Saturday food bank: Silver Creek Fellowship starts new program

November 2010 Posted in Community

By Brenna WiegandVolunteers organize the food before clients arrive.

Many working poor people are unable to go to their local food bank during business hours. Though these agencies often meet after-hours requests, for the one asking it means one more stressor, one more favor, one more potentially embarrassing moment.

Mission of Hope, an outreach program of Silver Creek Fellowship, seeks to provide a solution. On Nov. 20, it will begin distributing food to the needy one Saturday a month at Robert Frost Elementary School.

Volunteers expect to provide a week’s worth of groceries to 100 families, equaling a total of 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of food.

“There’s something embarrassing about asking for food,” said Steve Tipton, director of Mission of Hope (MOH), “but the amazing thing is that one in five Marion-Polk county families are hitting the food banks now.”

Mission of Hope
New food distribution site
Saturday, Nov. 20, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
third Saturday of each month

Robert Frost Elementary School
201 Westfield St., Silverton
Operated by Mission of Hope,
an outreach of Silver Creek Fellowship
503-510-1613 or
steve@silvercreekfellowship.org;

Silver Creek Fellowship
822 Industrial Way NE, Silverton
503-873-7353

Mission of Hope came to Silver Creek Fellowship when the church merged with Journey Church in June. For the previous four years Tipton, Journey’s pastor, held services at Houck Middle School in Salem. He and his wife Margi have administered the food-assistance ministry for about 10 years.

Mostly the ministry entailed feeding the homeless under Salem’s Center Street Bridge until Tipton started Journey. The new congregation began reaching out to the community, where 81 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Partnering with school staff, MOH made the school a mobile food distribution site and worked to build a greater sense of community there through block parties and community dinners.

“We’re excited about this,” Silver Creek Fellowship Pastor Rob Barnes said. “Typically we talk about reaching out to those in need; this gives us a way to do it.”

With a large congregation behind them, more volunteers, community connections and a roomy campus, the program is poised to undertake things that until now the Tiptons have only dreamed of – and they’re not wasting any time.

In August, Mission of Hope became Marion-Polk Food Share’s third mobile pantry partner.

The church’s ongoing support and the donations of local businesses raised up a 3,000-square-foot food storage facility on church property. Cascade West brought in a warehouse valued at $75,000. Marion-Polk Food Share secured grants for pallet racking and freezers and supplies the bulk of food distributed. Micro Plant gave a walk-in refrigerator box worth $4,000 and Rick’s Bargain Center donated a forklift.

By September, MOH was distributing food at Houck Middle School. It comes to Silverton this month – and won’t stop there. Their plans, however, depend on whether they receive the grants for which they’ve applied.

“The communities of Mehama, Lyons, Idanha, Detroit and Mill City, as well as St. Paul, have limited access to emergency food at this time,” Tipton said. “Our goal is to fill gaps not covered by Marion-Polk Food Share’s network.” A Keizer mobile food pantry is also in the works.

In addition to feeding the hungry, MOH’s mission is to empower other churches to do the same.

“A lot of churches aren’t even aware they can do this,” he said. “Part of our vision is to come alongside other churches and, by helping with paperwork and training, help them see that even if they have very little space available, they can become a standalone food agency.”

Time and again Tipton sees how difficult it can be for a family to seek help – and how you never know who is in dire need. When some high school honor students came to assist with food distribution at Houck, he noticed one of the girls going off to use her cell phone. Tipton asked her if she was OK and soon discovered the girl’s father was out of work.

“Are you hungry?” She was. “Does your family need help?”  They did.

“It turned out that seven of the family’s eight kids were in hunger distress,” Tipton said. “We discreetly put together some food boxes and they came at the end of the day. There’s just a huge need.”

Dixon Bledsoe, executive director of Silverton Area Community Aid, agrees.

“We’re slammed,” he said. “Mission of Hope is a wonderful program. They are able to distribute food to those in need, and often on weekends when our community food bank is closed. We fully support this charitable program and our many friends at Silver Creek Fellowship.”

Bledsoe said the more access points and hours open, the better.

“The bottom line is if they need food, and in these tough times so many people do, we all will work together exceptionally well to make sure they get it,” he said.

Both programs go to great lengths to protect their clients’ dignity and to ensure they are greeted and assisted by plenty of smiling, caring people to make the whole experience a positive one.

Mission of Hope greets clients with food prepared using ingredients from the food boxes given out –  a way to give them ideas on how to use their food.

If they leave more hopeful and happy, SACA volunteer Anne Henderson says, they’ve done their job. But a job well done is shown in many ways.

“It’s routine now; moms just sit and cry,” Tipton said.

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