Local churches donate gift cards to Beaverton families in need
Even amid unprecedented chaos, when the world feels upside down and uncertainty seems to be about the only sure thing from day to day, Beaverton High School's "Community Connects Us" maxim has never been more powerful.
The Beavers student body is taking action, for their peers, less fortunate friends and comrades in a time of crisis.
When Beaverton High and all schools statewide were closed through April 28 by Gov. Kate Brown to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, sophomore Sydney Richter sprang into action. Richter and her Cedar Mill Bible Church brethren helped raised $12,500 in grocery gift cards to be used to purchase food for Beaverton High families in need.
Then, the Jesuit Alumni Association and Bethel Congregation United Church of Christ added another $3,000 in gift cards to bring the final total to $15,5000.
That amount of gift card money is striking, especially considering it was compiled in less than a day. There were a hundred $100 gift cards and fifty $50 gift cards in total, in addition to all the other dollar amounts that arrived in waves.
"We're a strong and caring community that's bound together with strong relationships," Beaverton High School principal Anne Erwin said. "We look for opportunities to help each other. This is a community that has had its challenges in the past, but every time something happens, I'm just humbled and impressed by the strength of this community to rise up, face that challenge, come together and get through it together. We're always stronger for the endeavor."
On March 13, the final day of school before classes were canceled, Sydney Richter sent a text to her mom, Bethany Richter, a pastor at Cedar Mill Bible Church.
Sydney Richter could foresee that some of her classmates would have a tough time getting access to food during this prolonged break, even though the school was providing bagged lunches. Sydney, who is part of Club Hope, a student-run affiliation that helps package meals and clothing items for disadvantaged students on the weekends, was concerned for their wellbeing and asked Cedar Mill Bible to step in.
The Jesuit Alumni Association and Bethel Congregation UCC were already supplying five bags of groceries apiece for 150 families that were identified as the most in need during spring break. But once Brown announced schools wouldn't be reopened until at least April 28, after the end of spring break, it was undecided how these families would find aid.
So, using their social media platform on Facebook and Instagram, the Richters invited their Cedar Mill Bible congregation to donate gift cards to places such as Fred Meyer, Target and Winco Foods and drop them off at the church on March 9 during an eight-hour window.
The subsequent outpouring of giving and altruism was beyond what they expected.
Word of the church's endeavor was already mobilized. But when others picked up on the good deed via social media, through word of mouth, it took off like wildfire.
Cars came in from all over town, flooding the Cedar Mill church's parking lot. Gifts cards were bought and donated at a rapid rate. Eight thousand dollars swelled to $10,000 and eventually $12,500 by the end of the day. Every time Bethany or Sydney Richter sat down, they said, another member would walk in the door with another contribution.
"It was such an encouragement and so beautiful to see, especially in a time where there is so much fear and so much anxiety and people are losing so much," Bethany Richter said. "I know it's a result of God's love for us being poured out to the community. I kept thinking God is so faithful. He continues to provide. He cares so deeply for families in need. And oftentimes He calls on His people to respond. I loved seeing people being beyond generous, it was just extravagant. It was really powerful."
In addition to the bread, protein and canned fruits and vegetables, Beaverton High was able to add a $100 gift card to the donated bags of groceries. That's more than 150 families who will be positively impacted by this act.
Almost nearly half of Beaverton High's students are on free or reduced lunch or face economic diffidence. One out every 10 students is homeless at Beaverton High School. Students who are technically considered homeless who faced housing or economic insecurity were eligible for the food bags.
The recipients were overwhelmed with thankfulness and appreciation.
"One person looked at the food and just started crying," Bethel member Nancy Wilson said.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused some Beaverton High parents to be furloughed or laid off altogether. But Bethany Richter said instead of being fearful, members of this community thought about others and still found it within themselves to give and love their neighbors.
"It brought me to tears a few times that day to see the care and concern of others," Bethany Richter said. "We talked about seeking God's kingdom when we have plenty or in times when we have less. In such a hard, hard time when people are losing jobs, savings, lives, it's just been so beautiful seeing people loving on their neighbors, checking in on their neighbors. There is some beauty in all of this."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.