Teen launches hunger-fighting nonprofit
LOHS freshman who founded group applauds those who helped, including Lake Oswego Rotary Club members
Michael Murray says the story of a newly coalescing nonprofit food pantry in Lake Oswego is not about him, but about all of the people who helped him make his dream a reality.
Still, it was Murray who planted the seed for Hunger Fighters Oregon when he was just a sixth-grader at Lake Oswego Junior High School. After he took that first step, community members rallied around him, helping him incorporate the organization as a nonprofit in August. And now the group plans to open a food pantry within the next few weeks at Lakeridge Junior High.
It all started, Murray says, with a simple goal.
You see a homeless person, and you look the other way," Murray told The Review in January 2015. "We want to change that.
Murray worked with teacher Karen Feuer and former LOJ Principal Robert Caplinger to establish the schools Hunger Fighters Club. By the time Murray was in the eighth grade, the club had collected enough food and money to provide an estimated 10,000 meals to hungry people through the Oregon Food Bank, a nonprofit network of food pantries.
In February, Murray was named one of Oregons top two youth volunteers of 2016 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Now a 14-year-old freshman at Lake Oswego High School, he is building on his success by fashioning the club into a nonprofit.
Murray says he did not do it by himself, and he doesnt want the spotlight to shine on him alone. Teachers, fellow students and community members have supported him, he says, and they fed the urge to take action that has prickled his nerves ever since he was a sixth-grader.
I was kind of bored, and I had the ability to do things, says Murray, who now serves as the director of his nonprofit. And so I wanted to be able to help people with that ability. I was a sixth-grader and had school and everything like that, but I also had the time and opportunities to go out and help people, and so the easiest way was to start with a club. And then from there, immediately after that sixth-grade year when we started, I knew that I did want to take this all the way and make it a nonprofit.
Murray's food pantry, which is intended for Lake Oswego residents, is set to open later this fall in a room near the kitchen at Lakeridge Junior High School, 4700 Jean Road. Within the next year, he also hopes to establish a Hunger Fighters Club and place collection boxes at all 10 schools in the Lake Oswego School District.
When I decided I wanted to do something, I could have chosen anything to do, says Murray, who hopes to someday work as a senior advisor to political campaigns. There are multiple problems out there that require more attention, more work, but hunger just stuck out to me because it was something that we always seem to push aside in Lake Oswego. We never think that there is hunger in our community, but yet there is. We just dont see it.
The 2015-16 LOSD enrollment was 7,065 students, and 695 of them or 9.8 percent were eligible for free or reduced lunch, a measurement of poverty, according to the most recent data available from the Oregon Department of Education.
To meet that local need for food, Murray says hes found an ally in the Lake Oswego Rotary Club. LOSD Superintendent Heather Beck, who is a Rotarian, and former Rotary Club presidents and current members Malcolm Mathes and Terri Childress assisted Murray in getting his nonprofit off of the ground. Beck and her staff, including Executive Director of Project Management Randy Miller, scouted out a location for the pantry at LJHS.
Michael is an inspiration to all of us, Beck says. He is driven and passionate about helping others, and its an honor to be able to assist him in his mission.
Mathes and Childress have joined Murray on his organizations board, along with Lake Oswego Junior High teachers Aletia Cochran, Ian Reeves, Chris Rodegerdts, Cathy Steele and Jim White.
Being 68 years old, I look back and think, Whos going to fill the shoes that our generation filled? Mathes says. And then you see somebody like Michael come along, and theyre there and theyre ready to go. A lot of people worked with me when I was young and guided me, and so Im just paying it forward.
Others have also stepped up to help. Lake Oswego Rotary Clubs current president, Robert Le Chevallier of Buckley Law P.C., offered to help Murray with incorporation paperwork, and Mike Larson, founder of The Michael L. Larson Company P.C., is keeping the organization's Internal Revenue Service documents in order.
Larson, who serves on the boards of Trillium Family Services and The Portland Clinic Foundation, says contributing to the community matters to him.
I grew up in Portland, and when I was younger, there were charities and social welfare organizations that made a big difference in my life," he says. "It just makes me feel good to give back.
Le Chevallier says he heard about Hunger Fighters Oregon through Rotary, a service club that has 1.3 million members worldwide. He says hes thrilled to be able to help as a lawyer and Rotarian because the new nonprofit fulfills a need Le Chevallier has witnessed firsthand.
Im very excited about it," he says. "In Rotary, we deliver food baskets every year around Christmastime to almost 100 families, so we know we have hidden poverty in Lake Oswego.
HOW TO HELP
For more information about Hunger Fighters Oregon, visit www.hunger-fighters-oregon.weebly.com, email