Feeding the hungry

Bill Such

Photo By Andrew Boost

Bill Such may wear a shirt and tie, but his days are not spent behind a computer in a stuffy office building. They are spent talking with the homeless of Chico, and caring for their needs as the executive director of the Jesus Center. A well-educated man who has two masters degrees and a Ph.D., Such is responsible for maintaining the facility that provides two meals a day to those in Chico who otherwise would be without sustenance. Living by the model of Jesus, Such says he prides himself on providing an organization that can be a “sanctuary” and “oasis” for individuals who otherwise feel as though they are second-class citizens.

Where do your roots lie?

Well I’m English, I was born in England. I’ve lived in Scotland, New Zealand, Swaziland and now Chico.

What brought you to Chico?

My wife’s parents live in Paradise, and at the time we were living in Swaziland and I was teaching at a university there. We moved here to bring some stability to my children, and I started looking for jobs at the university as a professor. Then the job at the Jesus Center popped up and I applied.

What do you think is the most common misconception about the people you serve?

That they’re all lazy, looking for a handout, and if they only got a job, things would be fine. There are some people who develop that lifestyle, but with our economy existing the way that it does, a lot of people cannot function and are on the brink of needing help. Most of us are only three to four paychecks away from being homeless ourselves. We provide food to a lot of young families who find themselves without food at the end of the month, and we also have people eating with us who are in transitional periods in their lives, between jobs or between cities, and just don’t have the resources to make it through.

What type of background do you have in working with disadvantaged communities?

In Swaziland, I worked with the health department to educate the community on AIDS. I played music and the drums and used street theater to educate individuals. I also worked providing information to UNESCO about the orphans that came as a result of the AIDS crisis, gathering ideas on what to do to solve the problem.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Not seeing someone again. When you have helped them get back onto their feet—that they don’t need your services anymore. But I also get pleasure out of seeing people give from their abundance: people who serve, give their money, give their time. In a way there’s broken elements in all of us that connect us, and it’s amazing to see the connections that can be made in a 10-second exchange of “Would you like some coffee?”