Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte
A table in the conference room at Columbia State Bank on Second Street was filled with food items following a month-long campaign to have customers and employees “Take a Bag & Fill It.” Involved in the outreach effort were, from left to right: Kara Simpson, vice president and branch manager, Glenis Schreffler, organizer of the Community Backpack program, Sherry Munro from the Kiwanis Club, Carmen Myers, branch supervisor, and Kayla Magill, personal banker.
Columbia State Bank challenged customers and employees to donate canned and boxed food items for the Community Backpack Program and, by the end of one month, had a big stash to deliver.
The “Take a Bag & Fill It” challenge will be an ongoing effort, said Kara Simpson, vice president and branch manager.
“Community outreach is part of our vision,” she said. “Each employee is encouraged to perform 40 hours per year of volunteer work and this is just another way we can give back.”
Reusable cloth bags were made available at both branches of the bank, along with a list of healthy food choices.
People who returned a filled bag had their name entered in a drawing for a dinner for two.
Sherry Munro from The Dalles Kiwanis Club approached Kayla Magill, a personal banker, about getting involved in the backpack project, which provides students in need with enough food to nourish them through the weekend.
“Kiwanis has been involved since the beginning of this program,” said Munro. “We collect goods on the second Thursday of every month and take them to the pantry at the (First United) Methodist Church.”
Magill and Carmen Myers, supervisor of the downtown branch, were enthused about participating and broached the idea with Simpson, who strongly supported the bank’s involvement.
Glenis Schreffler, organizer of the backpack program, said 153 cloth bags, which have replaced the actual packs because they were rarely returned and expensive to replace, were sent home last week.
She said school officials identify some children that need the supplemental foods, but any student that comes forward to ask for a bag is given one.
“There is no criteria to qualify – if kids are hungry, we’re going to feed them,” she said.
Schreffler said The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce and other area businesses and organizations donate bags, which are always needed.
The bags are filled with two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, plus a few snacks.
“We try to be mindful of weight because our younger students can’t carry as much,” said Schreffler.
Anything that comes in glass jars, which can break, is not put in the bags. Those items are donated to the Columbia Gorge Food Bank to use for needy families.
If people want to donate jellies, apple sauce or other soft substances, get plastic bottles instead of jars, said Schreffler. She said bags are packed at the church pantry and the food bank is a regular supplier of goods. The food bank is located at 3610 Crates Way.
“Because of the food bank’s contribution, we took in 600 pounds of food last year and sent out 3,300 pounds,” said Schreffler. “We would not be sustainable without the monetary donations that allow us to purchase from the food bank at a greatly reduced price. They are strongly supportive of our program.”
Checks can be made out to the Community Backpack Program and sent to the church address, 395 E. 11th Street.
For added convenience, there is also a drop box set up in the church parking lot for after-hours donations and someone is on hand to accept larger shipments from 11 a.m. to noon on Monday and 9 to 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Simpson said Columbia State Bank also plans to hold other food drives at its Second Street and Cherry Heights Road locations.
The Methodist Church started the backpack program in 2012 to make sure that no child went hungry over the weekends. Although the program was extended into the summer one year, Schreffler said transportation challenges made it too difficult to continue.
“Cafeteria workers at the high school started noticing that students were stuffing themselves on Friday and were lethargic on Monday,” said Schreffler. “They saw there was a need to augment the budgets of needy families to make sure nourishment was available.”
She said multiple churches and civic organizations are now involved in the cause.
For more information, Schreffler can be reached at 541-370-2333.
Sharon Thornberry, director of the food bank, can be reached with questions at 541-609-8903.