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The emerging delta variant of the coronavirus is prompting events to be scrapped in South Columbia County.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Casey Wheeler is executive director of the Columbia Pacific Food Bank.The emerging and highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has taken a toll on what were to be upcoming fundraising events in Columbia County.

Both the Amani Center (also known as the Columbia County Child Abuse Assessment Center) and the Columbia Pacific Food Bank have decided to postpone their community fundraising events in response to climbing COVID rates.

Beth Pulito, the Amani Center's development coordinator, explained in a statement: "Back in April when we started planning this event, all trends indicated that an outdoor, in-person gathering would be highly likely to be held by September 2021."

Pulito continued, "As case counts began to rise, especially in our county's children, which is our main focus of health and safety in our agencies mission, we could not, in good conscience, move forward with our event."

Pulito said that while the decision to cancel was difficult, "we know it was the right thing to do and we are committed to holding it next year in the manner it was intended."

She said many of the items donated will be auctioned online. That online auction will still go forward Sept. 18.

Meagan Fawcett, director of development for the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, talked about the canceled Hooking for Hunger Salmon Derby, which was also set for Sept. 18.

"The event was going to set itself apart from some of the other local derbies, keeping in mind that most of the derbies that take place do not take place in the fall. Normally they do in the spring," Fawcett said.

Fawcett continued, "We were going to have a pretty epic after-party with a silent auction (and) a live auction. Another aspect of the derby that I was really excited about was the opportunity for the anglers to be able to donate their catch to the food bank. Many of our clients do not have the opportunity to get salmon from the Columbia River, so this was a unique opportunity to help feed our community."

But with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging, driven by the now-widespread delta variant, Fawcett said it didn't feel right to hold the event as scheduled.

"Our mission is to feed Columbia County through wellness, so having 300-plus people get together at an after-party did not seem appropriate," Fawcett said.

Fawcett prefers to say the event is postponed, not canceled, announcing that the event will now be planned for September 2022.

Fawcett's plan is to line up other events between now and next March. Next March is the Hunger Run, which is expected to be held virtually next year.

With summer wrapping up, the need for food continues in Columbia County.

Fawcett offered some statistics.

"Just to give you perspective, before COVID hit, we were distributing 12.5 tons of food weekly to Columbia County," Fawcett said, noting that number went up May of last year to 19 tons per week.

Recent numbers show that number has dropped a bit, yet the need continues.

"With kids going back to school, it will be interesting to see," Fawcett said. "I know that there are a lot of people who are unemployed right now, and we have lots of families that are one-income households that still need support from us. The need is definitely still there."

Despite the event's cancellation, Fawcett is encouraged looking ahead.

"We are optimistic," she said. "We are going to be moving into our new building, which is six times the size of our current location on Milton Way. Most people know of our future home building as the Feed & Seed that's located on Columbia Boulevard." Fawcett expects that building will open to the public the beginning of next year.

If anyone wants to contribute to the food bank, the web address is cpfoodbank.org. You can hit 'donate' and make a one-time donation or, if you wish, donate on a recurring/monthly basis.


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