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A really nice guy

Bill Barger is always ready to roll with coffee and soup for volunteers


by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn Good Samaritan Bill Barger pours a cup of coffee from his kitchen on wheels. Good deeds are nice, and even nicer when unexpected. Nobody does this better than Bill Barger.

The West Linn resident has started showing up out of the blue with his Rolling Stone Soup Kitchen — a 4x8 trailer filled with coffee, hot chocolate and food for volunteers doing difficult work at disasters or community projects. To say the volunteers are glad to see Barger is an understatement.

"Most of them are really surprised," Barger said. "A lot of tension goes out of their faces. They think, 'Somebody cares about us.'"

One of the most memorable faces belongs to Roberta Schwarz, who heads up the White Oak Savannah trail restoration project in West Linn. She was extremely glad when Barger suddenly showed up for one of their work days.

"A big, wide, open smile came across Roberta's face," Barger said. "I think I made her day. She had been working a long time on the trails and I sort of came unannounced. I had the surprise factor."

"Bill had a lovely spread for us at our trail work party," Schwarz said. "If only more people would pay it forward like Bill does."

Early last week Barger brought his trailer to benefit volunteers who were helping search for then-missing West Linn teens, Jackson Chandler, 17, and Bradley Nelson, 16. The teens, who had been hiking in the Table Rock area, were found safely after 44 hours on Oct. 29.

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Barger drives the bus for the West Linn Adult Community Center, sings with the Share Singers and is a  volunteer firefighter with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. The only downside to Barger's unannounced visits is the skepticism he occasionally encounters.

"I met the sheriff of Marion County and he couldn't believe I had come all the way from West Linn to help them," Barger said. "He asked, 'What are you charging for your services?'

"I said, 'Nothing.' That melted the ice."

Barger said he gets his philosophy from a sign he saw on a cement truck: Find a need and fill it. So far Barger and his kitchen on wheels have filled the need in West Linn, Aumsville, Turner and Gresham. He got the idea for the traveling coffee service from his own experience. He was working as a volunteer firefighter in Chicago when he and his brethren were called to put out a "nasty" plastics fire that forced them to work all day.

Everyone was exhausted when a crew from the Salvation Army showed up with coffee and sandwiches. A light bulb immediately turned on in Barger's brain.

"Now that I'm retired it's my opportunity to pay it forward," he said.

Barger's first mission of mobile mercy came when the Aumsville tornado struck southeast of Salem in 2010.

"There was no place to get supplies or help," Barger said. "The grocery store had been wiped out by the tornado. Then the Salvation Army experience clicked in. I said, 'I can help.' I asked, 'Who helps the volunteers?'"

His trailer is equipped with coffee pots, burners, lamps, a fold-out table, a canopy and stoves for the preparation of food. He can make soup just like his momma (a home economics teacher) taught him.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Bill Barger took care of volunteers at the White Oak Savannah trail restoration project in West Linn."I'm pretty much self contained," he said. "I can get creative."

Barger first tested his operation at a Neighbors Helping Neighbors event in West Linn.

"I wanted to test it to see if I could function," he said. "The coffee maker who was supposed to be there didn't show up. I was the only game in town and it went over real well. I thought, 'I've got something here.'"

Barger is well qualified for the task, both from his past experience and his good samaritan attitude. He previously worked as a facility and project coordinator helping volunteers at Aumsville. He's also a natural-born volunteer.

Barger is a familiar face in West Linn where he drives the bus for the West Linn Adult Community Center, sings with the Share Singers and is a volunteer firefighter with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

The biggest asset in his volunteer work is his wife, Tana, and volunteering is in his blood. An Ohio native, both of his parents were avid volunteers, and the desire to go to where the need was greatest is strong in Barger's blood.

"I've been volunteering for my entire adult life," Barger said, heartily recommending the lifestyle for others. "People get so wrapped up in their own lives, but a little volunteering can go a long way."




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