It began as an office team project in 2016. It’s grown into a team mission of working with others to give to families who need a little extra help over the holidays.
Three years ago, Northwest Farm Credit Services encouraged all branch staff and local advisors to participate as a team in a local project of their choice. Klamath Falls staff elected to provide food boxes to families with elementary students who faced food insecurity during the Christmas holiday. Working with all county schools, they identified a need for 80 boxes in 2016; in 2017, the number had grown to 103.
“In Klamath County, the rate of poverty is nearing 20 percent, compared to national and state levels of 12 to 13 percent,” said Northwest FCS Branch and Relationship Manager Mitch Stokes. “When school is on a two-week break, too many family food budgets in our area are stretched to breaking because school breakfasts and lunches aren’t available. We saw a burden we could help lighten, and dived in. This past Christmas, the need reached 155 boxes, and we still got requests.”
To meet their goal once again of fulfilling all requests, the Northwest FCS team tapped the spirit of the community. Although the company provided a gift to the charity of $300 per employee and advisor who volunteer, it wasn’t enough. Stokes and his staff raised additional funds from local individuals and companies so they could buy enough groceries to fill the boxes.
“We had an overwhelming, positive response to our outreach,” Stokes said. “Cal-Ore Produce and Riverside Potato donated the boxes. Woodhouse Farming & Seed donated their new, nearly finished warehouse space for us to pack the boxes; they kept a generator running all day to provide light and heat, and they served lunch. Twenty Tulelake Irrigation District workers helped pack the boxes. We also received donations from Sherm’s Thunderbird, Klamath-Lake Food Bank, Carriage Overland, Amerititle, Guthrie Farms, Whiskey Creek Timber, Webb-Wilson Insurance, Winema Electric, Ezell-Suty Fuel and Ameriprise-Daniel Gellner & Associates. Individual donations came from Jason Chapman, Walter Woodhouse, Karissa Guthrie, the Coxes, the Marshalls and the Stolas.”
To be sure charitable donations are recorded properly, they are processed through the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank. Donations above the amount needed, which was $5,000, went to the Food Bank for their ongoing needs.
“We filled the boxes to the brim,” said Northwest FCS Financial Specialist Lela Marshall. “We selected items that would be easy for students to fix, that would need no refrigeration and could be microwaved if it needed to be cooked. We also stuck in non-food items including Play-Doh, crayons and activity books that were generously donated by a staff member.”
Each box held peanut butter, jelly, tuna, fruit cups and snacks, granola bars, cereal, chili, noodles and ramen, Pop Tarts, sandwich crackers, juice pouches, canned spaghetti and stew, popcorn, mac & cheese, mayonnaise, soup and bread. Boxes also contained 5 pounds of potatoes donated by local growers and milk donated by the food bank.
Boxes were distributed to the schools, which in turn gave them to their families, the week of Dec. 10.
Through Northwest FCS’ 100% Committed program, employees at each branch location may team with their local advisory committee members and select a local organization and project where they will volunteer time and donate funds. In 2019, each team will be allocated $400 (up from the previous $300) per team member to donate to the organization. Projects align with Northwest FCS stewardship goals that include fighting hunger and supporting rural healthcare, local foods/urban agriculture/gardening/farmers markets, veterans, minorities and youth.
For more stories, read our 2019 stewardship giving issue of Yields magazine here.