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Nonprofit food pantry kicks off annual Fill-A-Bag fundraiser to help keep its shelves stocked

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - SnowCap Community Charities Executive Director Kirsten Wageman is excited about the positive steps made in the past year at the food pantry. For the first time in almost a decade, SnowCap Community Charities has seen a decrease in the number of people it serves — marking a positive step forward in supporting hungry neighbors across East Multnomah County.

SnowCap had a slight reduction in the number of clients for the first time since the dawn of the Great Recession in 2007.

"It's an indicator that things are looking up," said Kirsten Wageman, executive director of SnowCap. "More people are working and there is more stability in our community."

SnowCap provides food, clothing, advocacy and other services to community members living on low incomes. The nonprofit organization serves an area that encompasses Gresham, East Portland, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village. The food pantry, located behind the Rockwood Center at 17805 S.E. Stark St., serves between 8,500 and 10,000 clients every month.

What sets SnowCap apart from other food pantries is that they are built for dinner here and now. The organization is the answer for when someone experiences unexpected trouble — their car breaks down, an extra bill or medical emergency. SnowCap is instant help to get people back on their feet, which is why most clients don't have to visit monthly.

"One of our favorite things is when clients bring back clothes as donations after their kids have outgrown them," Wageman said. "They understand the spirit of giving. You don't have to be wealthy to make a difference."

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - SnowCap Community Charities thrives thanks to the dedication of hardworking volunteers. Another positive change for SnowCap is that a new partnership with the PDX Diaper Bank now allows them to offer diapers to clients at every visit, where before they were unable to do so regularly due to the high cost. SnowCap has also expanded its hours to better serve those in need. They are now open on Monday and Wednesday evenings so that people who work can swing by and grab their food. It's a way that the nonprofit group is supporting the changing demographic of its client base.

Now as winter creeps closer, more families than ever rely on the services SnowCap provides, which inevitably results in the food pantry running low. That underscores the importance of the most significant series of fundraising events that benefit the group annually. Fill-A-Bag, spearheaded by Riverview Community Bank and Gresham Ford, brings local businesses and individuals together through a series of fun events that gather food and raise money for SnowCap.

"Fill-A-Bag has taken on its own energy — enhanced by the businesses making it their own," Wageman said.

Some of the new business owners who have plunged headfirst into Fill-A-Bag tell Wageman that they used to benefit from the services SnowCap offers.

"We are so grateful people whose children we helped get dinner on their tables are now supporting Fill-A-Bag," Wageman said.

And while the group is always happy to receive food donations, giving money goes a lot further thanks to the group's buying power with the Oregon Food Bank. SnowCap is able to buy 100 pounds of food with only a $5 donation.

"The energy behind this is sustaining through the year — seeing everyone come together to get a lot done," Wageman said.

Donations to Fill-A-Bag can be made online at www.snowcap.org/fill-a-bag or at various barrels and cash jars across the community.

Full schedule of Fill-A-Bag fun:

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - One of the most popular Fill-A-Bag events is the annual Celebrity Cashier Night at Grocery Outlet, which had Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis joined by former Portland Trail Blazer Pat Connaughton in 2016.

-- Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 14-15, Metro East Media Holiday Showcase — $5 of every DVD sale going toward SnowCap, 829 N.E. Eighth St.

-- 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, Christmas Character Breakfast at SALT Academy, 333 N. Main Ave.

-- 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, donations accepted during Spirit of Christmas, Center for the Arts Plaza, 274 N.E. Hood Ave.

-- Every Monday from Nov. 26 to Dec. 17, free photos with Santa at Gresham Station, 649 N.W. 12th St., with donations accepted.

-- 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, Celebrity Cashier Night at Grocery Outlet, 2925 N.W. Division St., with percentage of sales benefitting SnowCap.

-- Thursday, Nov. 29, 15 percent of sales benefitting SnowCap at Pie vs. Pie, 331 N. Main Ave.

-- 2-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, reindeer visit Gresham Station, 649 N.W. Division St.

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