Forest Grove Rotarians donate time, money to local causes
Rotary is often defined as a place where neighbors, friends, and problem-solvers share ideas, join leaders, and take action to create lasting change. Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club president Mitch Taylor would agree, but at the same time, he would boil it down to this: Rotarians are people of action.
"Right now, by no fault of their own, a lot of people have found themselves in difficult circumstances," Taylor said. "And here's an organization with the wherewithal in terms of donations, volunteer time, and enthusiasm to help their community.
"You would think the pandemic would slow that down, but we're finding a way to still do the community service that I think makes this a special group."
Taylor, who took over as Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club president last month, has been a member of the club for nearly four years. Both the Daybreak group, which Taylor likes to call the "Breakfast Club," and the Rotary Club of Forest Grove that meets at noon are continuously looking for means of serving the community, and in recent months, they've tackled the tasks of aiding both local food banks and area farmers.
Leading up to that, Taylor said, his club was looking at areas in which to direct attention. As part of that effort, the Daybreakers raised $2,500, which was subsequently matched by the district Rotary to give them $5,000. From there, they reached out to local nonprofit Adelante Mujeres, along with Brian Schimmel of the Forest Grove Foundation, in an effort to seek the best means of contributing both their money and time.
"Both of these groups were great, but Brian Schimmel through the Forest Grove Foundation is very well connected to all these local community efforts," Taylor said. "That one connection I would say was the biggest for me and being able to coordinate, getting this $5,000 put to work in the right place."
In this case, Schimmel and Taylor helped in facilitating both food and services to the handful of food banks in the local Cornelius and Forest Grove area, which have seen their demand nearly quadruple since the onset of the pandemic.
Taylor said that beyond food, as examples, they had infrastructure issues like adequate shelving, carts, insulating blankets to help keep the food cold, and of course manpower, which a number of the Rotarians were more than happy to supply — sometimes spending as much as two and a half hours preparing boxes and handing out food at locations like Neil Armstrong Middle School.
"That's really where the rubber meets the road for a Rotarian," Taylor said. "We like to donate money. Money's great, but it's the action and the ability to interact and see and help the people in our community that makes the biggest impact.
"Everybody from the food banks,to the volunteers have been so positive — I just can't say enough about that. And without the partnerships, that never would've happened."
Enter Schimmel and the Forest Grove Foundation, who by their own definition are a diverse group of individuals whose interest is administering to other community groups for the betterment of their community. They put up money for organizations seeking a fiscal sponsor for charitable and community-building efforts. They've worked with groups such as the Coalition on Rural Housing Insecurity, Anna & Abby's Yard, and the Love Rocks Run, and in 2018, the Forest Grove Foundation became the fiscal sponsor of Community Connection, a coalition of nonprofit organizations working together to serve the needs of youth, families and adults experiencing social and economic hardship.
The foundation has also helped facilitate the acquisition of several items like a refrigerated delivery truck for food banks. Such a truck is invaluable for food banks, allowing them to reliably distribute foods beyond shelf-stable canned goods, such as fresh vegetables and dairy items.
Schimmel said that of all the things struggling in the midst of the pandemic, distribution with help from the Rotary Club is one of the things going exceptionally well.
"With all of these partnerships, they appear to be keeping up with the demand," Schimmel said. "No one is being turned away, and they now have access to a much more well-rounded menu."
In addition to the direct work with the food banks, Forest Grove Rotarians also worked on purchasing and delivering fresh produce as a means of providing a little financial help to local farmers.
With help from Adelante Mujeres, they were able to identify individual farmers in the area, then purchase items such as cauliflower, beets, kale, lettuce and zucchini, among others; pick them up; and deliver them from the individual farms to the food banks.
"They don't see food like this, this type of fresh produce too often," Taylor said. "And they were just ecstatic."
Taylor said he received a letter delivered to one of the local food banks that spoke to the level of gratitude of the recipients, and also the wide smiles on so many of their faces.
"That's my Rotary moment," he said. "I get goosebumps reading it again. It's such a community effort and it shows you people can come together and make a difference.
"That's what it's all about."
News-Times editor-in-chief Mark Miller is an active member of the Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club. Pamplin Media Group executive editor John Schrag is an active member of the Rotary Club of Forest Grove.
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