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Lloyd Anthoney, who works at the Union County Senior Center, examines some of the food there which is provided free to the public via its Harvest Share program.

LA GRANDE — A new Eastern Oregon organization is extending a helping hand to individuals who want to assist others with food issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Eastern Oregon Mutual Aid Network encourages people who want to volunteer but are not sure how to do so. The network puts volunteers in touch with the right people.

“It (working through the network) is a way to bring together local support,” said Meghan Chancey, program coordinator for Eastern Oregon Mutual Aid Network, part of the Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance, which has its headquarters in Lakeview.

The EO Mutual Aid Network has been in place just three months, but the Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance has been in existence since 2014. The Mutual Aid Network was started to help the Eastern Oregon region deal with pandemic-related issues.

The Mutual Aid Network has helped local organizations, such as Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, which operates a food bank serving pantries in Union, Wallowa, Baker and Grant counties. Community Connection has had an increased need for volunteers to assist at the pantries it serves since the pandemic hit. The Mutual Aid Network has helped Community Connection address this need by directing volunteers to it, Chancey said.

“People are needed to assist during the food crisis,” she said.

Volunteers also are needed to pick up groceries for the homebound. These include seniors who do not want to leave home during the pandemic because they are at higher risk of being hospitalized if they contract COVID-19. These are often people who are relatively easy to help.

“Delivering groceries one day a week or once a month to someone can make a tremendous difference,” Chancey said.

The Eastern Oregon Mutual Aid Network received a big boost three months ago when it received funding from a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation, one the Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance applied for.

“That really helped us develop our program,” said Chancey, who lives in Baker City.

The EO Mutual Aid Network had conducted a survey in Eastern Oregon before receiving the grant funding. It indicated that food issues were one of the biggest challenges the region was facing because of the pandemic. This put the Mutual Aid Network on its present course.

In addition to urging people to volunteer, the Mutual Aid Network is encouraging people to donate to food pantries. Chancy said people are also encouraged to donate personal hygiene items including soap, shampoo and toothpaste.

For more information about how to request support or offer support via the Eastern Oregon Mutual Aid Network, visit its website at http://eohla.org/easternoregonmutualaid or call Chancey at 907-712-7595.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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