Churches, groups fight hunger during holidays

It’s the spare change that gets to the Rev. Bruce Montgomery, who organizes the annual Thanksgiving dinner for SnowCap Community JIM CLARK - Not everyone will have a delicious turkey meal this Thanksgiving, according to folks fighting hunger locally.

The dinner is free and open to the public, and more than a few of the guests are single moms with children, or lonely seniors. Despite the poverty that brings them there, however, some of the guests feel obligated to give back.

“They’ll ask, ‘Can I give you something?’ “ he says. “We’ll say, no, keep it for yourself. But sometimes they’ll have a pocketful of change, and they’ll put it in the pot. We’ll say, OK, we can use that to offset the costs of the dinner.”

He appreciates the gesture, he says, but cherishes their hearts much more.

“Some of them come in, and they’re practically in tears,” he says. “They just can’t believe we’re providing this for nothing.”

For 13 years, the retired Methodist minister has been organizing the dinners, which are served in Rockwood United Methodist Church, located in front of SnowCap’s offices at 17805 S.E. Stark St.

Judy Alley, SnowCap’s executive director, says the free Thanksgiving dinner will be served from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22.

Both Alley and Montgomery say they’ve seen the number of folks attending the dinner steadily increase over the past few years. Last year’s dinner consisted of 131 volunteers preparing and serving meals to 326 people, Montgomery says, adding the food served is not taken from SnowCap’s pantry, but is all donated specifically for JIM CLARK - The Rev. Bruce Montgomery organizes the annual Thanksgiving dinner for SnowCap Community Charities and says he's always moved by the gratitude guests express.

“Because of the poor economy, there are many more people needing assistance this year than ever before,” Alley adds. “When families double up there isn’t room for them all to sit and eat together. It is rewarding for a family to gather at a table and take stock of what they might be thankful for.”

In addition to SnowCap, folks who would like a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner this year can go to Estacada Assembly of God Church, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Zobrist St, from 1-6 p.m. Nov. 22. All are welcome to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and desserts, according to Terry Hamlin, a church board member. For more information, call 503-502-8847.

“We know there are people out there who don’t get the traditional Thanksgiving experience,” he says. “We know there are a lot of hungry and lonely people out there and we want to make an impact on that.”

Another option for people seeking a Thanksgiving dinner is Camp Arrah-Wanna in Welches, located on Highway 26. The dinner takes place from 1-4 p.m.

Hunger and the holidays

Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas season are a joyous time for many. Yet for folks struggling to make ends meet, the season can only serve to highlight just how hungry they are.

We contacted groups, churches and schools to find out how many folks are struggling to pay for food in the areas of Gresham, Sandy and Estacada, and found out the following:

• About 67 percent, or 4,130 students, in the Centennial School District, receive free or reduced priced lunches.

• Almost 74 percent of students in the Reynolds School District receive free or reduced price lunches.

• Fifty-five percent, or 6,629 students, in the Gresham-Barlow School district receive such assistance.

• An average of 90 families or individuals go to the Estacada Area Food Bank to obtain food and other types of assistance each week.

• The Sandy Action Community Center provided 276 emergency food boxes to folks in October of this year, which translates to about 777 people needing food.

“People are hungry for many reasons,” says Rita Ezard, the Sandy center’s director. “There are the ones on fixed incomes. Their income never makes it to the end of the month. Their food/SNAP stamps run out so they come to us to help bridge the gap. Prescriptions cost a lot, and many have to choose between eating or getting the medications they need to live on.

“The cost of gas keeps going up,” she adds. “People use their grocery money to buy gas so they can go to work then don’t have enough money to feed their families. Homelessness. Obviously if you don’t have enough money to keep a roof over your head you don’t have enough money to buy food with.”

Greg Koegel, a volunteer with the Estacada Area Food Bank, which serves Estacada, Colton and Eagle Creek, has spent two years at the bank.

“Primarily what I see is a loss of income, a loss of jobs,” he says. “A number of our clients are homeless. A lot of the clients who have come in have been laid off, unable to find work.”

Folks of all ages, from teenagers to senior citizens need help, he adds.

“I hear so many different stories that everything is a bit of a surprise,” he says. “They can be quite destitute. But they seem to have solid attitudes and their character is strong.”

How to help

One theme each group fighting hunger continually reiterated was the public can do a lot to help fight hunger, no matter the age or income of people who want to help.

For example, students in such schools as Reynolds High and Alder Elementary have recently participated in anti-hunger drives.

And you’d be hard-pressed to find a church or fraternal group in the area that hasn’t helped out with a soup kitchen, a food pantry or canned food drive.

Here’s just some of the groups folks in the Gresham, Sandy and Estacada areas can contact to help fill the bellies of the hungry. The list is by no means exhaustive, but intended to give a flavor of the efforts out there.

n Lynch View Elementary School, 1546 S.E. 169th Place, Portland, has a bucket for nonperishable food donations used for a pantry. Donors can drop off food from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on school days. Info: 503-762-3203.

n SnowCap Community Charities can always use monetary and food donations. Info: 503-674-8785,

n Zarephath Kitchen & Food Pantry, located in a house owned by Trinity Lutheran Church at 59 N.W. Ava Ave., Gresham. The kitchen serves hot meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Friday. Info: 503-667-2692 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. The pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Info: 503-667-7932 from 9 a.m. to 2 pm.

n Sanctuary Church, 3101 S.E. Orient Drive, operates a food pantry the first, third and fifth Saturdays of each month for those who live in east Gresham, Troutdale, Boring, Damascus and Sandy. If you need food, you can call 503-663-9146, visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If a person has a minimum of four hours a month available and would like to get involved in helping with this ministry, call Sheila Isley at the church.

n The Salvation Army operates a center at 473 S.E. 194th Ave. Info: 503-661-8972 or visit

n Sandy Community Action Center, 38982 Pioneer Blvd., Sandy, coordinates anti-hunger efforts in the Sandy area. For more information, call 503-668-4746 or visit

Four places in Sandy serve free meals.

• The Community Church of Sandy offers a free dinner at 6 p.m. every Friday at 39290 Scenic St. For more information, call 503-668-4543.

• The Sandy Assembly Of God Church offers a free dinner at 6 p.m. every third Monday at 39800 Highway 26, Sandy. The church also has its food pantry and clothes closet open those nights. For more information, call 503-668-5589.

• St. Vincent de Paul serves a free lunch from noon-2 p.m. every Wednesday at the Sandy Community Action Center, 38982 Pioneer Blvd. For more information, call 503-668-4746.

• St. Michael Catholic Church offers a free dinner at 6 p.m. every Saturday at 18090 Langensand Road. For more information, call 503-668-4446.

n Estacada Area Food Bank, 272 Broadway, serves folks in Estacada, Colton and Eagle Creek, and is located across from Key Bank. Info: 503-630-2888.

n Oregon Food Bank and Meals on Wheels People/Loaves and Fishes Centers are both excellent sources on how to help the hungry. Visit to learn more or To donate $10 to Oregon Food Bank, just text OFB to the number 20222 now through Dec. 31.

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