Mary Chapman gathers 600 pounds of food on last day

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mary Chapman is all smiles during her last day of work at the Wells Fargo bank branch near Washington Square mall. Chapman has worked the company for  42 years and donated 600 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank on her last day.When Mary Chapman said goodbye to her Wells Fargo Bank co-workers on Monday, she did it knowing that she had helped families in need.

For 42 years, Chapman worked as a banker in Tigard, 32 of those years at the Wells Fargo branch on Southwest Hall Boulevard and for the past eight years at the branch near Washington Square mall.

Chapman retired Monday at age 64, and asked customers, co-workers and friends to come say goodbye and bring a donation for the Oregon Food Bank with them.

“I was afraid that nobody was going to bring anything,” Chapman said Monday, looking at a large pile of cans and boxes that occupied the bank’s lobby.

By the end of the day on Monday, she had received 600 pounds of items for the food bank. “It’s great,” she said.

Chapman’s success with the food drive comes, in part, from her career as a banker, said former co-worker Christine Westover.

“She is very thoughtful and she takes time to get to know people,” said Westover, who worked with Chapman at the Hall Boulevard branch for a decade.

When Chapman moved from the Hall Boulevard branch to Washington Square, many of her customers followed her to the new branch.

“That’s not necessarily common with bankers,” Westover said. “Mary has a very unique personality.”

One-day drive

Chapman began working at what was then First National Bank in 1971.

“I really get to know my customers really well,” she said. “In some cases it’s third generation customers. I’ve worked with parents, their children and their grandkids.”

Working with families and forming those relationships is what Chapman said she’ll miss the most.

“You form relationships and get to know them,” she said. “Maybe you helped them through a rough spot in the past and you see them over the years.”

Helping people out of a rough spot is what Chapman wanted to do when she asked her friends and co-workers to donate to the Oregon Food Bank on her last day. The bank has a relationship with the organization, hosting food drives throughout the year, Chapman said, and she wanted to continue that relationship one last time.

Oregon Food Bank distributes food throughout Oregon and Clark County, Wash.

It’s a growing problem, with 77 percent of households saying they worry about how they will get their next meal (compared to 66 percent in 2010, the food bank said). In an average month, an estimated 270,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., ate meals from emergency food boxes during the past year (compared to 260,000 in 2010). Of those, almost 92,000 were children (compared to almost 86,000 in 2010).

Westover said she wasn’t surprised by Chapman’s ability to bring in people for the one-day food drive.

“She has an old-time banking feel about her, that your banker is trustworthy and that you can talk to them,” Westover said.

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