2020 Year In Review: Oregon City's year of nourishing neighbors
Hunger is always a big issue for Oregon City, especially during a global pandemic.
Enter this year's citizen heroes, who stepped in where they saw a need. Those heroes include people working for Clackamas Fire, the local school district and the city's Pioneer Center, but also average citizens, including:
• Ranee Ceserani, the owner of Ranee's on Main, set the tone for food charity in March when she closed her restaurant and donated an estimated $20,000 worth of meat and produce to her newly laid-off former employees.
• As people started cooking more from home, Willamette Falls Studios hosted newly produced TV shows from nutrition experts with Oregon State University Extension Services, who demonstrated culinary techniques.
• Breakfast, lunch and dinner have been delivered at bus stops throughout the Oregon City School District each morning. There are no eligibility requirements, and the bus routes are publicly accessible at ocsd62.org, but families receiving meals along these routes need to wear face coverings and maintain a physical distance of 6 feet while waiting at the bus stop.
• Rotary clubs across the county banded together to donate $36,000 for a new LoveOne mobile shower facility for people experiencing homelessness. Father's Heart Street Ministry has provided area homeless with thousands of boxed meals this year, as their efforts have taken on greater urgency with COVID affecting homeless populations at higher rates.
In March, Father's Heart Street Ministry accepted 35 boxed lunches donated by the Oregon City Rotary Club. That initial donation eventually grew to 100 donated lunches to Father's Heart Ministries on each of the first Fridays of September, October and November.
"We will start up again in February and do the same thing for six months," said OC Rotary President Marcia Wimmer.
Rotarians also volunteered for the Oregon City Elks' Christmas Baskets projects. On Dec. 12, more than a dozen Rotarian volunteers helped Oregon City Elks Lodge No. 1189 fill 420 boxes for 210 households with canned and dry goods, then they helped deliver the boxes to needy families on Dec. 19.
• Meanwhile, the community garden at Clackamas Community College has had a long wait list after the community college let a large section of the garden go fallow for a third growing season. The college's eviction of community gardeners in 2017 hasn't led to the promised expansion of college maintenance services.
Nevertheless, citizens persisted. Clackamas County Master Gardeners' Grow An Extra Row program at CCC campus in Oregon City had to close its demonstration-garden activities this year due to the pandemic, but volunteers still made an extra effort to grow more food (nearly 5,000 pounds total) to donate to pantries for families in need, according to Nancy Muir, who coordinates the Grow An Extra Row program.
"We knew the need for produce was going to be huge, and we encouraged our volunteers to grow as much as they could and donate it," Muir said.
• Oregon City's United Methodist Church has its own garden, which provides thousands of pounds to its HOPE pantry for distribution on Wednesdays. For more information about several other churches that give away food weekly, visit hoporegoncity.org.
"I know the HOPE pantry volunteers were so grateful for fresh produce," Muir said. "I was told many times that the variety and amount that they received from the Oregon Food Bank was limited because the Food Bank was overloaded with requests."
• Time and again, average citizens have moved themselves to the frontlines of the hunger issue during this pandemic. Since April 11, Jannine James has handed out six to 10 free lunches several days a week, becoming known throughout Oregon City as the "lunch lady" of Linn Avenue.
"My prayer was to get food to single moms and people who lost their jobs due to COVID," she said.
James has received dozens of thank you notes, often with cash donations to help keep the program going. She estimates that it costs $69 a week to make the lunches; about $40 of that is covered by donations.
"We went from a neighborhood that doesn't talk very much to, now, people stop by almost daily to say 'thank you,'" she said. "Just putting out lunches every day has somehow made us a stronger community."
Two tables and a chair have been stolen from James' lunch donation campaign, but a hutch was recently built to provide a more permanent spot to hold the lunches.
• Oregon City's Pioneer Center, while closed to the public for its dine-in meal and activities geared to seniors, has expanded its meal-delivery program. Pioneer Center is now delivering food boxes to make sure the homebound population has food throughout each weekend and making 275 wellness calls a week to check in on clients' physical and mental health, while keeping a physical distance from the vulnerable population. You can donate to this Pioneer Center program by visiting bit.ly/donatemealsonwheels or mailing checks to 615 Fifth, St. Oregon City, OR 97045.
• Oregon City residents have also been making tax-deductible donations to the Clackamas Emergency Services Foundation, a nonprofit organization associated with Clackamas Fire District No. 1. These donations have allowed firefighters to fill voids for families in need, providing balanced and respectable holiday food boxes and toys. Toy & Joy/Compassion in Action Clackamas County serves as a coordinating agency to identify families who apply for assistance at ciacc.org.
To make an donation to Clackamas Fire's Operation Santa, mail a check made out to the Clackamas Emergency Services Foundation and making sure to note "Operation Santa" on the memo line of the check to: Clackamas Fire District No. 1 c/o: Clackamas Emergency Services Foundation, 11300 SE Fuller Road, Milwaukie, OR 97222.
Editor, Clackamas Review/Oregon City News
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