Rise & Dine turns four

Ben Castro

PHOTO/Jeri Chadwell-Singley

The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality has been hosting weekly dinners for poverty stricken members of the Reno community since January 2012. Ben Castro, one of the founders of RISE, spoke with us about what the non-profit group is doing now and where they hope to go during their next four years of service to the community. More information can be obtained at www.renoinitiative.org.

For readers who may not know about RISE, can you say a little about what it is?

RISE stands for the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality. Essentially what we do is, we host a community potluck every Saturday at 5 p.m. down at the Community Assistance Center [345 Record St.], and we invite everybody to come and join us. We don’t really see our project as simply feeding people. The way we see it is that we’re building community. How we’re doing that is by inviting people to dinner.

What made you decide to start doing this, and how did you get started?

Kind of like most organizations, it starts in some guy’s garage, so I’m that guy. Just a group of friends sitting around, solving all the world’s problems but not really going anywhere. But I think it’s just a shared passion for our fellow man, and just a shared sense of injustice for the wealthiest nation on the planet, and still we can’t take care of our own citizens, so instead of waiting around for other people to do it, we figured we’d just do it ourselves.

How many hungry people are coming to the community potluck every Saturday?

It depends on the time of the month. If it’s towards the beginning of the month, everybody just got their public assistance, so we’ll only see maybe 100, 150. If you’re looking at the end of the month when everybody’s food stamps run out, it could be 350 to 400, depending.

What can people do to help?

You know, money helps, but more important than sending money, we’d rather meet you. We’d rather spend time with you and share dinner together. So definitely signing up online, and we’ve got it all the way out for all of 2016, so pick a date that makes the most sense for you. Or if you’re not more hands-on, then tell your friends. We strongly encourage people to organize their churches or their families or their work places to make an outing out of it.

Anything you want to add?

Yeah, giving people a hot meal once a week, it really does go a lot further than some people would imagine, and it’s not just about sharing dinner. It’s about sharing smiles with people, making them feel like they’re not invisible. And it’s about recognizing, or at least seeing, the neighbors you never knew you had. It’s also good to see so many people from completely different backgrounds, completely different faiths, different demographics—who might otherwise have nothing in common—all come together to serve this general purpose, which is the betterment of our house-less neighbors. So, it’s trying to destroy the stigma of what homelessness and poverty looks like.