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SW HOPE community food drive under way

Extraordinary need may force Neighborhood House to cut services
by: Submitted Photo Neighborhood Emergency Team volunteers help sort and package food and money collected by Jackson Middle School students in support of Neighborhood House’s Emergency Food Box Program.

SOUTHWEST - Th e annual SW HOPE: Feed the Hungry campaign is under way, running through April 17 with a goal of collecting 150,000 pounds of desperately needed food, or the cash equivalent. Th e drive brings together more than 60 faith communities, businesses and other community partners to benefit Neighborhood House's Emergency Food Box Program, the largest food pantry on Portland's west side.

Th is year's campaign is off to a good start. A well-attended kick-off event hosted by Salvador Molly's raised $500, according to restaurant owner Darielle Sadle-Ruff. Jackson Middle School students, first-time SW HOPE participants this year, have mounted a stand-out effort, raising more than $1,800 and 500 pounds of food for the cause. Participating faith communities have added the equivalent of another 4,100 pounds in food and funds. Approximately two weeks into the campaign, the equivalent of nearly 25,000 pounds of food has been collected toward the 150,000 pound goal.

Neighborhood House currently provides emergency food boxes to nearly 700 families each month, up from about 370 families two years ago. Th e skyrocketing demand is finally catching up with the organization, which has been forced in recent months to dip into reserves to keep enough food on the pantry shelves to feed a more than 2,000 people each month.

Executive Director Rick Nitti reported that, despite increases in individual donations and foundation support, because of the 87 percent increase in demand, the organization is reluctantly considering trimming services to staunch the flow of unbudgeted expenses.

'Neighborhood House has extended itself in the midst of a crisis to help people struggling to meet their basic needs. Although our fundraising has gone up significantly, it's simply not enough to keep pace with the enormous need at this time,' Nitti said.

Because of the extreme circumstances, organizers are prioritizing fundraising as the focus of SW HOPE this year. A monetary donation is the most efficient way to help - every $1 donation allows Neighborhood House to purchase five pounds of food at the Oregon Food Bank. Cash donations may be made directly to Neighborhood House at 7780 S.W. Capitol Hwy., or online at www.swhope.org.

Several local restaurants, including Salvador Molly's, Casa Colima and Fat City Cafe, are supporting the drive by donating a percentage of sales when accompanied by a 'Dine Out and Donate' coupon. McMenamins' Hillsdale Brewery will host a special 'Friends and Family Night' for SW HOPE on April 5, donating 50 percent of sales after 5 p.m., no coupon needed. A list of participating restaurants and downloadable coupons can be found at www.swhope.org.

A number of community partners, including the 26 participating faith congregations, are accepting food donations for SW HOPE. A complete list of food donation sites can be found at www.swhope.org.

For more information about SW HOPE, contact Pastor Patty Campbell-Schmitt at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at 503-246-4276. Information is also available at www.swhope.org or by calling Neighborhood House at 503-246-1663, ext. 2118.

-Submitted by Neighborhood House