Too many times in the past 18 months, Dixon Bledsoe has seen the desperation of people in dire straits and felt the frustration of having to turn some away.
Bledsoe, executive director of Silverton Area Community Aid or SACA, was thankful that wasn’t the case when a man showed up one evening willing to sell his grandmother’s watch in return for rent money.
“This was one of the hardest years we’ve ever had,” Bledsoe said. “Within our first two days in January, I’d spent the month’s budget on emergency relief. By June we’d wiped it out for the year.”
And the need for food and emergency assistance continues to escalate.
Marion-Polk Food Share, which deliveries food to SACA every Wednesday, reports a 14 percent increase in food boxes to date.
Thanks to a fiscally responsible and resourceful board of directors, Bledsoe said SACA was able to tap $50,000 in reserve funds to answer such financial needs as prescription assistance, firewood, propane and gas vouchers for medical appointments and job interviews. But even those resources are quickly dwindling.
Silverton: Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
at Silverton Community Center
Rural areas: Oct. 1-31;
drop-off barrels at schools
To volunteer: 503-873-3446
“Our all-community food drive is going to be just that this time – all-community,” Bledsoe said. “Every year we focus on about 9,400 people who live within city limits, ignoring the other 13,000 in outlying areas.”
This year, he’s determined to gather 25,000 pounds for the nonprofit food bank, almost doubling last year’s 14,000.
The drive involves collection sites throughout the school district area and cooperation with the schools and churches in outlying areas such as Butte Creek, Victor Point and Silver Crest.
Some of the most sparsely stocked shelves in SACA’s pantry are those dedicated to personal care items – soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, bandages, etc.
On a recent week, Bledsoe had to tell four people who came in need of toilet paper that there wasn’t any available.
This year Bledsoe is issuing a plea for all types of food and other necessities in the name of neighbors in need. Silverton’s food bank and emergency assistance agency serves about 1,000 people a month – 250 families.
• Dinner mixes
• Pasta sauces
• Healthy snacks
• Macaroni and cheese
Personal Care Items
• Toilet paper
• Laundry soap
• Feminine hygiene products
Meeting such great need is impossible without SACA’s backbone food suppliers such as EZ Orchards, providing the bulk of fresh produce on SACA shelves. Roth’s, Safeway, Grocery Outlet, Silverton Hospital and Immanuel Lutheran Church also provide food. Silverton Apostolic Christian Church provides milk and eggs. The list of those who lend support includes farmers, churches and individuals.
BrucePac has come on board in the last year, providing regular donations of solid, tasty protein that has made a big improvement in the diets of SACA’s clients.
“I can’t even tell you how generous BrucePac has been and how important they are to SACA,” Bledsoe said, giving a few examples, beginning with a holiday semi-truck delivery of 300 turkeys.
Another time it was 90 cases of frozen chicken marsala, frozen and full of huge chicken chunks, each case containing eight family meals.
This was shared with Marion-Polk Food Share for distribution to other food banks in the network. Four months later here came 130 more cases.
“Last year they brought us 700 pounds of frozen crumbled beef; cases of chicken tenders; cases and cases of turkey legs…,” Bledsoe said.
The fall food drive comes at a crucial time, as does the spring food drive conducted by Silverton dentist Michael Kim: Both occur when SACA runs out of a lot of foods. These are supplemented by some food drives held by Silverton businesses, clubs, schools and churches. Many individuals donate food and funds. Every little bit helps, Bledsoe said.
Running on a scant staff – two part-time employees and Bledsoe – volunteers are the lifeblood of SACA. …And what a group – about 60 during the year, swelling to 250 at food drive time. Many have been regulars for years; decades even. Last year’s SACA Volunteer of the Year, Evelyn Hynes, is in her 29th year.
What makes them hang in there like that?
“Some come in kind of down,” said Anne Henderson who, with husband Ted, spends two mornings a week helping at the food bank. “If as they’re leaving they turn and give you a hug and say ‘God bless you,’ you’ve done your job.”
Many are embarrassed at having to ask for help. That’s why SACA is designed to provide its clients with a shopping experience rather than hand them a generic box of food items.
“Working here is fun and it’s satisfying,” Henderson said. “It also makes you go home, get on your knees and thank the good Lord for what you’ve got – because you’re not as bad off as you think.”
At Henderson’s elbow is a brand-new volunteer, Myranda Keightley, 20 years old.
“My family has actually been here before getting food so I know what it is to be in need,” she said. “I’m also here to gain experience and references so I can get a job.”
But Keightley had no idea what the SACA store held in store for her. She soon found herself guiding individual clients and their shopping carts through its aisles. Only at this store, there are limits.
“I get nervous because I don’t want to deprive them,” she said, “but I also don’t want to give them too much because sometimes we run out.”