By Lauryn Newson
It was 5:45 pm and time for work.
All was calm and quiet in the First Baptist owned Alpha Omega house on 13th and Kincaid except for the sound of distant voices that murmured in unknown places. The rustling of burritos being wrapped tightly in long stretches of foil began to sing along side the murmuring echoes.
The black snapback baseball cap securely rested backwards on top of Keith Morreira’s buzz cut as he calmly maintained his position next to his father in the burrito assembly line.
With a soft bend in the neck, he and his fellow riders hunched over the large stainless steel workstation that stood alone as an island in the middle of the kitchen. As a part of leading the group, Morreira stepped into his role and went over the protocol that would govern the night while simultaneously requesting for more tortillas that would serve as a home to the warm mixture of rice and beans.
The mood intensified after labels that read, “This food has not been approved by the FDA” were placed on the all of the burritos that would land in the hands of whoever was hungry that night.
The burrito count was 38 and it was almost time to ride out. Bike lights, check. Water, check. Spare clothes for anyone in need, check. A quick prayer, and they were off.
Bikes and burritos is an outreach legacy at the Alpha Omega house that was started years ago by former student residents. Fueled by community service grants and donations from members at the First Baptist church, members of the AO house come together with all who are willing to participate and make burritos that are in turn carried and handed out by way of biking throughout Eugene.
In a city where the weather is infamously known to be wet and cold, most of the homeless society seek shelter underneath overpasses and other covered areas throughout the city. Even though cars would undoubtedly make the Bikes and Burritos mission faster, bikes make it possible to reach those who are tucked into the crevices of the city.
It was four years ago when Morreira left his hometown of Mill City, Ore. and took residency at the Alpha Omega house to attend the University of Oregon.
Driven by his Christian faith, Morreira makes it his duty to stand by those in need and give a helping hand the best way he can. After interpreting a scripture of the bible that he felt was telling him to support those in distress he stated, “I feel motivated to go out on bikes and burritos because Jesus calls us to serve as he served, and that is a major motivation for me.”
With a major in business and entrepreneurship, Morreira takes after his father who also has a passion for business. “He has an entrepreneurial soul and is always looking for the next adventure and the next thing that he can be apart of that he can manage, operate, own…” says Morreira as he spoke buoyantly about his father. From father to son, the quest for adventure is a trait that was inherently passed down to Morreira who is applying to the marines as a pilot. “I’m at a spot in my life where I’m really looking for an adventure and I think that being a military pilot will provide a lot of that adventure” he says. Bikes and Burritos kills two birds with one stone, as he is able to exercise good faith and take on adventure at the same time.
It was a frigid Monday night when the bikes and burritos squad road out to fulfill their mission. Blinding lights sported like headbands illuminated the route, bringing ghostly street décor back to life.
The sputter of bike chains and crunching of leaves under tires was the soundtrack for the night. The tune was suddenly broken by the protective bark of a pit bull that roamed around the settlement of four homeless men. “You guys hungry?” asked a member of the Bikes and Burritos group, despite the threat that the dog posed. “Hell yea!”, exclaimed one of the men.
That night, long conversations stemmed from the basic question “Are you hungry?” and ended in many thank you’s. For many of the conversations, Morreira waited patiently in the background, taking precaution, and chiming in only when need be.
“Keith is a little more quiet at times”, says housemate Elijah Greer. “But he’s a real confident and a rock sturdy type of guy” he continued on to say. His demeanor was well noted amongst his peers. They had respect for the discipline Morreira displayed that would hopefully land him in the cockpit of an army plane in the near future.
The journey continued on for hours and involved sliding down hills to reach people camped by the Willamette riverbank, climbing hills for those who preferred the crawl spaces wedged between the peak of a mound and an overpass, and stealth missions to leave burritos and a water bottle for those who were turned in for the night.
“I struggle with making sense out of the world without my faith” says Keith. He continued on to say, “I don’t understand how life can be in some ways so perfect and so beautiful and in other ways so awful and so ugly in some of the things we do to each other.”
Bikes and Burritos is Morreira’s personal way of putting a hint of beautiful back into Eugene’s community. “Their thanks and my effort, they don’t really equal each other. Their thanks is much greater than my effort”, he says with a serene smile on his face.
Morreira plans on graduating in Spring 2013, leaving Bikes and Burritos behind, for now. He hopes that one day he can come back to the Alpha Omega house and it will still be a thriving blessing to the community.