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Community Meal looks for funding

After missing a grant application deadline earlier in the year, The Dalles Community Meal has a sizeable hole in its budget and is appealing for donations.

The United Way grant that was missed accounted for about half the annual budget for Community Meal, said Chris Zukin, a board member for Community Meal.

“That’s a $2,750 shortfall and this organization runs on $5,000 to 6,000 a year, so that was a big piece of it, Zukin said.

Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for 31 years, Community Meal has provided an evening meal. Last year, it served 8,949 meals to 5,471 people. In all, 931 volunteers helped out.

“So far, the operation’s not challenged at this point, we’ve still got money in the bank, it’s not like we’re not going to be able to serve meals this weekend, but down the road, to complete the year out we’re going to need some help,” he said.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Community Meal at 315 W. 3rd St., The Dalles, OR 97058. The tax ID number is 93-0854428.

Dixie Parker, chair of the Community Meal board, said in an email, “As with most non-profit groups, it is difficult these days to find individuals willing to donate their time and as a result, we sometimes stretch the dedicated volunteers we do have a little too thin. That has definitely been the case this year with Community Meal. One of the adverse results for us was that we didn’t get all of the required paperwork in to United Way before the deadline and therefore could not be considered for funding this year. It has been my desire to cross-train our volunteers so that this won’t happen again in the future, but without some new board members it will be very difficult to accomplish.”

Other funds Community Meal receives, including Federal Emergency Management Agency money, can only be used to purchase food items, so our United Way funds are very important in providing for the non-food expenses of our program including the paper products, garbage service, etc,” Parker said.

Community Meal is an all-volunteer operation that sees various individuals, groups, churches and families sign up to provide a meal. They are encouraged to cook with the food that Community Meal has on hand, but they often provide their own, Zukin said.

The meals are served in the St. Vincent de Paul ministry building at 315 W. Third St., but it is not itself a ministry of St. Vincent de Paul.

“United Way has been a contributor for a long time,” Zukin said. “Most of the folks who prepare the meals, they buy the food themselves and cook it, so this money is for plates, cups, silverware, to-go boxes, milk, condiments, butter, ketchup.”

While surplus food regularly gets donated, because otherwise it will go bad, getting paper products and other durable goods for free is a different story, Zukin said.

Getting free non-food items would mean, “On an ongoing basis, we walk in every week and say, ‘Ok, can we have 500 plates for free please?’ I think that’s the difference,” Zukin said, in terms of why it’s hard to get hard goods donated.

Zukin said the board knew this shortfall was coming, but was not quite sure what to do.

“The initial thought was Community Meal is a pretty well-known program in The Dalles, if folks just knew there was a need, that’d be enough, we wouldn’t have to put on some fancy fundraiser.”

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