MYRTLE CREEK — Volunteers go about their business every week in an old building in downtown Myrtle Creek, that houses the St. Vincent de Paul Society, helping to feed and clothe local residents who are struggling to make ends meet.
This summer, volunteers have been busy with the Feeding and Clothing our Future Program. This week, they packed boxes full of snacks and began handing them out on Friday, offering kids in the community some healthy food to help get through the weekend.
Throughout the school year, volunteers have been providing food boxes to the schools in Myrtle Creek, Tri City, Riddle and Canyonville, and the schools distributed the food boxes to needy students, as part of the St. Vincent de Paul lunch program.
“Our whole idea is to provide kids with snacks and goodies for the weekend,” said Terri Day, director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Myrtle Creek.
Day said they expect 80 to 90 kids to pick up a snack box each Friday through the summer, at seven locations including Myrtle Creek Elementary School, the Myrtle Creek Pool, Millsite Park, Tri City Elementary and the Riddle Park. The volunteers also deliver to Pioneer Park and Stagecoach Apartments in Canyonville.
“We’re giving kids bags of snacks that they can have for the weekend,” Day said. “We go to each one of these locations and wait for the kids to show up.”
Barbara Sutch, the mother of Terri Day and a 10-year volunteer at the food pantry, worked at Coffenberry Middle School for eight years and saw the need for kids’ programs. So she wanted to start a program to help kids.
“There are so many children around here that are hungry, and I thought, we’ve got money, we can do it, let’s try it,” Sutch said.
St. Vincent de Paul has several programs available to needy families. The nonprofit offers assistance with clothing, utilities, rent, propane and medications as well as food. In the last 10 years, workers say they’ve seen a big increase in the number of families that come there for help.
“When we started, we used to get 150, now we get about 250 families a month, and we get a lot more homeless and a lot of transients,” Sutch said.
There are income requirements to receive food, but if you need it, they will try to provide it.
“All you have to do is come in and fill out a form, we don’t ask you any questions,” Day said.
The store and pantry almost went out of business a couple of years ago. The organization relies on volunteers, grants and donations, and the store was not selling enough to pay for the food they needed. But they got some significant contributions and found a grant writer that was able to secure some extra funding, and that saved them.
“We just had a hard time getting money,” Sutch said. “Now we have money to buy food and start programs like this.”
Day retired as a senior master sergeant after 30 years in the Air Force. After Day returned to Myrtle Creek, her mother talked her into volunteering at the store and food pantry.
That was more than a year ago. Now she’s the director with hours commensurate to a full time job — without pay, of course.
The organization is run completely with volunteers and the money they make in the store helps buy the food for the food pantry. And they could use more volunteers.
“You really don’t realize how many people are hungry until you’ve kind of experienced it, so it’s really awesome to be a part of it and I enjoy it,” said Denise Ware, the owner of SoCo Coffee Shop in Myrtle Creek, who began volunteering three years ago. “I like to be active in the community and show them I care.”
It was the first day of volunteering for two Myrtle Creek women who are both members of the Chamber of Commerce and wanted to do something for the community.
“I don’t need to get anything out of it, I just can’t stand to see someone hungry,” said Linda Pastoria.
Sue Westbrook heard Terri Day’s presentation at a chamber meeting and decided that was for her.
“I was looking for something to do, so it fit real well,” Westbrook said.
The organization is always looking for donations of clothes, furniture and other items that can be sold, but Days says, that’s not always what they get.
“Don’t bring us your trash because then we have to go to the dump and it costs us,” she said.
For information on volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul Society in Myrtle Creek, or any of the programs, call 541-863-5489.