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Growing hope

by: Tyler Graf GROW — Edee Douglas with her community garden.

Something special grows in retiree Edee Douglas' two community garden beds.

Her vegetables - a mishmash of nutritious fare - may be of the typical garden variety, but it's not for her. The food goes to feed the hungry through the 3-year-old Community Meals program.

The program works in conjunction with Community Action Team and the Columbia Pacific Foodbank to provide healthy meals to the area's needy. Summer meals are particularly special to the program's organizers because much of the food comes from St. Helens' Community Garden, including Douglas' bounty.

The meals, held every Tuesday and Thursday at First Lutheran Church, have an open-door policy.

'Everyone is welcome to come to the meals,' said Kathy Bauska, coordinator for Community Meals. 'Lots of people come for different reasons. Some come because they're lonely or homeless, and some come because they're retired and don't cook anymore.'

Volunteers such as Douglas-who does double duty growing produce and cooking meals occasionally -come for their own reasons.

Douglas said 17 to 20 volunteers typically show up every week.

As for the hungry, she said she feels a kinship with the people she sees at the dinners.

That's because 40 years ago, Douglas, recently divorced, found herself struggling to make end's meet. She worked as a secretary at a sawmill. She made barely enough to pay the bills but too much to receive government assistance.

Today, she hopes the meals serve as a way for getting people on their feet again, she said.

'I hope people are able to have enough money to go out and have their own dinner outside of the home, away from us,' Douglas said.

People interested in volunteering over the summer can find more information on Community Meals' website: www.cmeals.org.