Breakfast is served, every Saturday, by Joyful Hands Ministries

Mama Dee’s service is daughter Sara’s legacy


At 3 a.m. on November 21, 2005, two Olympia police officers knocked on Dee Hampton’s front door.  They had come to give her news that no parent ever wants to receive: Her daughter, Sara, had been killed in a car accident between Medford and Klamath Falls, Oregon. 

 Before that fateful November day, the relationship between mother and daughter had had its share of ups and downs.  Dee had a steady job with the state; Sara had begun to befriend some of the city’s homeless individuals, and sometimes spent nights on the streets. 

 “I could not figure out why she would hang out with drug users and alcoholics and people who smelled bad,” explained Dee.  “I had a bad attitude about them, and we would get into arguments about it all the time.  What I didn’t understand is that she saw them as people with real needs.” 

 Later in the morning of Sara’s passing, some of her street friends heard what had happened and called Dee.  “They wanted me to come and see them, but my answer was ‘no’,” she said.  “But after the third call, I consented to meet with them.” 

 They met at the Community Health Services building where they gave Dee a bouquet of orange roses.  “And then they sat me down and told me incredible stories of my daughter helping them find food and shelter, sitting with them when they were sick, and taking care of them.” 

 Dee was touched. The idea crossed her mind that her daughter’s legacy should be honored.  For the next half dozen years, she cared for her sick husband and mother; both passed in 2011.  Retiring from state service a year later, Dee then took the first step toward starting Joyful Hands Ministries. 

 “I was helping to serve dinner with another group that helped the homeless, and I heard there was nothing on Saturday mornings for breakfast for them,” continued Dee.  “Then someone gave me a check for $50 for my ministry, so I used it to buy a tent and on November 10, 2011 we served our first breakfast.” 

 For the past 13 years, every Saturday morning, Joyful Hands Ministries has been setting up in the parking lot on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street in downtown Olympia and serving breakfast to all homeless individuals who come.  It was also when she acquired the moniker, “Mama Dee.” 

 On a recent very cold Saturday morning, nine Joyful Hands people rolled into the parking lot at about 7:30 a.m., spilling out of five cars and a van. They set up tents, warmed up griddles and brewed hot coffee. Homeless individuals began to quietly appear – some had spent the night in a shelter; others had slept on the streets.  All were hungry. 

 “I think everyone deserves a hot meal and to feel loved and seen,” explained Mindy Frankel as she and Leanne Harding fried eggs.  “That’s what we do on Saturday mornings, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of providing that.” 

 She added that Mama Dee had asked her about four years ago if she could cook and that she had been doing so ever since. “Cooking was always a big part of my upbringing … and it allows us to create something to share and pass on … the taste of food can bring back good memories,” Frankel said.  

 While breakfast was being prepared, several of Mama Dee’s volunteers served steaming 16-ounce cups of coffee to the growing crowd. 

 After leading a short prayer, Mama Dee pronounced that “breakfast is ready,” and for the next 60 minutes or so she and her volunteers served up fried egg sandwiches, pancakes with syrup, sausages, and potato patties to approximately 90 individuals.   

 “Regardless of your opinion of ‘the homeless’ or Olympia’s handling of the unhoused, they are individuals, each with their own story,” concluded Frankel. 

 “I would encourage people to have some empathy and not be so quick to make judgments.  Get involved in your community, come serve with us, or find an organization to work with.  There are a lot of people doing great things around Olympia.” 

Sara would likely agree. 

 Click here for more information about or to support Joyful Hands Ministries or call (360) 789-5689.  


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • davidlee

    Hooray for Joyful Hands! Hooray for JOLT for running these homelessness articles and profiles! They are well written and eye-opening.

    Dave B-R

    Tuesday, January 23 Report this

  • WayTooOld

    I met Mama Dee many years ago. I’m glad to see that she is still helping take care of people. Thank you for shining a light on her.

    Friday, January 26 Report this