What are the best steps to help hungry children in Union County?

There are excellent people in our town and county. I’m sure you know that already, but I’d like to introduce you to some more. I set out to meet the people serving children in our area, find out what their challenges are, and how we all can add to those efforts. 

My first stop was the Center for Human Development. For those fallen on hard times and particularly mothers with new infants and very young children, this should be a first stop too. Located at the corner of Cove Ave and North Albany, Street CHD provides many health (physical and mental) and employment services, both free and with costs scaled according to income. Carrie Brogoitti, CHD’s public health administrator, wants to make sure those with low incomes and children younger than 5 know about the WIC (Women Infants and Children) food and education program. CHD also points people in the right direction for resources available in the community.

How can we help? Center for Human Development is a nonprofit, so funds are always appreciated. Also, be sure to point people their way.

Across the street, consummate volunteer Hanna Brandsma works the desk at Community Connection. Community Connection is the hub for local food banks, distributing commodities from the Oregon Food Bank and the USDA as well as groceries donated by local businesses. The organization offers multiple programs, some with no red tape around income requirements. A list of food pantries can be found at www.ccno.org.

One of Community Connection’s greater issues is outgrowing the warehouse space, but there are still specific things in short supply. Hygiene items such as toilet paper, soap and feminine care products are needed by most people who need food, but those aren’t as obvious to most of us considering a donation. Just about every provider I talked to expressed an acute need for these things. Pantries have an overabundance of food like beans and rice. Often, people have a poverty of experience cooking from scratch ingredients.

How can we help? Donate hygiene products and can openers. Or donate your time. There is a particular need for volunteers to heft boxes around at the Harvest Share sites.

For helping children directly, the Friday Backpack Program provides eligible grade school children with food to see them through the weekend. To help, contact the program at fridaybackpack@gmail.com and go to www.unioncountyfridaybackpack.org for a list of desired goods.

Bill Grigsby, a professor at EOU, is quick to praise current and former EOU students who bootstrapped Haven from Hunger. Haven from Hunger is focused on providing emergency three-day food supplies. Haven also stocks the food box outside the K-House and the food bins at the entrance of Cook Memorial Library. Beyond hunger, Grigsby aims to tackle food insecurity, uncertainty about where one’s next meal is coming from. Haven is making efforts to change social factors causing people to hesitate in taking what they need.

How can we help? Donate toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and can openers. Grigsby has a real vision for Haven as a student effort and would like to see as many student volunteers as possible. See Haven’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/HavenfromHunger) or call 541-786-3663.

Shelter From the Storm provides safety and resources for those experiencing domestic violence. The organization keeps a food bank requiring no red tape for access and it serves a broad group of people. Of the providers I contacted, SFS is less in need of hygiene products (at least as far and soap and shampoo are concerned) and more in need of food items.

How can we help? Right now SFS would really like to see meat and frozen vegetables in its pantry.

The most important “help” children receive is from their parents. Next Step is, among other things, a group of grandmas and experienced mothers who welcome and support brand-new parents. The organization provides prenatal and parenting education as well as “Baby Bundles” and newborn supplies. The Next Step folks want to make it clear that they’re here for all new parents whether low income or not.

How can we help? Next Step is in need of toddler coats, diapers and blankets.

There are many more unsung heroes in our midst. Wherever your passion to help, there’s probably someone already there with their hand to the plow. Come alongside and strengthen their efforts.

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