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West Linn showed it can do its part to feed the hungry

Our modest town of West Linn distinguished itself last month in a huge gesture of generosity. Together, the people and businesses of West Linn donated more than 30,000 pounds of food to benefit hungry families.

West Linn Feeds the Hungry, the first citywide canned food drive of its magnitude in Oregon, captured the imagination and challenged the creativity of all segments of our community. From posters to barrels to mounds of canned goods, evidence of support and participation was everywhere during March.

Five primary schools and two middle schools staged canned food drives - some of these quite high-spirited and characterized by friendly but intense competition. High schoolers collected nearly $200 in coins at lunchtime. Youngsters at several local preschools lugged cans to school and talked about hunger.

Girl Scouts and Brownies picked up cans door-to-door, Cub Scouts collected cash donations at grocery store entries and Boy Scouts donated muscle-power at the food drive kick-off event. The West Linn Public Library collected food for fines and sported overflowing barrels in its lobby for the entire month.

Our four local grocery stores functioned as key collection points for donations, and Bales Marketplace outdid itself by selling nearly 400 pre-packed bags of foods for donation during March. Businesses across town displayed food drive posters, and many set out barrels, baskets and carts to collect canned goods from their patrons or offered incentives for donating.

An array of West Linn non-profit organizations supported the food drive by publicizing it and collecting donations from their members. Almost all local churches participated generously. Although the organizations and individuals who supported the citywide food drive are too numerous to list, a few deserve special recognition for their contributions.

The West Linn Lions Club, in addition to being a sponsoring partner of the food drive, encouraged patrons of its annual Easter Egg Hunt to donate canned goods, hosted two Lion Burger feeds in chilly wintry conditions and donated burger-feed proceeds to the food drive. The Lions Club also leveraged its impact by tapping family connections in Boise, Idaho to procure a donation of more than 600 pounds of frozen food from two food-processing companies.

The West Linn Rotary Club provided the backbone of volunteer energy for several food drive events, responding with generosity to every call for help.

Willamette Primary School not only offered the artistic talents of its third-graders in creating the food drive poster but also contributed more than 7,000 pounds of food to the cause. The charming cub scouts of Pack #504 collected nearly $300 in one afternoon at the doors of Albertson's.

Three local businesses provided crucial sponsorship to get the food drive off the ground: Pacific West Bank, Gelfand Insurance and Windermere/Cronin and Caplan Realty Group. Locally owned Neturf donated the food drive Web site and continues to maintain it as service to our local food pantry. West Linn artist Peter Cook, of Cook Graphic Design, donated hours of eye-catching design work.

Thanks are also owed to our supporting partners: The West Linn Chamber of Commerce, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, and the West Linn City Council. Generously, the West Linn Tidings provided the invaluable service of educating our community about hunger and publicizing the food drive with donated advertising space.

Of the many people who enthusiastically volunteered their time to carry out the food drive, three must be singled out for the uncounted hours they devoted to the cause: Kathleen Winterling was unstinting in her professional and clear-headed work on fund-raising, event planning and publicity. Kent Williams gave over his whole life for nearly two months to distributing, monitoring, emptying and otherwise managing more than 200 collection barrels. Very special appreciation goes to Brian Hackney who, while in the grips of a grave illness, functioned as the phone dispatcher for the barrel crew.

Warm thanks go to all the other volunteers who played roles, big and small, in this effort.

Even as we deliver the last of the cans, two worthy charities are already passing these donations on to families experiencing food insecurity. The West Linn Food Pantry, having recently celebrated its first year in existence, has jammed its shelves with several months of supplies and is more secure as a result of this effort. Its volunteers worked tirelessly during March helping to collect food from far-flung donation sites. The Oregon Food Bank will ensure that West Linn's generosity is also shared beyond our borders.

Everyone who donated to the food drive should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Not only have we in West Linn opened our hearts and wallets and pantries to families on the brink of hunger, but we have also shown other cities how it can be done. We've made new neighborly connections by having shared this common purpose, and we've offered tangible opportunities for our children to practice empathy and charity.

West Linn Feeds the Hungry has one further request: Please don't stop giving. Hunger is a year-round phenomenon, and food agencies will need your help again before the next holiday season rolls around. Your next opportunity: the Postal Carriers' Food Drive, on May 10, benefiting the Oregon Food Bank. Our West Linn Food Pantry will need your on-going support. To volunteer or make donations, log on to www.WLfooddrive.com or call 503-880-8140.

Thank you, West Linn, for working to abate hunger in our community.

Ellen Worcester chaired the Steering Committee for West Linn Feeds the Hungry.