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Scappoose man helps senior center feed the hungry

RSVP Volunteer of the Month helps grow food for fellow seniors and the needy

COLUMBIA COUNTY RSVP - LeRoy Schmidt is awarded Columbia County RSVP's Volunteer of the Month for March. Schmidt, shown here with My Fair Lady Princess Barbra Bynoe (left) and Judy Thompson, volunteers his time at the Scappoose Senior Center's garden each week.

LeRoy Schmidt has a green thumb and a big heart.

Schmidt, a certified Master Gardener, is one of a handful of volunteers whose gardening skills are helping to feed people across the county.

Twice a week, Schmidt and others tend the 1-acre garden at the Scappoose Senior Center, often times picking ripe crops straight from the garden for the center’s chef to use that day. Crops from the garden are used in the senior center’s community meals and its Meals on Wheels program. Leftover fresh produce also gets donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank in Scappoose.

Schmidt estimates he and other volunteer gardeners produced about 3,000 pounds of food from the center’s garden last year.

“Right now we’ve got lettuce that’s up, radishes, onions, peas,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got a bunch of cabbage and broccoli and cauliflower starts.” Last year we had about 80 tomato plants, lots of corn.”

Cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, spinaches and chard are also among the hearty harvest items from the garden.

He’s not the only one helping to harvest food, but Schmidt, a retired cabinet maker who worked for Oregon Health & Sciences University for 28 years, was recently named Volunteer of the Month by Columbia County’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP.)

“It’s a community need. It really is,” he said. “The people appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables. As much as we can supply, we have very little that is left over each day.”

“We’ll just go in and ask the cook, ‘What do you need today?’ Then we’ll go out and get it and they can prepare it for a fresh meal that day.”

Schmidt said he’s been helping to tend the garden for a few years now. He’s also been called upon to help with mechanical repairs and other fix-it jobs at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scappoose.

He said he decided to lend his skills and time to the senior center after hearing the previous volunteer gardener had health issues.

“It’s a big undertaking, but its a rewarding undertaking, as well,” he said.