Colton Corner: Many 'Helping Hands' make food bank a success
Helping Hands Food Bank, 30138 South Wall Street, is one of the largest food assistance programs in the county. They serve about 532 families a month with food security going to about 1,861 individuals within those families.
The team that puts together this amazing feat works hard at everything from making several weekly trips driving the 17 foot delivery van into Portland to the Oregon Food Bank, Birch Community Service, Gleaners and Franz Bread. Then there is the loading and unloading the truck, stocking shelves, cleaning, helping clients when the food bank is open with everything from helping in the food rooms to hosting at the sign-in desk (this is important because grants are based on how many people are served). There are also data collectors, grant writers and more.
This Helping Hands team works together to serve more than 20,000 food-insecure a year.
Many senior citizens trying to stretch their social security check visit the pantry, along with working families, homeless veterans, handicapped and young people.
A group from the resource center at Colton High School goes across the street to the center every Monday to help stock shelves.
"It gives these students job experience and allows them to help within the community," CHS principal Grant Hayball said. "Helping Hands is always there for our students who need food support. We have a great relationship with them."
College and Career Readiness specialist and educational assistant Mary Wilson is in charge of the CHS group and was behind a donation of a "trailer load" of LuLaRoe clothing donations. When their clothing boutique expanded, they shared with the food bank.
Helping Hands coordinator Donna Fix says it takes about 35 volunteers per week to keep the doors open and the pantry running smoothly.
Helping Hands received a grant from Clackamas County with which they purchased the community building; and with some money left over the food pantry will add a second ramp at the exit door. The walls between the rooms will be coming down, creating one big "store" and making it a lot more shopper friendly.
A Clackamas County Small Block Grant was utilized for a heat pump. Fix said the food bank was able to add two brand new "gorgeous" coolers with donations from Clackamas County Emergency Service, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and help from Stone Cliff Inn in Oregon City.
Each month, Helping Hands spends about $1200 on groceries for the shelves. Some of the food is donated by Oregon Food Bank, some needs to be purchased. The money for purchasing food is raised mostly through individual donations.
"There are people who give every month," Fix said. "We couldn't do this without their generosity. Colton Lutheran Church has been supporting us since the beginning and the members of Clarkes Methodist Church."
Fix pointed out it isn't just food that costs money, they need money for the electric bill, fuel and upkeep for the van, insurance to cover the building, truck and volunteers. They do whatever it takes to bring in money including a continuous can and bottle drive and collecting and returning empty printer cartridges and old cell phones for reimbursement from a recycling company. These can be dropped off at the Helping Hands Food Bank on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The volunteers at Helping Hands come from every walk of life and make a great working team.
"It is the most wonderful experience," Wendy Worden said. "It is the most friendly food bank, happy, uplifting. We treat each shopper as a friend and try to meet their needs. We are here for them and we leave our problems at home when we come here."
Worden, who has recently been a live-in caretaker, said at one time she was homeless and volunteering at Helping Hands is her passion—her way of paying back and paying forward.
Fix said Worden is their right-hand person organizing the food as it comes into their stock room and filling shelves as needed throughout the day.
June Doty, a retired nurse, was at the front sign-in desk, directing people to the Christmas toy room which was filled with toys from the KPTV toy drive members of Clarkes Methodist Church.
While I was there, I observed just how respectfully the clients were treated. Volunteers were talking to each one, asking about family, health issues and holiday plans, catching up like old friends.
Someone came in the door and took Fix aside to donate $850 for food.
"We have some people who donate each month and without them we could not meet our bills," Fix said. "We have a donation box at the front desk. Some give, some can't."
Fix said Port Blakely is one of the bigger contributors and helps keep the food bank afloat. She also talked about the wonderful people who volunteer hours of their time each month.
"We want to thank Colton Cub Scout Pack #10," she said. "They were a life saver this month. They did food drives at Colton Fire Station and Safeway in Molalla. They brought us 417 pounds of food.
But it isn't just food, the program offers a diaper program for babies through adults. When material is donated, volunteers sew together reusable bags and fill them with toiletries for those who most need them and put together boxes of clothes. They offer community service hours.
Debbie Holm, who crunches numbers and does the books for the 501c3, said donations can be dropped off at the food bank Mondays and Tuesdays or mailed to Helping Hands, P.O. Box 16, Colton, OR 97017.