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'Rice-ing' to the occasion

Community of Christ partners with AWARE Food Bank to meet targeted needs


by: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - Penny Zeigler and Jonathan Estrada portion out rice donated by the Community of Christ church in Woodburn at the AWARE Food Bank last week.During his last trip through the Costco checkout line, Tom Welch got quite a few strange looks. You probably would, too, if you were standing beside a forklift loaded with 137 25-pound bags of rice — nearly 3,500 pounds, total.

“A lot of people were asking what it was for,” he recalled with a chuckle.

The answer is for the AWARE Food Bank. Welch’s church, Community of Christ in Woodburn, collects money in a special fund throughout the year, for the sole purpose of partnering with the food pantry.

“We collect money on an ongoing basis all year long and try to fill in with the food bank on whatever commodities they may be lacking in,” he said.

For the first couple years, the church focused primarily on dried beans.

But this year, Welch said, rice has been the greater need.

He said the church developed this method of partnership based on the idea that a targeted focus on providing one or two commodities would be more efficient than canned food drives, which bring in a wide assortment of foods, but in smaller and unpredictable amounts.

Welch makes the deliveries to AWARE a few times a year, but Wilbur Kauffman, director of the pantry, said the 1.75 tons of rice (at a cost of approximately $1,400) is the largest donation he’s seen in the past three years.

“We’ve been out of rice for months,” Kauffman said. “Rice and beans are our two most important foods here. When they brought this in, it was just fantastic.”

He said the rice is being portioned out in bags of 2-3 pounds and given to families as they have need.

Though the bank serves around 1,000 families in the area, Kauffman expects this donation to last at least six months.

Welch said that his church’s partnership with the food bank can be largely traced back to one of the Community of Christ denomination’s central goals, which is to end hunger and homelessness.

However, he and his wife were also motivated to get involved in Woodburn after seeing the positive impact a similar initiative made at their previous home church in Roseburg.

“You only have to work at the food bank for a little while before you see the need that’s here,” he said.



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