Feeding Coring’s homeless and seniors during the past three months of the COVID-pandemic crisis has earned Karen Burnett the United Way of Northern California’s Essential Hero award.
Burnett, the director of the Corning Senior Center and a member of the City Council, said, “I was just doing the Big Guy says we should do.”
Since the stay-at-home order hit, Burnett has been feeding the homeless in the community seven days a week for the past three months at the First Christian Church on Marin Street.
“I have fed about 20 people hot and cold meals at lunchtime everyday,” she said. “I don’t do it alone though. I have great help from Christy Houtman, and we have been able to do this thanks to a grant from Empower Tehama.”
That grant runs out on July 1 and Burnett will go back to feeding the homeless twice a week, at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 12 p.m. on Sundays.
On weekdays you can find Burnett at the Senior Center on Fourth Street from 11-11:45 a.m., handing out meals to about 30 seniors who drive up and get a hot or cold lunch and words of encouragement from Burnett. Those meals are prepared by the Senior Nutrition Center in Red Bluff.
“Once the COVID-19 crisis is over we will be able to go back to normal and the seniors can meet weekdays inside the Center to eat, visit and share important information,” Burnett said.
She is the first to say she doesn’t provide this service alone, but does it with the help of people like Delores May, her mom and sister, Willie Smith, Jessica Brooks and Shelly at Sweet Swirls.
“Karen has been serving our community for years, but since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisiss, she has been forced to adapt her methods,” said Willie Smith, director of Corning Christian Assistance. “Karen has been feeding the homeless through her church every day of the week. Her infinite compassion for helping people is amazing. She deserves recognition for her dedication and devotion to caring for others.”
Burnett said she believes it is important to provide service to everyone in need.
“In the Bible it says ‘all’ and all means all,” she adds. “I know if I don’t do this, if I just sit around, my life just isn’t right, I’m not right with God.”
Overall, Burnett has been feeding the homeless at her church for six years, and has worked at the Senior Center for the same time period.
“I have lived in Corning for 16 years. I truly love this little town, it is very unique in so many ways,” she said. “You hear of someone being sick and pretty soon people just step up and that person finds food and gift baskets on their doorstep. That doesn’t happen in a lot of places. This is a very important town that we need to keep together.”
Burnett is in year two of a four-year term on the City Council.