Service to complement H.C. Food Bank
By Randy Parks
Seeing a need in the community, volunteers from the Burns Christian Church made the decision to organize a food pantry to help feed area residents.
Organizers, including Evelyn Neasham, Bette Erwin and Denice Brown, started putting the pantry together the first part of January and a month later, they were open to the community and have been growing ever since.
Neasham noted that in April alone, they received 1,600 pounds of food and gave out 1,500 pounds. The pantry has seen a 20 percent increase every month, with up to 51 families served in just 30 days time.
Donations, including monetary donations, come from individuals, the church, the community, and more recently, the Oregon Food Bank.
Brown said the food pantry is open to everyone. “If they’re willing to come in, we’re willing to give it to them,” she said.
Rather than have a bag or box of items ready to hand out, volunteers ask customers to look over a list of items and check those they can use. “People have different needs,” Neasham said. “It depends on their family size, ages and other factors. We don’t want to give them something they’re not going to use.”
The list includes canned foods, fresh produce, meat, infant supplies, dairy products, baked goods, personal care items and more.
Citizens can make a visit to the pantry twice every 30 days to receive supplies.
To complement the Harney County Food Bank, the pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., meaning they are open when the county food bank is not.
With a growing demand, there is a need for more donations. “One day we had 15 families come in during the three hours we were open,” Brown said. “After the first 10, we were out of some things and it’s kind of hard to tell the people that came in later that we don’t have some items on their list.
“A donation of a sack of groceries may not seem like it could help much, but if everyone gave one it would be a lot.”
“It’s a way for the community to be helping the community,” Erwin added.
Neasham said that when she lived in the Redmond area, she became involved in helping people out, and that carried over when she moved to Harney County. To help stretch the limited budget, Neasham and Brown make good use of coupons. “We do the extreme couponing,” Neasham said. To prove her point, she produced a receipt for more than $130 worth of groceries that she got for free. “Not only did she get the groceries for free, she actually got about 40 cents back from that,” Brown said. They both agreed it takes some work using the coupons, but it’s well worth it.
Support for the pantry has also come from Wagner’s Furniture (which helped them get refrigerators), Thriftway and Safeway.
The three women agreed that despite the amount of time and effort, the project is gratifying. “You may feel exhausted at the end of the day, but then you look at what we’re doing and it’s a really great feeling realizing how many people we’ve helped,” Brown said. “Our goal is to serve the hungry of Harney County while maintaining their dignity.”
Donations to the food pantry may be made at the south entrance of the Burns Christian Church, 125 South Buena Vista in Burns.