Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois
Dennis Arnold tells his story during Blanchet House benefit brunch. The organization gave him a second chance, he says.    
Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois
Dennis Arnold tells his story during Blanchet House benefit brunch. The organization gave him a second chance, he says.   
 

Dennis Arnold doesn’t make a habit of telling his story. But for the good of Blanchet House, Arnold explained how he bounced between addiction and recovery for years before the Catholic-founded Northwest Portland ministry took him in in 2012.

“That was the day Blanchet House saved my life,” Arnold said Feb. 22 at the first benefit brunch at Blanchet House, which feeds hundreds of low-income and homeless people each day and offers housing for 70 men who want to get clean and sober.

It was a day that included luminaries like former pro quarterback Joey Harrington and City Commissioner Nick Fish, all sitting in the same chairs used by homeless diners. But listeners will remember Arnold the most.  

“I needed to face the choices that had brought me to this point in my life,” said Arnold, who started doing small jobs on the Blanchet floor and eventually was hired as a paid staffer. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Arnold choked up most when he said he had turned his back on God. He has worked hard to reestablish that connection with the help of Jesuit Father Gary Smith, a longtime street minister and missionary.

“I wasted the first half of my life,” said Arnold, standing in front of a window broken by a brick the previous day. Blanchet House, Arnold explained, have given him a “do-over.”

“Blanchet truly offers opportunities for personal transformation,” said John McGuigan, president of Blanchet’s board of directors.
Blanchet House was founded in 1952 by a group of University of Portland graduates. They named their project after the first Archbishop of Portland.

After six decades in a humble brick building, the ministry moved a block to a $12.9 million edifice at the foot of the Steel Bridge in 2012. It serves almost 350,000 hot meals each year with the help of about 5,000 volunteers.

Blanchet also runs a farm in Carlton that provides work and housing.  

“We know in the fight to end homelessness we need a great team,” said Fish, a longtime backer of Blanchet. “We have a great team of business, government, non-profits and faith.” Fish asked the crowd to applaud the faith of those who founded and run Blanchet.  

The Blanchet board handed out awards to outstanding volunteers and backers: the late Margaret Duggan, Mary Casey and Alisa Sinnott, community service coordinator at Central Catholic High School.