Mormon church and Sunshine Division distribute 80,000 pounds of food to pantries across the Portland metro area.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland Police Officer Matt Tobey, right, liaison between the Portland Police bureau and The Sunshine Division, helps load boxes food for volunteers representing eight local area food pantries at the The Sunshine Division, formerly Albertson's in Wilsonville.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, two semi-trucks hauled 80,000 pounds of food from Boise, Idaho, to the Sunshine Division's warehousing location at the former Albertsons building in Wilsonville. Once they arrived, the process began to repackage and distribute macaroni, beans, spaghetti sauce and other items to local food pantries. After food packages were assembled, the local organizations arrived Wednesday to pick up their portions — which will eventually provide countless meals to community members in need.

As part of an initiative to deliver food to local pantries across the nation, the Lake Oswego (which also includes Wilsonville and West Linn) and Tualatin Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints stakes (chapters) facilitated the distribution to food pantries in West Linn and Tualatin, the Sherwood YMCA, Family Promise of Tualatin Valley, Errol Hassell Elementary School Food Pantry in Beaverton, St. Vincent DePaul, Packed with Pride (Tigard-Tualatin School District) and the Sunshine Division itself. Sunshine division workers and church volunteers took on the arduous process.

"It was overwhelming for us. It was such a beautiful gesture," said West Linn Food Pantry Director Phil Rees. "It's hard to describe but it was just great on their part and we were able to get the food here with our volunteers, and it's going to keep us going for some time."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Nancy Scott, the assistant director for the church's Lake Oswego Stake Communication Council, helps organize the donation assemblage process.

Nancy Scott, assistant director for the church's Lake Oswego Stake Communication Council, said her stake jumped at the opportunity to provide food for local pantries but needed a place to distribute the goods. That's where the Sunshine Division came in.

The division, which provides food and clothing to Portland families in collaboration with the Portland Police Bureau, has been using the old Albertsons store warehouse since last year to repackage and distribute its donations.

"Safeway-Albertsons is a big partner for the Sunshine Division," said Bill Edlefsen, the director of finance and infrastructure for the Sunshine Division."When the pandemic hit, we needed more space so we could serve more people and they stepped up and loaned us the one in southwest Portland. They then sold that facility and let us use the Wilsonville store."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Matt Tobey, liaison between the Portland Police Bureau and The Sunshine Division, moves a pallet of food at the The Sunshine Division, formerly Albertson's in Wilsonville.

The Wilsonville spot not only has the space, but the equipment and the personnel to make the process of sorting, assembling and distributing roughly 3,000 cases of food more seamless. Edelfsen was appreciative of the church's generous donations.

"It's probably approaching $50,000 to $100,000 worth of food they are providing (us) and other organizations," he said. "It's tremendous because that's how we are able to serve people, is the generosity of folks like LDS and others that provide in-kind food. They're donating it for free. That translates into (the fact that) we can help more people because we can only purchase so much food based on our budget."

Tracy Smith, with the Tualatin Food Pantry, wrote via email that the pandemic has reduced the flow of food drives, thus lessening the ability for the organization to do as much for local families as it would like. However, the donation has filled the gap.

"This large donation has filled our shelves for the first time in quite a while. We are so excited (for) this food to help meet the increased client need this holiday season," Smith wrote.

Reese said the West Linn pantry will distribute the over 5,400 pounds of food to its regular 40 to 50 clients, as well as elementary school students who qualify for meal assistance and at its annual holiday box distribution.

Scott said providing these services is simply part of the church's goal of helping out local communities. And she said the two-day effort went smoothly in large part due to the help of the Sunshine Division.

"Part of our mission as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to serve our fellow man and have good relationships with our neighbors. Part of that is we cultivate relationships and find out ways we can serve," she said.

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