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Food bank volunteers find helping others is their bag


King Day event draws 116 to pack oats, vegetables for the hungry

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jakob Goldstein, 7, carries a box of rolled oats onto a pallet at Oregon Food Bank West in Beaverton on Monday morning. Goldstein and his mom, Jennifer, were among the 650 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service volunteers who packed and sorted food-drive donations at two Oregon Food Bank branches.While scooping oats into 2-pound plastic bags Monday morning at the Oregon Food Bank West, Rich Barker says he doesn’t buy the idea that some folks don’t have time to volunteer in an effort to assist the less fortunate.

“Everybody has time,” he says. “If the average American can find two hours every day to browse the Internet, they should be able to spend some time helping others.”

On the national holiday dedicated to the memory and civil-rights accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., no fewer than 116 volunteers found time to help “Stock Up the Pantry” at Oregon Food Bank West, 1870 N.W. 173rd Ave. The event was one of many “Weekend of Service” projects sponsored by the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Hands On Greater Portland that brought out about 1,000 volunteers to projects related to 44 nonprofit, charitable organizations.

The food bank’s “Day of Service” event was sponsored by Bank of America and Pacific Power, along with locally based entities Pacific University in Forest Grove and Southridge High School in Beaverton.

Sarah Schirmer, corporate gifts developer for the Oregon Food Bank, said the annual “Stock up the Pantry” event on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a great example of what volunteer work can accomplish, particularly on a national holiday when many are off work and focused on King’s message of equality and fairness.

Monday’s volunteers packed up the equivalent of 130 meals each for Food Bank West.

“When we say we could not do what we do without volunteers, that is what we mean,” she says, surveying a shift of Bank of America volunteers who donned gloves and hairnets to stuff bags for two hours. “It’s amazing what gets done in one volunteer shift.

“The banks are closed today. They could be off skiing,” she adds. “That’s just the community we live in. I think that’s impressive.”

One reason for the event’s success is the immediacy of the project. Before they leave their stations for the day, volunteers can gaze at the bags and boxes full of broccoli, lettuce and oats they packed up.

“People can see what they did in two hours,” Schirmer says. “It provides them with a tangible (sense of) impact.”

The Beaverton facility is one of four Oregon Food Bank branches that collects and packs donated food and works with partner agencies — churches, shelters and other nonprofits — to distribute donated perishable and non-perishable food throughout the state.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Forest Heights resident Jett  Barker, 7, packs rolled oats in a box as his dad, Rich, top right, weighs and packs each bag during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Food Bank West moved from a smaller facility into its renovated current building in 2010. Despite Washington County’s plethora of hi-tech companies and reputation as an economic generator, Schirmer says the need for donated food in the immediate area is increasing.

“The reason we built this facility is because the need is so high,” she said, noting the food bank’s clients in need come from all socio-economic backgrounds. “Washington County is very diverse, but there’s a lot of hunger, including the people we serve out here.”

Barker, a Forest Heights resident and Merrill Lynch employee, brought his 7-year-old son Jett along to help pack oats on Monday. Toward the end of their shift, father and son counted 276 boxes full of oats.

“I like to bring (Jett) so he can become more engaged with the community and learn to be more helpful,” says Barker, 43, who also volunteered at the food bank last fall. “This ties in nicely with Martin Luther King Day. It’s a nice opportunity to give back a little bit to the community.”

Cedar Mill resident Eric Hansen says his Monday morning shift goes toward his personal goal of volunteering somewhere at least five times a year.

“I think that’s pretty manageable,” he says, noting the year’s first time out is going well. “It’s enjoyable. It’s just a day off. I figured I’d do something with my time.

“Otherwise,” he adds with a grin, “I’d be sleeping.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Taylor Jitngamplang, 12, an International School of Beaverton student, packs rolled oats along with other volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank West in Beaverton on Monday morning. Jitngamplang participated with his mom, Siri Gypmantasiri, and her employer, Merrill Lynch, in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event. Volunteers repacked food and sorted food-drive donations at two Oregon Food Bank facilities.