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‘Spokane always shows up for us’: 31st annual Ramen Fest raises funds for Spokane Buddhist Temple’s new roof

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 12, 2020

A line of masked people stretched up the block from the Spokane Buddhist Temple on Sunday, as people waited for a container of the temple’s famous ramen.

The 31st annual Ramen Fest almost didn’t happen due to COVID-19 restrictions, but with the temple needing a new roof, organizers decided to rework the event.

Attendees ordered from a stand outside the temple, then a volunteer brought out their order packaged to go.

Becca Opel, board president of the church, said it was a lot of extra work to keep everyone safe, but ultimately it was worth it.

“I feel like people have been really excited about it. We have the greatest community, the greatest neighborhood,” she said. “Spokane always shows up for us.”

Becca’s wife, the Rev. Melissa Opel, said the past few months without in-person services have really shown how important community is at the temple.

The Spokane Buddhist Temple was founded in 1945 by the Rev. William Terao, who came to Spokane with his family after being released from a Japanese internment camp, Melissa said.

The Terao family rented a house where Daybreak Youth Services now stands on South Cowley Street.

After holding services there for a few years, the Sangha – the Buddhist community – was able to buy a former protestant church located at 927 S. Perry St., where the temple stands today.

The original structure burned down in the 1990s and was replaced with the Japanese-style building that is a fixture in the Perry District.

While many Buddhist Temples have Sanghas that are primarily Japanese-American, Melissa said the Spokane temple’s unique history brought a very diverse community together.

“The temple is an open and affirming temple. Everybody is welcome to walk through the door, no matter anything that’s going on in your life; you don’t have to be one party or one gender, or one religion or whatever,” Melissa said. “Everybody is welcome to come.”

Since COVID-19 made it unsafe to hold in-person services, the Sangah has been holding weekly study groups and using online services from other churches in the Buddhist Churches of American network, of which they are a member.

Without the ability to be together in person regularly, Sunday’s Ramen Fest was a rare chance to see just how much the community supports the temple, Melissa said.

The menu for Sunday’s event was pared down to chicken and tofu ramen and butter mochi, said Melissa.

About 27 volunteers helped with cooking, making mochi and packaging the food, a fraction of the normal number of volunteers required, Becca said.

Just two hours into the fundraiser, the mochi had sold out and they were about to run out of chicken ramen, despite making more than in years past, Becca said.

But selling out is good news for the temple.

“When the roof needed repair, we had money in savings for it, but it’s a huge expense, and it’s uncomfortable to have to take that out of your cushion,” Melissa said. “Especially when you’re running at a deficit for the budget anyways.”

As he waited for his ramen, Tyler Ives said he was excited to support the local temple.

“I love ramen,” he said. “It’s a feel-good thing to help them buy a new roof.”

Community members who couldn’t attend Sunday’s fundraiser but still want to support the temple can visit their website, spokanebuddhisttemple.org, to donate.

Editor’s Note: Due to a source error Rev. William Terao’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. 

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