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Local students volunteer weekly

Regular volunteer brings three students with her
by: Jeff Spiegel The Estacada food bank features everything from produce to canned goods to frozen items.

Four years ago, food bank volunteer Linda Arnett saw two problems that could be solved at once. On one hand, the food bank is always in need of able volunteers. On the other hand, she saw a need for a place that Estacada youths could volunteer at throughout the week. So then she put the two together.

With the help of her daughter, a middle school teacher at Estacada Junior High, Arnett put together a program that brought three students into the food bank once a week.

'I wish we could go more often, but three is the most I can take and it is hard to pull them out of class more than once in a week,' she said.

The way it works is that students must get a permission slip signed at the beginning of the year, and then throughout the year three students are selected at a time to go. This year the school received more than 100 permission slips back.

'The mean volunteer age at the food bank is 65, and some of the hardest workers are 80,' Arnett said. 'So it is really cool for the kids to work alongside some of those powerhouses because I like to think it changes these kids.'

As an example of what a typical Tuesday might look like, Arnett picks the children up from the junior high at 12:40 p.m. and they head straight to the food bank. Last week the students repackaged 150 pounds of canned goods before heading back to school at 2:15 p.m.

'I don't want this to be a reward thing for kids with good grades because we want all of the kids to do it,' science teacher Margie Arnett said. 'Especially because it is a great way for the community to see junior high kids in a positive light.'

For some of the kids, the program is a real changing moment to the point where they can't wait to go back and help again.

'I've had kids call me over the summer and I'll meet them at the food bank or pick them up,' Linda said. 'A lot of kids say there isn't anything to do around here, but with adult help there is plenty to do.'

Linda also is the manager of the Book Nook in Estacada, and if someone would like to make a donation during a time in which the food bank is closed, they can drop food or checks off there.