100 Women celebrates local nonprofits
Even a global pandemic couldn't stop a group of passionate women in East Multnomah County from helming a fundraising event for local charities working tirelessly to support vulnerable neighbors.
All COVID-19 was able to do was have 100 Women Who Care East County get creative during its latest quarterly gathering. The group shifted to a livestreamed digital event and spurred donations to three nonprofit organizations.
"We invited the world to watch because the services offered by these three nonprofits are helping your neighbors," said Bess Wills, a member of the 100 Women steering committee.
Thursday evening, April 30, many community members tuned in to learn about the group and the work being done by Gresham's Meals on Wheels, SnowCap Community Charities, and Birch Community Services. At the end of the night viewers could donate directly to those groups, with the added bonus of the WHH Foundation matching any donation to SnowCap or Birch up to $5,000 each.
Meals on Wheels is serving 440 clients a day in Gresham, which accounts for about 600 meals, and they have no plans on slowing down until the community is through this crisis. The clients are seniors who are stuck at home because they are firmly among the population vulnerable to COVID-19.
"The people who need us are being reached," said Brianna Winningham, program manager. "We are dedicated to making sure our most vulnerable citizens are being fed."
The program had to make the difficult decision to close the Ambleside dining room, 600 N.E. Eighth Street, and pivot completely to a delivery format.
The donations made to Meals on Wheels will go, in part, to purchasing a new freezer at the Gresham location — a needed purchase with more and more food being stored and delivered through the center.
SnowCap also had to revamp its services with COVID-19, as it became unsafe for clients to visit its shopping-style food pantry. The pandemic forced the nonprofit organization to cancel its largest fundraiser of the year, and transition from a food pantry to a food box factory.
"I've been very proud of the volunteers who remain and our team," said Kirsten Wageman, executive director.
The group has been passing out and delivering its own food boxes to clients across the community, which has incurred new operating costs. SnowCap also had its own pandemic scare when a volunteer began exhibiting symptoms late last month. The organization had to send everyone home and deep clean the facility. But SnowCap didn't close, with Wageman and a few other staffers handing out 400 boxes at the window.
"SnowCap will always be here; we don't intend to close during this crisis," Wageman said.
Suzanne Birch, founder and director of Birch Community Services, spoke about the importance of providing stability within the community.
"People need to know they can feed their families and be safe," she said.
Birch works to support struggling working families better themselves through financial literacy programs and other services that promote preparing for the future and being resilient. Part of those services are bringing families in once a week to shop for food at its warehouse, eliminating the stress of trying to secure nutritious meals on a budget.
"Our clients can take that money saved and repurpose it toward their education goals," Birch said.
But there have been unexpected costs at Birch Community Services that the fundraising can address. The immediate need is a new delivery truck to bring in donated food. The current vehicle has seriously broken down three times in the last few weeks.
While the matching grant is no longer live, community members can still donate to all three charities.
"Everyone in this organization loves Gresham and these wonderful charities that have faced so much craziness while helping so many people in our community," said Sue Piazza, founder of 100 Women East County. "We so appreciate you working around the clock."
Learn more at 100womenwhocareeastcounty.org
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