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Birch Community Services co-founder Barry Birch dies at 72

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Memorial service scheduled for Saturday, April 11


Barry Birch, the beloved co-founder of Birch Community Services, died at his Happy Valley home earlier this week after a short battle with Guillain–Barré syndrome. He was 72. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - BARRY BIRCH

Birch founded Birch Community Services — one of Oregon's largest food-distribution programs — with his wife, Suzanne, in 1992. He served as the organization's executive director for the organization's first 13 years. After retiring from in 2005, he stayed on as a key volunteer.

A message from his family and employees on the BCS website said Birch "loved to see a spark of generosity result in a blessing to families in need. He richly loved people with a compassionate and gentle spirit, as he himself had been loved."

A memorial service to honor Birch's life will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 11, at at Mountainview Christian Church, 1890 N.E. Cleveland Ave., in Gresham.

Birch Community Services, which provides a variety of services to families in need, started, as its website explains, "with a donated bag of squished bread on the Birch front porch, distributed to two single moms in need." Other food retailers who had heard of the Birch's giving sprit joined in donating their surplus for re-distribution by the Birches to a growing number of families.

The organization grew to become one of the largest food-distribution programs in Oregon. The organization, whose leaders say has "never received a penny in government funds" was recognized among the top 25 organizations in the Portland Business Journal’s annual “Top 100 Portland Non-Profits."

Kim Ikehara, office manager at BCS for 11 years, said it's been a tough week for employees and longtime clients of the organization.

"We're all hurting," she said on Friday. "We feel really blessed to have known him and are grateful for his contributions to the community."

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system, leading to nerve inflammation that causes muscle weakness and other symptoms.

Suzanne Birch led the family in establishing the Barry Birch Memorial Fund. To contribute and learn more about Barry Birch's legacy, visit www.birchcommunityservices.org.