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RSVP volunteer of the week: Tom Welch

The Woodburn AWARE Food Bank consists of 27 active volunteers who share their time Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon to assist the general public with food boxes. On average, each volunteer will commit to 25 hours on a weekly basis. The food boxes contain canned goods, nonperishable food items, fresh produce, dairy and meat products, packaged frozen vegetables and bread/pastry and a ready to consume item(s), if available.

Tom Welch, a retired Oregon State Police officer, is a current volunteer at the AWARE Food Bank and dedicates four hours a week assisting with recycle items to the transfer station; pickup and delivery services scheduled or as an on-call basis; pickup of pastry donation sites in the surrounding area; stocking and organizing the warehouse and shelves; greeting customers and assisting with delivery of food boxes. His greatest reward when he volunteers is seeing the smiles from the kids and sneaking in a cookie for each kid while their parents are waiting for their food box.

He first became familiar with the AWARE Food Bank from a board member and soon found himself also being on the board because he saw the need was great in Woodburn. He started a program in his church to fill the gaps and needs of the community by also raising funds to purchase specific products that are most in need at a much more reasonable price.

He has seen many volunteers complete required hours, but enjoys the fact that most return even if it is not required and knowing that it was done by choice to contribute back to society. While working with Wilbur Kauffman, site supervisor, he has learned that Wilbur will accommodate the individual’s needs in an array of assistance. He serves as a mentor and greatly appreciates the compassion in his supervisor and continues to learn and grow from those experiences.

Tom’s dedication extends also as a volunteer minister for Community of Christ Church, located on Fifth Street. He ministers locally and regionally in Washington and Oregon. Ordained as a minister in 1978, he serves all year round and, between his wife and him, they provide sermons, administer ministerial acts, assist with maintenance, upkeep and are working on remodeling projects for the facility. He especially enjoys working with church members on a one-on-one basis, family and/or youth ministering capacity.

There is a lot of physical work involved with performing volunteer commitment to both organizations and, at the end of the day, he truly feels the gratification of serving, knowing that a needy family received food and that giving back to the community is appreciated by food box recipients, as well as church members and visitors.

In his spare time, he does enjoy hunting, fishing and exploring the open lands.

So when asked if money was no object, how would he use that money, his response was: Create an endowment fund to supplement the food bank and expand the operations in other areas, organizations and programs that help local communities.