Oregon Food Bank's Day of Service unites people to help the less fortunate

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Gideon Batie, 6, loads a box of packaged corn on a conveyer belt in the cooler of the Oregon Food Bank in Beaverton. Batie helped her cousin, Ivory Berry, volunteer in her company's effort at the food bank's Day of Service to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.Of the many ways to help the hungry and the homeless, Jim Bentley finds getting a bunch of enthusiastic people together to fill bags of food for distribution through the region to be among the most effective.

“This isn’t like handing change to someone standing on the side of the freeway off-ramp,” he said on Monday. “This is one pretty centralized way of spreading the benefit.”

Bentley, a 16-year employee of PacificCorp, was among 213 volunteers who devoted a chunk of their Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday to help the Oregon Food Bank’s Beaverton operations at 1870 N.W. 173rd Ave., fulfill its ongoing mission to help the hungry and economically disadvantaged.

To honor the slain civil rights leader’s calls to serve one’s community, a total of 601volunteers descended on the food bank’s Beaverton and Northeast Portland facilities for a Day of Service. Volunteers processed thousands of pounds of food, including oats as well as corn, carrots and snow peas donated by National Frozen Food. Employees and representatives of PacifiCorp, Bank of America, Clear Creek Middle School and Hands On Greater Portland joined individuals and families in two two-hour shifts to pack enough food for more than 10,000 meals. The amount equals as much as the Food Bank’s facilities process in a regular work week, said Tara Taylor, community coordinator for the Oregon Food Bank.

“The organizations help bring individuals together to fulfill our volunteer needs,” she said, noting Bank of America also financed the food bank’s expenses. “They went to that extra effort to cover the costs of the shifts. Employees brought their kids, so it’s a great family event.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Michael Dewitt and his girlfriend, Riane Sherman, break apart frozen corn in a bin in the cooler of Oregon Food Bank. Sherman, an assistant manager at the Bank of America in Tualatin, took part in her company's support of the Day of Service to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Kazeem Lawal, a Central Beaverton resident and district manager with Bank of America, brought his children, Abdul, 9, and Siddiq, 6, to help the food bank on the MLK Jr. holiday for the second straight year.

“You get a sense of fulfillment,” Lawal said of the annual event. “You’re helping people by providing for others who don’t have a lot. As someone who lives in Beaverton, I’m trying to give something back.”

Tobie and Mike Hustler surprised their son, Luke, a Southridge High School freshman, with the family-oriented food-packing opportunity on Monday morning.

“They just woke me up at 8 o’clock so I just came over,” Luke Hustler said, admitting he’d planned on sleeping in on his day off from school. “You (still) just feel like helping out.”

His mother, Tobie, praised the organization and the event.

“My husband and I were trying to find something to do as a family, a volunteer activity, some activity other than shopping,” she said with a chuckle. “This is wonderful that a family can do this together and serve the community.”

Oregon Food Bank collects and distributes food through a network of four branches and 17 independent regional food banks serving Oregon and Southwest Washington. The food bank also leads statewide efforts to increase resources for hungry families and eliminate root causes of hunger through advocacy, nutrition education, garden education and helping communities strengthen local food systems, Taylor noted.

Kris Voss-Rothemeier, a social studies and speech teacher with Portland’s Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, school, rounded up 24 students and five parents to volunteer at this year’s holiday event. He drew his inspiration from Dr. King’s passion for giving back to one’s community.

“Martin Luther King said, ‘If you want to be great, serve,’” Voss-Rothemeier noted.

His call for volunteers on the upcoming holiday went over big last week. “I said, ‘Who would like to come with me?’ And half the class raised their hands.”

While there was a flurry of activity in the Monday morning and afternoon shifts at the food bank, Taylor emphasized the ongoing need for assistance.

“We need volunteers all year round,” she said. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Volunteers from Pacific Power, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, United Way and Clear Creek Middle School took part in a Day of Service to honor Martin Luther King Jr. by repacking and sorting food at the Oregon Food Bank in Beaverton.

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