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Fill-A-Bag helps neighbors in need

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Annual event raises more than 500,000 pounds of food for SnowCap

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis and Portland Trail Blazer guard Pat Connaughton work the check stand at Grocery Outlet in Gresham Monday as part of a fundraiser for Snowcap's Fill-A-Bag food drive. Rockwood resident Monica Jackson’s family has a running joke. Anytime they go over for dinner they like to ask if the food she serves, from shrimp and crab salad to a whole holiday feast, was home cooked. While Jackson would love to take credit for the delicious food, she is quick to acknowledge where it comes from —SnowCap Community Charities.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Monica Jackson has received significant aid from Snowcap, and is quick to share her delight with the Rockwood-based organization.“My kids love to ask ‘Mom, I love the potato salad and macaroni salad — did you make this?” Jackson said while laughing. “I always admit SnowCap helped.”

The group runs a shopping style food pantry behind the Rockwood United Methodist Church at 17805 S.E. Stark St. They provide clothes and blankets, support through its mobile food pantry, and community basket program — which distributes boxes of food, cleaning and paper products on the second Thursday of each month between 4 and 5 p.m. SnowCap works with local schools to provide supplies, has a community garden, and delivers pre-packed food boxes and fresh produce to home-bound seniors.

“They have been there for me when I was on my last leg,” Jackson said. “It is more than what they give, everyone there is so friendly. The people there make you forget whatever you were depressed about.”

SnowCap has helped Jackson, who is disabled, with food, clothes, paying for rent and electricity, and decorations around her house. Her home in Rockwood has been robbed three times, and after each SnowCap was there to help her.

“They do a lot for the community, especially around here,” Jackson said. “They don’t deny anybody — if you are in need, you will get help.”

As winter nears, more families in the community rely on the services SnowCap provides, which inevitably results in the food pantry running low. So through the support of many business and organizational partners, SnowCap hosts Fill-A-Bag from Nov. 4 to Jan. 12 — the largest annual food drive to benefit the group.

Spearheaded by Larry Schwartz at Riverview Community Bank and Bess Wills at Gresham Ford, the community comes together to support the needy in East Multnomah County by hosting events open to the public. The goal is to gather monetary and food donations.

“100 percent of the resources collected stays in the community,” Wills said. “When you give $1 to SnowCap, they are able to buy 20 pounds of food with it from the Oregon Food Bank.”

Intrinsically people tend to lean towards giving items rather than money, but with SnowCap’s buying power it doesn’t make sense. On average a family of four needs about 50 pounds of food every week, which SnowCap would be able to provide with only $2.50 in donations.

“This is to help our neighbors in need,” Wills said. “It’s for the working poor or for the seniors who have to choose between paying the electric bills and buying groceries.”

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Bess Wills of Gresham Ford works the checkstand at Grocery Outlet Monday along with Bob Avila as part of a Snowcap fundraiser for the Fill-A-Bag food drive.For Jackson the best part about getting food from SnowCap, other than impressing her family, is the variety and quality of what is available. She said everything she has gotten from the group has been fresh and delicious — which Jackson said isn't always true of other options in the community.

"They have helped my family have nice Christmas and Thanksgiving meals," she said.

For those who still prefer to donate actual items, SnowCap is always in need of baby formula and diapers, since neither is available through the Food Bank. Another option is to clip out coupons and donate those.

Any amount can help, as a nickel given to SnowCap represents a pound of food. Fill-A-Bag generates enough to make up a quarter of the group’s yearly needs. Last year the efforts created a check representing 555,520 pounds of food.

“The last two years we have averaged 500,000 pounds of food, but I would like to see it go up this year,” Schwartz said.

Jackson will tell anybody she can about everything SnowCap has done for her, because she would love to see it grow even larger.

“Some of the other organizations can’t help, but no one can say that about SnowCap,” Jackson said. “They don’t criticize anybody, and they treat us all the same.”

Jackson said that if she ever had to move to another city, the first thing she would do is ask if they have SnowCap. If the answer was no, she would either start a new branch of the group, or move right back to Gresham.

There are many different Fill-A-Bag events throughout the coming months, hosted by the partner organizations. Visit www.facebook.com/snowcappdx/ for information about upcoming events, or call Amy at call Amy at Gresham Ford 503-407-6764 or Kirsten at SnowCap 503-674-8785.

“I have kids who have been pretty fortunate, but we have also seen the other side,” Schwartz said. “It’s important for all of us to get food to those who need and deserve it — and Fill-A-Bag helps accomplish that.”

Visit www.snowcap.org/fill-a-bag.html to donate.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Larry Schwartz, branch manager at Gresham Riverview Community Bank, works a checkstand at Grocery Outlet along with Jim Thurber of reality TV show 'Goldrush' Monday during a fundraiser for Snowcap's Fill-A-Bag food drive.

Celebrity grocers

One of the first Fill-A-Bag events had local leaders and celebrities bagging groceries for a good cause Monday, Nov. 7, at Grocery Outlet, 2925 N.W. Division St. The store donated five percent of all items cashiered during that time to SnowCap Community Charities.

Three teams were bagging items — Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis and Portland Trail Blazer Pat Connaughton, Riverview Community Bank Branch Manager Larry Schwartz and Jim Thurber, star of Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush”, and Gresham Ford’s Bess Wills and Bob Avila.

All of the participants had a fun time at the event, trying to win an unofficial competition to see who could get the most customers at their checkout stand.

To encourage people to attend, Grocery Outlet discounted items 20 percent.