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The Keizer Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints shipped in a truckload of food for distribution at Woodburn's AWARE Food Bank.

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Arrival: Dan Kohler of Keizer greets the truck driver delivering food shipped into Salem from Salt Lake City to Marion Polk Food Share Wednesday, Sept. 22. Kohler is a member of the Keizer stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which arranged the shipment for distribution to Woodburns AWARE Food Bank.Keizer residents Dan Kohler and Langdon Smith looked a tad out of place Wednesday morning, Sept. 22 -- well dressed and hanging out in front of the Marion Polk Food Share as more casually dressed volunteers filtered in to work.

But they had an important mission.

Kohler was the first to spot the semitruck rolling up to food share, and he trotted up to greet the driver, Mike Ricksecker, and help guide him to the right delivery slot. Ricksecker had just finished hauling a 39,389-pound load of supplies from Salt Lake City to Salem – a load ultimately bound for Woodburn.

"We were heartbroken when we heard about Woodburn's food bank burning down," said Smith, president of the Keizer stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That stake includes Woodburn, Silverton, and its members hail from multiple towns throughout northern Marion County.

MPFS President and CEO Rick Gaupo said Kohler, who is the stake's public affairs director, reached out to him earlier in the week to coordinate the delivery; it was a delivery the food share was grateful to receive.

"Absolutely! The fire not only displaced AWARE (Food Bank) from its building and destroyed valuable equipment, like refrigerators and freezers, but it also destroyed about $60,000 worth of food," Gaupo said of the August blaze that displaced Woodburn's food bank. "This donation will help AWARE restock its shelves and will provide thousands of meals' worth of high-quality food for our neighbors in the Woodburn area."PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Keizer stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Langdon Smith, right, and Rick Gaupo, chief operating officer of the Marion Polk Food Share, discuss the shipment of food the LDS stake shipped into Salem from Salt Lake City Wednesday, Sept. 22, for distribution to Woodburns AWARE Food Bank.

The timing couldn't be better as AWARE is in the process of moving to its new, temporary location at 154 Harrison St., six blocks north of its fire-scourged site. The food share and Chemeketa Community College, which owns the building, made that arrangement.

Gaupo said the delivery consisted of much-needed staples: beans, dry pasta, flour, diced tomatoes, cereal and shelf-stable milk. There were also some surprises.

"Some items like canned pork and beans, corn, peaches, applesauce, ketchup, brown sugar, pancake mix and hot cocoa, are ones that we don't regularly receive, so we are thrilled to have available for AWARE guests. The delivery also included high-demand household essentials like liquid dish soap, automatic dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent."

In a sense, the LDS stake's charity is akin to a food-bank housewarming gift.

"The items will be taken to AWARE and distributed from the new location at 154 Harrison St." Gaupo said. "We have already begun stocking our shelves and coolers in preparation for Monday's (Sept. 27) opening, so these items may not be available right away, but they will eventually be sent there as needed."

Fast Sunday

Smith and Kohler arranged the shipment through the broader LDS church establishment, which distributes food supplies to wide ranging scenarios, from a humble Oregon food bank to areas devastated by natural disasters. The church builds its supplies through a unique convention of doing without.

Smith said the food and supplies shipped out are funded through donations from church members.

"Each month, members of the church fast for two meals or 24 hours. We call this 'fast Sunday,'" Smith explained. "It typically occurs on the first Sunday of each month. The purpose of the fast is to give thanks for our abundance and to ask for needed blessings from God.

"In addition to abstaining from food and drink, members make a donation called a 'fast offering,'" he continued. "The fast offering is the equivalent monetary amount of the two meals. The fast offerings are collected and used to help with immediate needs within the congregation, often for living expenses, bills, or to cover other financial obligations for those in need in our community. Any unused amount is forwarded to the church headquarters in Salt Lake City."

The church headquarters in turn makes the arrangements to serve other needs, such as hurricane relief in Louisiana or to UNICEF in support of the global Covid-19 response.

Smith said learning of the food bank fire occurring within the parameters of their stake prompted local LDS members to reach out.

"One of our members is a volunteer at the Woodburn food bank and informed his bishop in Woodburn of the fire and the loss" Smith said. "The bishop contacted me to see how we could help. It is neat to be part of a church that has the ability and the desire to provide immediate help.

"Dan and I made a few phone calls, filled out a couple forms, and had the food shipment approved within a few hours."

The local stake president stressed that this type of service is a paramount principle within the LDS fold.

"Although we are not perfect, at times we can work perfectly together," Smith said. "Collective efforts coupled with Christ-like love create an ability to help, heal, and recover beyond our individual capacity."PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Marion Polk Food Share Chief Operating Officer Rick Gaupo and Keizer Latter Day Saints stake President Langdon Smith look on as food shipped from Salt Lake City to Salem for distribution in Woodburn is unloaded from the truck on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Given the natural disasters of recent years, that recovery has been felt several times over.

"We are extremely grateful to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their partnership, for this generous donation and for their commitment to ending hunger in our community," Gaupo said, noting that in the past 1 ½ years the church provided a truckload for pandemic-relief and two more truckloads after wildfires ravaged Santiam Canyon last September.

"These four deliveries have provided over 128,000 meals' worth of food for our neighbors during times of incredible need, and we are incredibly thankful for the church's support and compassion" Gaupo said.

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