New director of the Estacada Area Food Bank hopes to connect food with community service

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Debra Bufton, the new director of the Estacada Area Food Bank, joined the group's board of directors last summer.

Debra Bufton is eager to continue her involvement with Estacada's community service resources.

Bufton, who was recently named the director of the Estacada Area Food Bank, appreciates the way Estacada's community organizations and volunteers care about their neighbors.

"We have a really strong community spirit, and people look out for each other," she said. "It's a really lovely feeling. We're all in this together, and everybody helps each other out."

Bufton joined the food bank's board of directors last summer and served as interim director of the organization after Barbara Shibley's retirement in October. Bufton began as the food bank's permanent leader on Thursday, Feb. 1.

"I'm super excited about the opportunity to live and work in the community," she said. "There are already so many great things already happening here, and it's humbling to be a part of that."

One element of the Estacada Area Food Bank that Bufton particularly appreciates is its model that allows people people to choose their own food items from the pantry's selection, rather than receiving a pre-packaged box of them.

"People have the right to make choices amongst what's available," she said, adding that it is empowering to be able to do so.

Bufton sees a lot of value in having a food bank and additional food resources located in Estacada.

"One challenge of rural living is how far you are from other places. I see how many people come here and don't have transportation, so its nice to have resources right here in this community," she said.

The Estacada Area Food Bank serves Estacada, Eagle Creek, Colton, Carver and Barton. Approximately 300 families come to the food bank each month. Food for cats and dogs is also available.

"That's a large geographic area, and I'm glad (the food bank) is here," Bufton said. "There's a strong need for it in this community."

Bufton has a background in community development and public health and is eager to delve into additional community service activities, something she's done in the United States and while abroad. She and her family spent three years in Vietnam, where she taught middle school humanities, and two years in the United Arab Emirates, where she was a school's service learning coordinator.

"That's where my heart is, linking service and the learning available through service to people of all ages," she said.

The Estacada Area Food Bank has 28 volunteers, and those interested in joining them should stop by the establishment at 272 Broadway St. for an application. A shift for high school students on Wednesday afternoons will begin this month.

"Some volunteers work 16 hours a week, and others work one and a half hours," Bufton said. "They're all appreciated."

She's excited about the shift for students.

"It's nice for students to be able to connect with their community," she said.

Bufton encouraged anyone interested in finding out more about the Estacada Area Food Bank to stop by. The establishment at 272 Broadway St. is open from 10-11:45 a.m. and 12:30-3:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

"This is a safe and welcoming place," she said. "We have a lot of friendly relationships. There's no judgement about coming here. We want people to feel free to come and use this resource."

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