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The major Woodstock church introduces what it calls the Woodstock Pantry to help those with food needs

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - On Fridays and Saturdays at noon, people who are experiencing food insecurity are welcome in the parking lot of All Saints Episcopal Church in Woodstock, to receive a box of food that is carried to their vehicle. Pictured is volunteer Laura Axon returning to get another box.With unemployment skyrocketing during this coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever are experiencing food insecurity.

To help individuals and families, All Saints Episcopal Church at S.E. 40th on Woodstock Boulevard has begun a weekly distribution of food boxes called the "Woodstock Pantry". Every Friday and Saturday at noon, vehicles are welcome at the church parking lot, and are met by volunteers in protective masks who carry out a box of food.

All Saints' pastor Rev. Andria Skornik told THE BEE that the volunteers who greet the vehicles ask those inside if they are currently getting food assistance, or if they are simply experiencing food insecurity. Recipients are asked for their first name and ZIP Code, but no other verification is required at this time.

Vehicles from some thirty households all over the city arrive each week during those two days to get a box with a few canned goods, a loaf of bread, some fresh produce and an assortment of other items to tide individuals or families over through the week.

"When people [throughout the city] started getting furloughed and laid off [and school wasn't in session], the church was concerned that kids wouldn't be able to have school meals," related church volunteer Laura Axon, catching her breath between arriving vehicles. "So the church stepped up to provide the program. It really began with Rev. Skornik, who is a very community-oriented pastor."

In addition to this volunteer work, Axon is also the organizer of the church's Sunday School teachers, and is herself a furloughed teacher-librarian from Sellwood Middle School. "So this is where I spend my time with my kids, volunteering – since my furlough the first week of May."

Axon says church member Jim Hinman, who is also present helping out each Friday and Saturday, is the "lead" for organizing food boxes. He and different teams go twice a week to pick up a total of 1,500 pounds of food from the Oregon Food Bank.

In addition, bread and fresh fruits and vegetables for the food boxes are donated each week by Woodstock markets New Seasons and Safeway. Otto's and Laughing Planet allow the church to use their refrigerator space for boxes of perishable foods. "It's really a community effort," remarks Axon.

Around four volunteers fill the boxes each Wednesday in the sanctuary, and line them up ready for pickup later in the week. Older people in masks do that work, and younger volunteers carry boxes out to the cars on Friday and Saturday.

People driving up for food boxes, as well as a few individuals arriving on foot, come from a number of different ZIP Codes. A woman picking up food for her mother who lives in Milwaukie said she found out about the food boxes from the "Woodstock Cupboard – now called Woodstock Pantry" signs on the corner of the church property. "I work on Fridays and then learned I could pick up at noon on Saturdays," explained the daughter.

A man from ZIP Code 97266 in Outer Southeast Portland commented that the food help had been announced when he came regularly on Saturdays for the church's hot meals program. "This was the only spot for meals where volunteers came around and served you. It was like a fancy restaurant" – something which he indicated he could never be able to patronize. Another frail elderly man said he appreciates the respect shown to him when he comes to pick up food.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to assist with this project can contact Jim Hinman via e-mail – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – or call the church at 503/777-3829, and leave a message.

For more information and photos about the All Saints' "Woodstock Pantry", Facebook users can go online – www.facebook.com/Woodstock-Pantry-110238640747097


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