Bright green reusable bags visible around Roseburg neighborhoods Saturday were a sign of one thing — that the army of volunteers from the Roseburg Food Project were in action once again collecting donated food for the FISH Food Pantry of Roseburg.
On Saturday, about 700 people left the bags filled with canned and packaged goods outside their homes. More than 70 volunteers, called neighborhood coordinators, stopped by their neighbors’ front stoops to pick up and load the bags into their cars before dropping them off at the pantry.
Karla Roady, a project coordinator, said the food donors have two months to fill the bags with donations.
“Then the neighborhood coordinator will come back and pick up the full bags and leave empty bags,” she said.
This donation effort happens the second Saturday of every even month, February, April, June, August, October and December.
Dwayne Brown, one of the neighborhood coordinators, arrived at the pantry and let the other volunteers know which neighborhood he was representing on Saturday morning.
“If you already know people in your neighborhood and people know about the FISH Food Pantry, this gives them a practical way to do something to help,” Brown said.
Gunnar Campman, 17, was one of the volunteers waiting at the pantry to unload the vehicles Saturday. A senior at Roseburg High School, Campman has been volunteering for the Roseburg Food Project every two months since he was in the seventh grade.
On Friday night, Campman participated in the Mr. RHS pageant, representing the FISH Food Pantry. He won as “Mr. Money” for raising $400, for the FISH Food Pantry.
Inside the pantry, other local students sorted the food into categories, including beans, fruit, grains, meat, pasta, vegetables, soups and miscellaneous items.
“We get great help from youth in the community who sort the food,” said longtime volunteer John Sloan.
Roady said she has been involved with the Roseburg Food Project since it began in August 2012. She said at that time, there were 14 neighborhood coordinators and 40 food donors involved in the project.
Hundreds of families who are facing hardships and need help with food come to shop at the FISH Food Pantry to receive four to six days worth of food. On average, about 920 families visit the pantry each month, which equates to about 3,500 people in their families. Sloan said the people who come through are not the same each month, and he usually only sees the same clients about three times in an entire year.
The FISH Food Pantry was started in 1971 by a group of six local churches. With the donations, the pantry can offer a wider variety of food to meet its clients’ needs than it would otherwise be able to do.
Sloan said volunteers plan to do a canvassing effort April 28 to let more people know about the project. He said the goal is to get a total of 100 neighborhood coordinators.
To get a new neighborhood involved in the project, volunteers who would like to become neighborhood coordinators can sign up and deliver the green reusable bags to the people living in their own neighborhoods. But a neighborhood does not have to be a physical group of homes. Businesses and organizations can also sign up to become “neighborhoods,” with the employees agreeing to fill up the green bags and the coordinator agreeing to transport them to the pantry.
“It’s like the parable of the good samaritan, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” Brown added.
Brown said he sends out an email reminder to all the food donors in his neighborhood beforehand, asking them if they plan to set out a bag that month. On the second Saturday of each even month, he or his wife, Vicky Brown, pick up the bags in their own neighborhood and bring them to the pantry.
For more information and to sign up to volunteer, visit RoseburgFoodProject.org or call 541-673-9804.