by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Linda Dove loads wood chips for a path along the community garden at the Metzger United Methodist Church. The Church is shuttering this summer to become a food bank and community garden known as Bethlehelm: House of Bread.The Methodist church on Southwest Locust Street in Metzger has stood for more than a century, but this summer the church will close its doors, merging its congregation with a nearby church and transforming its former headquarters into a food bank and community garden.

In February, members of the Metzger United Methodist Church voted to merge with the Tigard United Methodist Church after years of declining numbers.

The merger followed a year of conversations, said Tigard United Methodist Pastor Leland E. Hunefeld.

The two churches have long been connected, sharing vacation bible school resources, and hosting classes together.

It’s doors will close for good on July 1, but don’t expect the landmark church to be out of commission for long.

In its place will rise “Bethlehem: House of Bread” a food bank dedicated to not just treating the symptoms of hunger in Oregon, but stopping them head-on.

Bethlehem means “house of bead” in Hebrew, Hunefeld said.

Run by the Tigard church, the food pantry will give food to the area’s hungry, as well as host classes in proper nutrition and food insecurity.

“The theme is about feeding people,” said Linda Dove, the church’s director of Christian education and spiritual formation. “We want to do anything we can to help people be more healthy in their eating habits.”

Hunger in Washington County is on the rise, Hunefeld said, and something needs to be done to address it.

According to the Oregon Food Bank, the rate of families eating from emergency food boxes (in Washington County) is rising at twice the statewide rate. Distribution of emergency food increased 14 percent statewide last year, compared to 28 percent in Washington County.

“Even us middle-class folks have forgotten how to eat correctly,” she said. “We all need to be re-trained on that.”

As head of the church’s ministries, Dove said she wanted the church’s next project to work to help feed people.

Eventually, Bethlehem will start hosting community meals for needy families.

Food for your body and your soul

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Linda Dove, director of Bethlehem: House of Bread and Kris Field-Eaton of Tigard prepare the garden at the Metzger United Methodist Church. The church which has stood for 100 years will merge with Tigards methodist church this month.

Food pantries are certainly nothing new to the area. Several area churches donate food to the needy, but Dove said Bethlehem would be different.

“There are a lot of churches who do a pantry, or a community garden, but this is the first that I have heard of that is more comprehensive,” Dove said.

Bethlehelm will not only be a food bank, and classroom, but also a community garden, Dove said.

It will cost about $75,000 to get the program going, Dove estimated.

The church plans to start a fundraising effort later this month to raise money for the project and has so far collected about $20,000 in grants to get the project off the ground.

This weekend church volunteers will be at the site planting a large community garden.

The garden’s plots will allow locals to grow their own food.

“People can grow (cucumbers) or beans or peas or whatever,” said Kris Field Eaton, a volunteer helping to get the garden started.

Until the food pantry gets up and running later this year, fruits and vegetables grown at the garden will be donated to the Oregon Food Bank.

“It’s starting slow,” Hunefeld said. “This is phase zero right now, and we have no money to invest in this.”

For Dove, who came up with the idea for Bethlehem, the new direction is a way to feed not just your body, but your soul.

“A lot of us are not just physically hungry, but spiritually,” Dove said. “It’s about building relationships and connections with the community.”

By next week, a hedge of blueberry bushes and raspberries will be up, artichokes and other vegetables will be planted.

Groups that currently call the building home, such as the Metzger Preschool and various Boy Scout troops, will stay, Dove said.

The Metzger Preschool plants to plant pumpkins, Field-Eaton said.

Want to get involved? For more information on how to help with Bethlehem email Dove at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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