement and wonder that invokes the question, overshadows that it is a question.

Over these past ten years we have watched as that belief has become a reality, with former Hells Angels, gang members, moms, dads, children and elderly asking; “Why do you do this!”

It’s then that we are able to share how Christ impacted our lives and we have no choice but to follow the example he set for us, loving people until they ask why!

This past year an ever growing group of youth and teens have been volunteering at Dinner on the Green. It started with four teens led by Jose’, but this group of youth has grown to 15, the youngest is eight, the oldest 20.

Every Friday night they volunteer to help feed and support hungry men women and chidren. They forgo football games, dances and parties, and instead spend their Friday night blessing others. They work with passion and dedication. To be honest they make many of the more senior volunteers look like slackers (they aren’t, it just looks that way) with how hard they work.

They come with smiles on their faces and they are most often the first to arrive and the last to leave. Their passion is obvious and it’s contagious.

Recently at a Dinner on the Green I asked Jose’ “why do you do this?”

He looked at me with an almost quizzical look and without hesitation replied; “Because it’s what you do!’ ‘It’s what you have always done, you come to Dream Center and show us we matter, that you care, and you make us feel like we matter’. ‘We do it because we have to, we have to live out what we believe, just like you do.”

When we began we expected people to ask us why! But I honestly didn’t expect so many people to then live out the example we lived out, the example Christ set for us.

So the answer to the question, what happens after they ask why? is this; They live it out in their lives and the example is replicated, it’s contagious.

I believe with all of my heart that we may be the first, or be the only Bible someone reads. So make it a read of a life time!

Jose’ and his faithful team of youth volunteers are living Bibles and that is a read I want to read and live.

Love until they ask why!

A Place to die, a place to rejoice

Where does a homeless veteran go to die? A good question isn’t it? 

For too many, they die alone, cold and suffering, hidden in the woods, along a riverbank or under a bridge. Thats such a sad way for anyone to die, let alone a man who served his country.
Today I visited a friend who I met in a homeless camp eight years ago. His name is Rene and he is dying of pancreatic cancer, he doesn’t have much more time left in this world. Gone is his radiant smile and easy laugh, sadly cannibalized by cancer, leaving only a frail and tired man.
I visited Rene at the Tokarski Home, a beautiful inviting home built to provide a warm, safe loving place for people who are about to leave this world. It is simply put a taste of heaven on earth.
The Tokarski home is part of Willamette Hospice located in the Edgewater Community that the Salem Dream Center adopted in 2003. In 2009 Salem City Vibe (Dream Centers partner) was founded with the desire to reach the hungry and hurting living in Salem who are address challenged. Salem City Vibe reach out to the homeless and at risk of homelessness primarily in West Salem.
It was because of men and women just like Rene who broke my heart, that I along with Dennis and Linda Wollertsen created Salem City Vibe.
The last time I visited Rene (prior to his residence in the Tokarski Home) he was living next to a river in a small tent, hidden by trees and blackberry bushes. He greeted me with the big hug and smile I had come to expect and love. He offered me a drink and a place to sit on a log. We sat and talked about his journey, his struggles and he talked about how badly he wanted to get off the streets and to stay off the streets.
I hate homelessness, but I love most of the urban campers that I’ve met. I love Rene, and it has always broke my heart to see how he lived, cold, hungry and feeling he had failed his family, friends and even me. I hate that people openly judged him without having any idea of who he is, who he was, or what unfortunate circumstances brought him to life living in a tent, begging to survive.
Today when I visited Rene at Tokarski House, I found him resting in a nice bed in a huge home that looked as if it could be in a magazine. His care providers cared for him with such dignity, compassion and respect, and I would even say with love.
His private room was so comfortable, not at all what I expected to find. It was simply put, a warm, comfortable room that was inviting and felt like home. I’ll be honest, as I walked up to the home, I expected to find that smell of death, antiseptics and yuck I had found at most of nursing home I’ve visited. Not at all what I experienced, in fact it was the exact opposite. It was wonderful.
After greeting me, Rene took my hand in his and said: “Craig, I’m dying….. but Im not afraid.” My heart broke, but the feelings that overwhelmed me more than the fact that my friend is dying, and I will soon lose him, was how happy I was that he was here, in this beautiful home.
As I write this I’m overcome by extreme gratitude that one man who never met Rene, gave selflessly of what he worked hard to earn, to create this amazing place, and because of Mr Tokarski’s generosity, my dear friend would leave this world loved, warm, fed, bathed, cared for, knowing he mattered, and most of all, that he was not alone.
I’m sitting in West Salem Starbuck’s writing this, and as I do, tears are running down my cheeks. Some people are looking at me with concern, but it doesn’t matter, because there is no way I could stop the tears from flowing. They are a mix of tears of sorrow over impending loss, and of extreme joy that my friend has a safe warm place to leave this world, and to meet his God that he has loved since that day in a homeless camp along side of the river when he accepted Christ, and he let go of the burden of sin he carried. I will always be thankful for Pastor Mark with Church at the Park and Pastor DJ who spoke into Rene’s life and loved him exactly as he was.
Rene is dying, but he is not afraid, he knows where his next home will be, and this wonderful place that he finds rest in right now, is a glimpse of what his Heavenly Father has waiting for him.
I’m so thankful that Mr Tokarski created a place where even a homeless man could come to die in peace and comfort and with dignity.
I will miss my friend and I will always be thankful to Larry and Jim Tokarski. (Jim is the contractor who oversaw construction of home at no charge) ( The home is named for Larry and Jims’ Father Edward Tokarski)