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Last year the drive raised the equivalent of 875,000 pounds of food for SnowCap Community Charities.

FILE PHOTO - Volunteers prepare bags for the Tuesday, Nov. 14 edition of The Outlook. Each year at this time, The Outlook bands together with other businesses and volunteers to offer up the Fill-A-Bag program, an effort to collect food and monetary donations that go directly to SnowCap Community Charities.

This is an important undertaking, one that annually meets a significant need within our community. Last year the drive raised the equivalent of 875,000 pounds of food.

The Oregon Food Bank describes about 644,000 Oregonians as "food insecure," meaning they don't have access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Of that number, an estimated 223,000 are children.

And in Oregon, there is no place more hard-hit by food insecurity than the Rockwood neighborhood of west Gresham and East Portland, where the average adult income is in the bottom 30 percent of all U.S. neighborhoods. More than 43 percent of children living in Rockwood are ranked as living below the federal poverty line.

It's important to note that the people seeking help through SnowCap are generally the working poor — everyday moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, who have homes and jobs, but who routinely find themselves making difficult choices between food and heat, or food and rent.

In the spirit of the holiday season, we at The Outlook and Pamplin Media Group invite you to lend a hand by supporting the great work at SnowCap, and by giving your neighbors the help they need.

To get you started, you'll find an empty brown paper grocery bag inside today's edition of the The Outlook. Just fill the bag with groceries and drop it off any of the following locations:

• Gresham Ford, 1999 E. Powell Blvd., Gresham.

• Riverview Community Bank, 10401 N.E. Halsey St., Portland, and 225 N.E. Burnside Road, Gresham.

• Grocery Outlet, 2925 N.W. Division St., Gresham

• Landmark Tax & Investment Services Inc., 415 N.E. Fourth St., Gresham.

• US World Class Taekwondo, 2443 S.W. Cherry Park Road, Troutdale; 2332 E. Powell Blvd., Gresham; 1507 N.E. 181st Ave., Rockwood; 36655 Highway 26, Sandy.

• Gresham Breakfast Lions, 137 N. Main Ave. (M&M Cafe).

• Balance Health & Injury Clinic, 1217 N.E. Burnside Road, Gresham.

• Pathway Church of Gresham, 3848 N.E. Division St., Gresham.

• Stamp Connection, 109 N.E. Roberts Ave.

• City of Gresham, City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

An even better way to help

While your food donations are deeply appreciated, there are other ways of helping that are of even greater value. Attached to each paper bag (inserted in today's Outlook) you'll find a white envelope. You have the option of sending a cash donation in addition to — or in place of — a food donation.

Amazingly, SnowCap will be able to purchase up to 400 pounds of food with each $20 donation. The reality is, if you have to make a choice between donating food or cash, SnowCap — because of its purchasing power — would rather have the money.

A third way of helping involves making purchases that support local businesses, which in turn support SnowCap.

Grocery Outlet, for example, is holding its celebrity cashier event from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 12. And the McDonald's restaurant at 900 S.W. Highland Drive, Gresham, is holding its event from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 13. In both cases, the businesses will donate a percentage of sales during those hours.

You also can purchase a CD of the Metro East Media Holiday Showcase, which takes place Nov. 15-16. Fifty percent of the CD sales benefit SnowCap.

And, you can have you photo taken with Dozer Dave Turin at Gresham Ford. Turin was the guy made famous by appearing the Discovery channel's "Gold Rush." For every photo taken, Gresham Ford will donate $5 to Fill-A-Bag.

Fundraising events continue on through December, and The Outlook will keep you informed in print and online about what's coming up. You also should consider following Fill-A-Bag on Facebook, or visiting SnowCap Community Charities at www.snowcap.org.

Let's work together to make the 2017 Fill-A-Bag effort the best one yet.

Now, go fill that bag.

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