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Chili Van cooks up interest in H.B.

Orange County Rescue Mission's mobile food van has been growing in popularity in Lake Park on Monday nights.

April 10, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Temre Vouga and Fatima Bergquist serve hot chili and bread to a visitor of the Orange County Rescue Mission's Chili Van during a visit to Lake Park on 11th and Main streets.
Temre Vouga and Fatima Bergquist serve hot chili and bread… (DON LEACH )

The Orange County Rescue Mission Chili Van Mobile Ministry has been in operation for almost five years, helping the homeless communities in Dana Point and Santa Ana. But Michael Murphy, a volunteer with the Tustin-based organization had a hard time finding traction in Huntington Beach.

"It started off slow. You would have been shocked," he said. "We drove around parks looking for homeless people our first Monday. We couldn't find one soul."

But slowly, the Chili Van found some grip and the amount of people they help has begun to increase, Murphy said.

"Our numbers over the past three Mondays have grown significantly," he said. "It's gone from two, three or four people to 11, 14, 16 and 18 people."

The Chili Van, which can hold enough chili to serve 500 people, has been visiting Lake Park every Monday evening for the past nine weeks to help the homeless in Huntington Beach.

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On a windy Monday afternoon, tucked away in the southeast corner of Lake Park, Murphy and a handful of volunteers catered to homeless, making sure they had food to eat and clothes to wear.

The group of volunteers served around 10 homeless people that afternoon, giving them bowls of hot chili, a slice of pizza and a pretzel or dinner roll.

Additionally, donated clothes, small bags filled with toiletries and other amenities were handed out.

Murphy credits the slow start to the trust that needed to be established between them and the less fortunate in Huntington Beach.

"It's not that there's not a need, but it's about do the people in need trust that we'll be there on a regular basis," he said. "But once there's a trust that we'll actually be there, then they'll ride the bus or they will beg friends for rides or leave a safe location or a shelter that's warm for the night to come have chili. If we don't show up here every Monday, then they'll never come back again."

It's only a couple of weeks into spring and the weather is still cool, but as temperatures climb and summer comes around, Murphy said he expects more than 100 people to show up at the park.

Jerry Ostler, a volunteer with Mariners Church in Irvine, has helped Murphy and his efforts in Huntington Beach since the first day.

Ostler, a 49-year-old Newport Beach resident, said his experience for the past nine weeks has been eye opening. He added that his 6- and 8-year-old daughters ask him every week if they will be helping the homeless.

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