Staving off hunger
Ben Franklin is often quoted as having coined the pithy maxim: "In this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes."
While that lilting truism is appealing, an even pithier, grassroots truism hits closer to the human condition: you must eat to live.
Nourishment is essential, and adequate nutrition is an essential that crosses over the wide spectrum of humanity. Conversely, a lack thereof is unhealthy and potentially fatal. None on the local front of this issue are keener to that than those who work and volunteer at food banks, frequently the sole institution standing between sustenance and hunger.
In Woodburn, that describes AWARE Food Bank.
"AWARE serves a wide cross-section of people coming in to use our services," AWARE Food Bank Coordinator Gabby Pena said. "We see the need being anywhere from young people in school, younger working adults and the elderly in our community. Hunger does not avoid a certain age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion."
AWARE is one of several local nonprofits that the Woodburn Independent is highlighting in its "Give Local" series.
In an average month, AWARE serves 1,288 families. When other basic familial needs, such as warmth, clothing and shelter may crimp the household budget, food resources can take a hit. Pena noted that when winter rolls around "we most definitely see a spike in our clientele volume."
Located in the heart of downtown, AWARE is a distribution contact point where families can find needed sustenance. It is among more than 100 partners working with the larger area arm fighting hunger, Marion Polk Food Share.
Julie Hambuchen, the MPFS vice president of donor relations, said about 46,000 people receive assistance monthly from the food share, primarily through places like AWARE.
"The Food Share distributes food through a network of more than 100 partners, including food pantries like AWARE, meal sites, shelters, foster care homes and senior housing sites," Hambuchen said.
That vital collaboration of volunteers and backers in the battle against hunger has been deployed for more than 3 decades.
"The Food Share has been providing food assistance to our neighbors in Marion and Polk counties since 1987," Hambuchen said. "The Food Share is about neighbors helping neighbors. This work is only possible because individuals, families, local businesses and community groups volunteer their time and donate food and funds."
Pena's cross-sectional description of the hunger front resounds, but the importance of attending to one's needs or those of their family can often be affected by pride or humility.
"Many first-time clients do seem shy and timid when they first arrive at AWARE," Pena said. "We do the best we can to have our clients feel comfortable within our first interactions, so they feel empowered to seek the assistance they need."
That's what it's there for – provisions that keeps people healthy as they continue to strive to meet their needs and those of their families.
"If AWARE was not here in the community of Woodburn, I believe there would most definitely be a hole," Pena said. "That's not to say that we do not have fantastic partnering agencies here in Woodburn that would do all they could to fill in the gap, such as St. Luke's – St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank and the Woodburn Seventh Day Adventist Church."
Hunger fighters also welcome new partners, from entities to individuals, as they continue on this critical quest.
"We welcome donations of food or funds, and we have many volunteer opportunities," Hambuchen said.
When you give to AWARE Food Bank, your donation will help local families in Woodburn. The holiday season can be especially difficult for families who are struggling to put food on their table. You gift of food or funds to AWARE will make sure that all our neighbors have healthy food to eat.
Contact Marion Polk Food Share
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