By Sally Blanchard
The Dalles UMC is across the street from the high school and organized a successful food backpack program since 2012. They provided up to 165 bags per week of supplemental food for students on the school lunch program in partnership with the Oregon Food Bank food pantry and volunteers from other churches.
When the churches had to close their doors in March and most of the volunteers had to stay at home, they came up with new ways to work through their partners.
As the local school district began making lunch bags, the church donated gift cards they had on hand from their Christmas fundraising, to be distributed to the children known to be in the greatest need. They requested $4,125 from the Grocery Gift Cards for Families program, enough to put one $25 card in each of the 165 food bags.
Coordinator Glenis Schreffler, an active member of The Dalles UMC, decided to donate the funds they would have used to purchase food for the backpacks and put the word out that she hoped to triple the original $4,125 amount. Almost immediately United Way gave a matching donation and the school district pitched in $5,000. The funds tripled and are still growing.
Pastor Gigi Siekkinen said she is asking the congregation for their support in either buying gift cards, dropping off checks or donating through their online paypal button on the church website. Banks, businesses and leaders from other churches are calling to ask how they can help.
Schreffler attributes the community support to the success and hopes it relieves some of the anxiety for parents, while also letting them know the community cares.
“Because it is for kids, that makes all the difference,” she said.
“The community support is so humbling,” Siekkinen said. “I feel the church is the host.”