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Nonprofit group already has surpassed its previous year's total for distribution

COURTESY PHOTO: LISA HELZER - Gleaners of Clackamas County members pack up food at the Oregon City warehouse for distribution to hungry people countywide.Gleaners of Clackamas County already has exceeded its previous year's total for giving out emergency food boxes to residents, processing over 6.3 million pounds so far this year.

As a food-share organization distributing 5.2 million pounds in 2020, Gleaners is 100% nonprofit, with no paid employees, running on membership dues and some grants.

Gleaners spokesperson Lisa Helzer said the word "gleaning" dates back to biblical times when farmers would save some of the field for the poor folk, in exchange for cleaning the farmer's field and getting food.

"We still do picks, but gleaning has evolved to diverting large amounts perfectly good, still-in-date food, dry goods and chemicals from the landfill to people who need it," Helzer said.

You can get involved with the Gleaners by becoming a member paying $25 monthly, volunteering four hours a month and sharing your food with an adoptee (veteran, elderly shut-in or disabled person). Gleaner participants have to be considered limited income by federal guidelines, which allow over $95,000 for a family of seven, just under $55,000 for a single-person household and incremental differences for household sizes in between.COURTESY PHOTO: LISA HELZER - Gleaners of Clackamas County members load up a truck at the Oregon City warehouse for distribution to hungry people countywide.

Helzer said Gleaners helps over 600 kids with back to school, Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

"We try to assist these families with extra help at Christmastime," she said. "This year, due to the current state of retail commodities and community hardships, we are reaching out to local business for donations in the form of toys, gift cards, decorations or monetary assistance to help with spreading holiday cheer to these families."

Helzer said Gleaners has about 45 teams across the county distributing food from the Oregon City warehouse to about 3,000 people weekly through 500 members. 

"I like to describe it like a spider web into the county," Helzer said. "A hauler from the team comes to the OC warehouse, takes a load back to the team site, and they distribute to members; members then give to adoptees."

Gleaners of Clackamas County also partners with churches, food pantries and organizations like Father's Heart Street Ministry in OC. Gleaners send extra food and items out of the county to organizations like Birch Community Services in Gresham and Pelican Harbor Foodbank in North Bend. Food that is not fit for human consumption goes to farmers for their animals.

Gleaners members get to learn about the location of a warehouse with free clothing, dry goods and cleaning supplies.

Metro transfer stations accept various types of household hazardous waste products for recycling and safe disposal, while the regional government, in turn, donates unused and partially filled containers to Gleaners for distribution to its members. Its selection on shelving at the warehouse usually includes paint, soap, window cleaner, stain remover, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, oil, wax, fertilizer and plant food. 

For more information, call 503-655-8740 or visit gleanerscc.org.


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