Nothing goes to waste: Canyon City Gleaners help stretch budgets

February, 2012 Posted in Community

By P. MillirenOnce a week, members of the Canyon City Gleaners can get groceries and a little social time.

Peggy Nickich was a “bored housewife” looking for something to do to benefit her community. When she started Canyon City Gleaners on her back porch almost 25 years ago, she never imagined how it would blossom.

“I saw the need for food that is out there for the families in the canyon,” said Nickich, who is coordinator of Canyon City Gleaners based in Mill City.

Canyon City Gleaners is now located in the Masonic Hall in the historic part of Mill City.

“My husband said that he didn’t mind the porch he built being used for this purpose, but wasn’t it time to find a new place,” Nickich said.

Gleaning has a long history where people collected leftover crops from farmers’ fields after the farmer had completed his harvest.

Gleaners get grant
The Mill City Canyon Gleaners received
a $15,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust.
The funds will be used to purchase a freezer
and other items. The nonprofit corporation
focuses on feeding low-income, disabled
and senior families in the Santiam Canyon.
Families must meet the income criteria set
by Oregon Food Share. Families with at least
one able bodied member older than 18 living
in the home are required to volunteer
10 hours per month.

The Canyon Gleaners is volunteer run and
operates on earned income and grants –
which help pay utilities, gas, oil, telephone,
insurance, food and water bills – as well as
by “gleaning” from local farmer’s fields and
orchards. Some food distributed is purchased
from surplus stores and Linn-Benton
Food Share.

Today, gleaners collect unwanted household items, building supplies, as well as short-dated groceries or foods which have damaged boxes so the item did not sell, but the contents are still perfect.

Canyon City Gleaner members visit fields from spring until autumn to glean from local farmers who donate their crops.

“Some of the crops have been picked already and there are more fruits or vegetables still in the field, or inclement weather has prevented those crops to be harvested by machine. Some of the farmers plant a certain amount just for the Food Bank and Gleaning groups,” Nickich said.

Canyon City Gleaners provides more than food to its members, who come weekly for the social aspect.

Kathy Chaffee of Stayton volunteers at least twice a week, if not more.

“I enjoy volunteering for Gleaners as it is a way I can give back to the community,” Chaffee said. “I have been volunteering here for about two years, I like helping other people and this is my way to do that.”

Don Sorensen of Stayton was invited to join through his friend Harry and has been attending gatherings since last September.

“Harry said you can save yourself a bit on your groceries. There are neat people here and I enjoy working here,” Sorensen said.

The group also hosts holiday dinners for its members, who say they feel like a family.

In the kitchen, members prepare the main course while other members bring a potluck dish, which are often made from items gleaned or raised at home. On Thursdays, a hot meal is served to the volunteers.

Gleaners range from families with young children to senior citizens. On Wednesdays, the group repackages food and sets up the shelves for distribution on Thurdays, when up to 130 fill their carts and totes with food items.

Ted Colvin has been volunteering since he was a child.

“My mom was into it and then she got me into it. I enjoy the service and helps supplement my food supply. Like many people here, I guess I have a lot of different reasons for coming here,” Colvin said, adding his mother is Peggy Nickich.

Canyon City Gleaners is not a food bank, but is affiliated with Linn Benton Food Share.

“Everyone here volunteers hours and pays monthly dues. We are a non-profit self-help program,” Nickich said, adding she volunteers about 120 hours a month, others volunteer a bit less.

The organization has a thrift shop open Wednesday through Saturday. 503-507-8846

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