Stella McCombs, 1, plays Wednesday inside the Jerusalem Center Church in Medford. The church provides thousands of meals to homeless people and is seeking donations to replace a leaky roof. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

Help for the helpers

A Medford church is reaching out for help with keeping its fellowship hall dry enough to keep providing thousands of meals to the homeless and low-income families each year.

Members of the Jerusalem Center in Medford say its roof has leaked for many of the 27 years they've called the building at 6 Mace Road home.

Record rain and snow this winter, however, exceeded the capacity of their collection of "a few pots and pans" to catch errant raindrops inside the fellowship hall.

"We've had some water that came in in the past, but nothing a pan or two couldn't take care of until the rain stopped," said Senior Pastor Dave Gomez.

"This winter, of course, as we all know, has been horrific. We haven't had so much snow in like a hundred years. It really hit us hard."

The church's collection system expanded to full-size trash cans.

"And even they weren't really getting the job done," Gomez said.

Known for its outreach, including food boxes, Sunday meals and other services to homeless and low-income people, the church served more than 4,500 meals last year, Gomez said.

Without a new roof, he's concerned about further damage to the building.

Connie Johnson, a church neighbor, helped round up roofing bids this week and said few places are more deserving than Jerusalem Center.

"They do so much for the community," she said.

The church chose Bleser Built Roofing, which attached plastic sheeting and boards to keep rain out of the facility until funding is raised for permanent repairs. 

Gomez said reroofing the most damaged section will cost about $7,500. A full roof would be more than triple that amount.

"For right now, the roofers gave us a quick repair with the black plastic sheeting to keep the rain out. There are pallets holding it down, and they stapled it down, so that really slowed down the gush that was coming in on the floor," said Gomez, noting that the busiest days for the church are Thursdays, when they distribute bread and other items, and Sundays, when two meals and services are offered.

Bleser Roofing, pronounced "blesser," provided the low bid for replacement, Gomez said.

Ryan Bleser, owner of the Central Point roofing company, said he felt drawn to help the church and admired its outreach programs.

"The existing roof is in really poor condition and pretty old," Bleser said. "We did go over and do a (plastic) covering that we donated to try to keep them dry for now, but they were in pretty dire need by the time we got over there."

Bleser said he was happy to be able to help.

"I get a lot of comments about my last name. I am a Christian so, you know, we're called to help each other. Anytime you see an elderly person or a church in need of help, the funds are never really there, but the need definitely is. We just try to reach out and help whenever we can.

"Live by example," he added. "That's all you can do."

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— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at

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