MERCER ISLAND, WA (December 6, 2012) – More than 400 guests attended a luncheon honoring Mercer Island Covenant Church Pastor Emeritus Bud Palmberg and his wife, Donna, as “Heroes of the Homeless 2012.” They founded and helped develop Operation Nightwatch, an ecumenical ministry to the homeless in Seattle.
The luncheon, held November 20 in the Great Hall at Union Station in downtown Seattle, raised more than $90,000 for the ministry, which presented the annual award. Local dignitaries from Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington were among the attendees.
Another couple that helped start and oversee the ministry’s growth, Norm and Bonnie Riggins, also was honored. The couples were given Superman capes.
In 1967, Bud went searching for a runaway parishioner and said he saw a rough side of Seattle he had never encountered. The runaway was found, but Bud was so moved by what he had seen that he organized a group of clergy to walk the streets of Seattle from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and minister to the homeless.
The goal was to show Christian care and love – without preaching, judging or condemning. Operation Nightwatch was born and grew quickly. Norm Riggins was hired as its first paid director. Click here to watch a video of Bud and Norm working on the streets in 1967. Click here to read an earlier story published in The Covenant Companion.
The ministry has expanded and now provides food and shelter nightly for 170 homeless men and women, as well as housing and support for 24 low-income, formerly homeless seniors.
The work on the street also continues to serve homeless camps, shelters, and bars. The Palmbergs’ children and grandchildren are among those who help.
Covenant churches in the Northwest provide some of the organization’s funding.
In giving thanks at the luncheon, Bud called on the community to show the love of Christ, without limits.